Published on Monday, April 23, 2012 by Common Dreams
The Shame of Nations: A New Record is Set for Spending on War
On April 17, 2012, as millions of Americans were filing their income tax returns, the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its latest study of world military spending. In case Americans were wondering where most of their tax money -- and the tax money of other nations -- went in the previous year, the answer from SIPRI was clear: to war and preparations for war.
World military spending reached a record $1,738 billion in 2011 -- an increase of $138 billion over the previous year. The
Some news reports have emphasized that, from the standpoint of reducing reliance on armed might, this actually represents progress. After all, the increase in “real” global military spending -- that is, expenditures after corrections for inflation and exchange rates -- was only 0.3 percent. And this contrasts with substantially larger increases in the preceding thirteen years.
But why are military expenditures continuing to increase -- indeed, why aren’t they substantially decreasing -- given the governmental austerity measures of recent years? Amid the economic crisis that began in late 2008 (and which continues to the present day), most governments have been cutting back their spending dramatically on education, health care, housing, parks, and other vital social services. However, there have not been corresponding cuts in their military budgets.
Americans, particularly, might seek to understand why in this context
This might account for the fact that the government of
Unfortunately, the military rivalry among nations -- one that has endured for centuries -- results in a great squandering of national resources. Many nations, in fact, devote most of their available income to funding their armed forces and their weaponry. In the
Of course, defenders of military expenditures reply that military force actually protects people from war. But does it? If so, how does one explain the fact that the major military powers of the past century -- the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and China -- have been almost constantly at war during that time? What is the explanation for the fact that the
In short, huge military establishments can be quite counterproductive. Little wonder that they have been condemned repeatedly by great religious and ethical leaders. Even many government officials have decried war and preparations for war -- although usually by nations other than their own.
Thus, the release of the new study by SIPRI should not be a cause for celebration. Rather, it provides an appropriate occasion to contemplate the fact that, this past year, nations spent more money on the military than at any time in human history. Although this situation might still inspire joy in the hearts of government officials, top military officers, and defense contractors, people farther from the levers of military power might well conclude that it’s a hell of a way to run a world.
Lawrence S. Wittner is professor of history emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is "Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual” (
Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/23-2
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs