Take a look at two charts. The first comes from the International Institute of Strategic Studies, comparing the defense budgets of the 10 nations that spend the most in raw terms on their military.
The second, which I compiled, compares the GDP of those same 10 countries.
Quite a difference with the chart above, correct?
Pay particular attention to the bars at the far right in both charts. As the top chart demonstrates, we spend 1.5 times as much on defense as the next nine countries combined. But as the second chart illustrates, that spending is sustained by an economy that is only 40 percent as large as those of the other nine countries combined.
That first chart is a relic of a lost age when our overwhelming economic superiority more closely matched our military superiority. It also represents an imbalance that cannot be sustained indefinitely. All of those billions of dollars that we’re spending on our military — much of it to protect other countries — our competitors are spending on education and infrastructure and private investment, where the return is much much higher.
Over time, that takes a toll. However, because the image of the United States as a military colossus has become such an integral of our national psyche over the last 70 years, it’s a spell that will be difficult to break.
– Jay Bookman