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Armed forces

Armied to the hilt

Jul 19th 2011, 11:19 by The Economist online

The world's biggest armed forces

ON JULY 18th the British government announced a reduction to the country's army from 101,000 troops now to 84,000 by 2020. Altogether Britain's active armed forces—ie, excluding reserves—numbered 178,000 in 2010, placing it a fairly modest 28th in a global ranking of 161 countries for which data are available. Indeed, its European counterparts Germany and France actually maintain larger armed forces of 251,000 and 238,000 respectively. In absolute numbers, rich and populous countries such as America, China and India keep the biggest militaries. Countries that have seen war (Iran, Vietnam) or are situated in strife-torn regions such as the Middle East also feature prominently. The most heavily militarised country of all is North Korea, where there are 49 military personnel for every 1,000 of its people.

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1-20 of 105
Jul 19th 2011 2:59 GMT

"But the most heavily militarised country may be surprising. Eritrea counts 42 military personnel for every 1,000 of its people, the highest proportion anywhere."

That is surprising since the chart shows Eritrea at 37.3 per 1000 and has N. Korea listed at 48.7 per thousand. ;-)

Mr Weissman wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 3:03 GMT

The UK now has as many active duty military personnel as Israel.

My God, what has happened to Britain?

D. Darko wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 3:08 GMT

Ahh, nothing like the smell of Napalm in the morning....

happyfish18 wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 3:24 GMT

There are a growing army of idle jobless men especially young adults around the world. Probably the only place where most politicians would be happy to increase the budget and dump these idle hands is the national army. Most military establishments would then be happy to test out their readiliness is by sending them over the fence to rape and ravish the neighbours' ladies.

Andover Chick wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 3:28 GMT

As an American, my viewpoint is what Britain needs to maintain is that at which it has already been great - a kick-as* Navy!!! Big deal if the army has been trimmed.

What is obviously deceptive is quantity verses quality. Even though Japan is tiny it could quickly suit up to kick China's butt like a hot Samurai sword thru bean curd. Though I'd given China a big edge over India in non-nuclear armed conflict.

TheGrimReaper wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 3:55 GMT

Seeing the comparison between the American deployment and armed forces and the Chinese army sparked a nervous laughter on me.
Admittedly, the ratio between the American population and her army is rather unbalanced. Indeed, 1,5 m Americans remain active 24/7, which roughly tantamount to one / three hundredth of the people (approximately 0,5% of the American people) working actively in the army. At first blush, this ratio seems to be piffling and completely insignificant, though if we knuckle down to the same job for China, the final upshot is quiet sobering. In the latter, scarcely 0,1% of the people work in the army.
Moreover, this is also shocking to witness how meager the numeric gap is between the American army and the Chinese. For a population of 308 m, the US has only a 1 m soldiers deficit compared to China, which boasts around 1,34 billion inhabitants, according to the latest reckonings !

Then, who's to blame ? America's exceedingly vast military might or China's inchoate militarist willingness to build up an army capable to vie with any other in the world ?
Surely enough, the US has, since the Cold War tormented era, engineered the mightiest and widest army which ever sets foot on Earth. This indubitable fact has ever since dissolved and merged in the mainstream, and barely causes any moral hindrance to the lambda American. This unswerving faith in war and military clout is now a long-standing and broadly endorsed tradition, which would be tough to extirpate. The US holds a tight grip on her traditional shrine, and many still deems that no military armed forces dreadfully equates with no overseas credibility.

However, although the Post-Cold-War era should have ushered in a state of concord and heavy denuclearization, overkill military spendings have been sustained, worldwide threat or not. This military-tinged viewpoint seems now parochial and relatively out-of-age, obsolete. The constant warmongering gait that haunted and plagued the US with a permanent state of edginess during the Cold War has been perpetuated, albeit no far-reaching menace concretely arose from the
Soviet Union collapse onward.
Without saying that the alleged nuclear Apocalypse haunting is warranted, this is reasonable to assert that no game-changing factor will ever intervene to goad the US to budge substantially considering her foreign policy.

Unfortunately, insofar as every nation possesses the technology and the capability to be a significant military power on a worldwide scale, no one is to definitely commit itself to a thorough disarmament. With the recurring problem of rogue states, whose unknown intentions spook every democratic nation out of a disarmament alternative, with the rise of China, and in corollary, the mounting power of its army, with the lingering existence of world terrorism intent on stirring the system upside down or with the persisting feeling of insecurity facing street thuggery and delinquency, why would it be any hope of further disarmament efforts ?
I would tag these hopes of forlorn quixotic and chimerical utopias, which only strike a responsive chord in movies or in some abstruse philosophical books. Effectively, a demilitarized globe, where an everlasting concord between the nations would be set up for ever, where fearmongering and insecurity would be vanished and nonsensical words, sounds to be what every politician would like to implement.

kevinahcc20 wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 3:59 GMT

@Andover Chick,

It doesn't look from the graph as though Britain's navy is disproportionately large compared to its army. As far as Japan kicking China's butt, methinks you are a dreamer.

Robin2011 wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 4:05 GMT

The United States has the biggest military budget so nothing surprising

Augustus1 wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 4:05 GMT

China is mind-boggling. ~2.3 million military personell, and only 1.7 per 1000 people. Don't piss that country off (I'm looking at you, US).

khmTzic3YT wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 4:26 GMT

As the Greatest Democracy in the World, is The United States more like Athens or Sparta?

.....Or more like Mexico with a nuclear trigger.

Jul 19th 2011 4:30 GMT

As a former U.S. Marine that has worked with several foreign armies I will have to agree with Andover Chick. China may have the numbers but if you look at the money invested per soldier the list is very different. The US and Japan have much deadlier toys and the Us Army is one of the only armies where a majority of personnel have war-zone deployment experience. If some Japan-US war broke out today then Japan would end up occupying Manchuria again. I guess we've finally found the benefit to militaristic-imperialism...

jamesyar wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 4:34 GMT

Two things jump out:

Japan has a surprisingly large military for a constitutionally pacifist nation.

The only European country on the chart is Britain.

D. Sherman wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 4:40 GMT

That's an interesting chart, and at first it may be a fair measure of relative military strength. It does seem that number of sailors as a fraction of military personnel says something about a country's ambitions for global domination.

However, as a measure of military strength, the number of soldiers, sailors, and flyboys is increasingly irrelevant. Robotic warriors are every general's wet dream, and we finally have them in the form of unmanned drones and soon, autonomous ground vehicles. Robots always follow orders perfectly, are never afraid, are not limited by the muscle power, and most of all, do not return home in flag-draped coffins. A soldier represents a fairly constant quantum of military power, no matter whose army is employing him. A man can only hike so far, run so fast, carry so much weight, and survive so much injury. The more you load him down with body armor and fancy weaponry, the slower he moves. Even amphetamines and steroids can only do so much with the meat.

Long-term wars are usually limited by domestic politics. The folks back home either run out of money, or begin to be bothered having so many of their loved ones killed. In these modern times of easy credit, the lack of money is usually just another political angle being used by those who are bothered by the death aspect. So, added to all the tactical advantages of robotic warriors (e.g. drones), there is also the great political advantage of being able to wage a robotic war essentially forever without having to deal with much political opposition. Knowing this, an adversary who knows he must suffer actual human casualties must win quickly against an automated opponent. Essentially, automation of warfare has given rich countries who don't like casualties the ability to wage a protracted war of attrition without having to resort to guerrilla tactics.

The bottom line is that to compare relative military strengths these days, we need a measure like a "soldier equivalent" or a "soldier effectiveness multiplier" that recognizes the value of technology and the advantage, that, say, a US soldier with night vision and close air support from armed and surveillance drones has over a PLA soldier who is merely a man with a gun.

MetallicaFan wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 4:42 GMT

"I don't know what weapons will be used in world war three, but in world war four people will use sticks and stones." – Albert Einstein

Gianni wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 4:43 GMT

Pointless and pretty meaningless unless key differentiating factors such as conscription and miltary service are taken into account.
Why isn't Switzerland in the list for example. Nearly all its males of a wide generation span are 'active' in the Swiss armed forces!

Jul 19th 2011 4:52 GMT

As a Chinese,I really believe that America's only superiority is military,everyone in the world knows that America's economy is in chaos,but its military expense is still huge,this will be a big burden to US. And China's economy will exceed America's in 10 to 20 years,I really want to see how Americans behavior when America becomes No2

Jul 19th 2011 4:53 GMT

You are forgetting a small Latin American Country, Colombia, it has been at war internally against guerrillas and drug lords for over 50 years, they are 47M people and have 481.253 men in their armed forces without including reserves.

IMB9 wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 5:24 GMT

Russia has more "other" than anything else, while most countries have no "other". What is "other"? In the case of US, it's pretty simple (I assume National and Coast Guards, Secret Service, etc.), but in other coutries things are a little bit blurry. Are the religious militias in Lebanon counted as army, other, or they are not even included?

jtp wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 5:31 GMT

Can anyone enlighten me on the large percentage of 'other' for Russia?

khmTzic3YT wrote:
Jul 19th 2011 5:41 GMT

The Cold War once highlighted the potential conflaguration between the world's greatest armies: The USA vs Soviet Union. Now Russian armed forces are dwarfed by even North Korea.

1-20 of 105

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