U.S. hegemony is better than none

US hegemony

World defense budget reached 1.7 trillion dollars last year, after a slight fall – 1.1% – for the third consecutive year. Despite three years of minor cuts, global defense spending is even bigger than 2007’s ($1.6 tn) and, of course, much higher than in the beginning of this century ($1.4 tn). In Spain, however defense budget has gone from more than 18 billion in 2007 to 12 billion in 2012. Under Mr. Zapatero’s government, in 2007 and 2008, Spanish defense budget reached 20 billion dollars per year – whereas in the beginning of the century it was of 14 billion – which means a 40% budget cut. So no one can be surprised by the Spanish defense minister elegant protests. Mr Morenés warns that from a certain level of expenditure the effectiveness of Spanish armed forces is jeopardized.

But figures can be misleading. It is important to put them in context. In 2011, Spain had a defense budget only slightly less to Israel’s, a state living a permanent war. And if global defense spending has maintained in recent years is due to large increases approved in emerging countries, mainly in the Persian Gulf and Asia, because all the big economies of the OECD reduced their defense spending last year. On the contrary, Russia raised its military budget by more than $10 billion, to 90 billion and Saudi Arabia has an annual budget of 58 billion.

The U.S. defense budget was of almost $ 400 billion a year at the beginning of the century. A similar figure than five years before (411bn in 1995). But this contention was blown after the attacks of 9-11. In 2002, budget went up 10% to 440 billion. It became 507bn in 2003, to 553bn in 2004, 580bn in 2005 and 588bn in 2006. When the crisis started in 2007, its defense budget increased up to $604bn, 50% more than in 2000. Since then, it has happened as follows: in 2008 the U.S. spent 650 billion on defense; in 2009, it allocated 700 billion, and in 2010 president Obama and Congress raised US military spending to its historical peak: 720bn. An 80% increase since the beginning of the century. Then the budget cuts took place: defense got 711 billion in 2011 and 669 billion last year.

The world’s second power, China, had a defense budget of only $37 in 2000, although it has not stopped increasing it since. In 2007 it was of $96bn and in 2012 of $157bn.

There are almost 300 U.S. military bases around the planet (50,000 soldiers in Germany, 35,000 in Japan). American defense budget is today seven times Russia’s and four times China’s. The country is undoubtedly the world’s military leader. 40% or the world’s defense spending comes from the U.S. And Congress seems always willing to increase it, using the powerful argument that otherwise only criminals would have weapons. Seven out of the ten world’s most important weapon manufacturers are in the US, with Lockheed Martin -$36bn sales– in the first position of the ranking.

Also, since 9-11 there has been an increase of organizations and agencies related to defense and intelligence. According to The Washington Post in 2010, there are more than 3,000 of them employing 850,000 people.

When the first black president took office in the US, there was a feeling of hope. Five years later, the world has been able to appreciate the efforts that granted him the Nobel Prize. For example, bringing back the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Although he has been unable to close Guantanamo and some feel disappointed by that. And they seem surprised by the Obama administration taking part in the latest espionage and violation of privacy scandals, and its prosecution of Edward Snowden or WikiLeaks. They have been spying on their European partners, who hypocritically declare themselves outraged.

Those accusations have little ground because they come from those who are asking for a world’s moderator at the same time, for example in the case of Syria. And yet the US is cautiously refusing to be that referee, since they positively know how to enter Syria but they don’t have a clue of how to get out.

This crisis will change the world. Actually it already has. Analysts talk about a multi-polar world where the US hegemony will be diluted and there will be more decision makers. Asia will get a bigger role. This may apply for the economy but in the military sector the U.S. hegemony is clear. And it is probably better for us all, since competitiveness, although a very healthy thing in the corporate world, can be deadly in that front.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.

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