Ranked As Most Militarized Nation
By Jim Lobe
November 15, 2012 "Information
- WASHINGTON - Israel
tops the list
of the world's most militarized nations, according to the latest
Global Militarisation Index released by the Bonn International
Centre for Conversion (BICC).
Israel's main regional rival, Iran is far behind at number 34.
Indeed, every other Near Eastern country, with the exceptions of
Yemen (37) and Qatar (43), is more heavily militarized than the
Islamic Republic, according to the Index, whose research is
funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation
Singapore ranks second, followed by Syria, Russia, Jordan, and
Cyprus, according to the Index, which is based on a number of
weighted variables, such as the comparison of a country's
military budget with its gross domestic product (GDP), and
the%age of the GDP it spends on health care.
Six of the top 10 states, including Israel (1), Syria (4),
Jordan (5), Kuwait (7), Bahrain (9), and Saudi Arabia (10) are
located in the Middle East, while yet another of Iran's
neighbors, Azerbaijan, made its first entry into the militarized
elite at number 8.
The former Soviet Caucasian state has used its vast oil wealth,
which has placed it among the fastest growing economies in the
world, to buy expensive weapons systems in recent years,
apparently as leverage to press Armenia (23) into returning the
disputed Nagorno-Kharabovsk enclave which Baku lost in a brief
but bloody war after the Soviet Union's collapse.
Bahrain's placement in the top 10 was also a first for the
Sunni-dominated kingdom which has been backed by Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an increasingly violent
effort to suppress demands by the Shi'ite majority for
While the Middle East is far more militarized than any other
region - all of its countries rank within the top 40 - Southeast
Asia, led by Singapore, appears ascendant, according to Jan
Grebe, the Index's head researcher who directs BICC's work in
the field of arms export control.
In addition to Singapore, China (82) and India (71) are
increasing their defense budgets at a relatively rapid rate,
while the recent flaring of territorial conflicts between
Beijing and its neighbors across the South and East China Seas
will likely amplify voices within those countries for defense
"It remains to be seen how this development will affect the
degree of militarization of individual states and the entire
region," Grebe said.
In contrast, both sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are
relatively low on the Index, which covers statistics for 2011
and ranked 135 countries altogether.
At number 30, Angola was a notable African exception, while
Chile (31), Ecuador (36), and Colombia (38) topped the Latin
American list. By contrast, Brazil, which has by far the largest
defense budget in the region, ranked 76.
Among those excluded from the Index was North Korea, whose
defense budget has proved impervious to independent analysts and
which is widely thought to be one of the world's most
militarized states, if not the most. Eritrea, another state that
has made it into the top 10 in the past, also was not included
Created in 1996, the GMI, which has been updated each year,
tries to assess the balance between militarization and human
development, particularly related to health.
In addition to BICC's own research, data published by the
Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and
the Institute for Strategic Studies are used to compile the
Index, whose rankings go back to 1990 at the end of the Cold
In addition to the comparison of military budgets, GDP, and
health expenditures, the Index uses several other variables,
including the total personnel in the paramilitary and military
forces - albeit not the police - and total number of physicians
vis-a-vis the overall population, and the ratio of the number of
heavy weapons to the total population.
Each variable is given a certain score which is then "weighted"
according to a set formula to determine a total quantitative
score. The more militarized a country, the higher the score.
South Korea which, for many years, ranked in the top 10, fell to
18 this year.
Eritrea, which fought a bitter war with Ethiopia and repeatedly
cracked down hard against internal dissent, gained a "perfect"
1,000 score in 2004, the first of a three-year reign atop the
But Israel, which has carried out a 45-year occupation of
Palestinian lands and Syrian territory, has topped the list for
almost all of the last 20 years. On the latest Index, its score
came to 877, 70 points ahead of Singapore, which has been number
two for every year this century, except for the three in which
Eritrea was number one.
Significantly, Greece ranked 14 on the list, the highest of any
NATO country, far ahead of its regional rival, Turkey, which
took the 24th slot, and Bulgaria (25).
The two countries with the world's largest defense budgets, the
United States and China, ranked 29 (591) and 82 (414),
In addition to the six Middle Eastern states in the top, Oman
(11), the UAE (13), Lebanon (17), Iraq (26), and Egypt (28) were
all found to be more militarized than Iran, which is currently
subject to unprecedented economic sanctions imposed primarily by
the West which accuses it of pursuing a nuclear programme that
may have military applications.
The concentration of so many Middle Eastern states at the top
underscores the degree to which the region has become a powder
If the Middle East dominates the top ranks, sub-Saharan African
states, with just a few exceptions, lie at the low end of scale.
The region's biggest economy, South Africa, ranks 98, while its
most populous nation, Nigeria, stands at 117.
Too little militarization carries its own risks, according to
Grebe, because states may not be able to guarantee order or even
"This situation points to the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon
that some state security apparatuses are incapable of preventing
violence and conflict simply because the country concerned shows
a degree of militarization which is too low," he said.
Jim Lobe's blog on US foreign policy can be read at
(Inter Press Service)
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