Saturday, May 21, 2005

Apples and Oranges

China spends but a fraction on its military than the US does:

The report, by the think tank Rand Corp., said that in terms of purchasing power, China's People's Liberation Army — which includes the country's naval and air forces — spends between $69 billion and $78 billion a year, estimated in 2001 U.S. dollars — well below some estimates by the U.S. government and some outside experts.

Actual spending ranges between 2.3 percent and 2.8 percent of China's gross domestic product, the study found. That compares with the $430 billion spent by the United States on defense in 2004, or 3.9 percent of U.S. GDP.

This will be used by some to argue that the US spends way too much and that China can't challenge us.

This is completely wrong unless you want the comparison to be which nation can defend its homeland against attack from the other. But we aren't challenged by the prospect of fighting more than fifty miles from our coast the way China is.

We can project decisive combat power anywhere on the globe on short notice. The Afghanistan campaign that began in October 2001 is the prime example of going to the middle of nowhere to smash an enemy. This is what our spending buys us.

We can win without enduring heavy casualties. Again, this is because we substitute expensive technology for blood.

We can fight on the ground, in the air, in space, on the sea, and under the sea. This is what our spending buys.

And if it came to a war with China, we would be fighting over China and not the other way around. Short of nukes, China cannot even touch our soil. And we may have tools soon to contest that assumption.

So don't get so wrapped up in the defense spending comparisons. Would we really want much lower spending so that we could be discussing how the Pentagon is making plans to be able to fight more than 50 miles from our coasts?