Israel ranked as most militarized
nation By Jim Lobe
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 and
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
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
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.
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 democratic reform.
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 build-ups.
"It remains to be
seen how this development will affect the degree
of militarization of individual states and the
entire region," Grebe said.
both sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are
relatively low on the Index, which covers
statistics for 2011 and ranked 135 countries
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,
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 this year.
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.
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
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.
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
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 list.
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.
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
The two countries with the world's
largest defense budgets, the United States and
China, ranked 29 (591) and 82 (414), respectively.
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.
concentration of so many Middle Eastern states at
the top underscores the degree to which the region
has become a powder keg.
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.
militarization carries its own risks, according to
Grebe, because states may not be able to guarantee
order or even territorial integrity.
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
Jim Lobe's blog on US
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