The United States has the worlds highest military spending by a large margin. American defence expenditure actually accounts for 45% of the worlds total, a figure often attacked as excessive. But this expenditure should be understood in the context of the benefits it brings the rest of the world, as well as in defending the United States. Michael Mandelbaum talks of Americas defence expenditure as a "public good" that it has given to the world.
military spending supports a string of regional alliances that provide security
and keep the peace,
including NATO in Europe and Americas alliances in Asia with Japan, South Korea,
Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia. This American military role
helps prevents war on the Korean peninsula between North and South Korea and
across the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan. As 2008 began, over 85,000
American troops were stationed in Europe and over 70,000 in East Asia and the
American and Coalition military and stabilisation operations in Iraq and
More than 168,000 American service members (as of July 2008) play a role in combating extremism and rebuilding both countries.
military developed African Command (Africom)
Africom will support and train armed forces in African states so that they can appropriately respond to possible crises or disasters on that continent. In addition, the American military stations 2,500 of its servicemen and women in Sub-Saharan Africa.
supports the more than 100,000 troops of the United Nations global
The US military providing not only soldiers, but logistics, strategic lift and intelligence support. Separately from the US military budget, 22% of the UNs annual budget is also paid by the United States.
military allows US defence intelligence assets, especially satellites, to
provide early warning of crises and ongoing support during emergencies or
America supports humanitarian aid across the globe through individual operations and the services of the medical ship, USNS Mercy, and other emergency relief operations such as 2004 Tsunami relief in Southeast Asia.
The US Navy
patrols and ensures freedom of the seas
This provides general protection against sea banditry and piracy, growing problems particularly in Southeast Asia and off the Horn of Africa. The US Navy keeps open strategic waterways such as the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the passageway for between one-fifth and two-fifths of the worlds oil.
US military spending funds counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations, training, cooperation and intelligence-sharing around the world, from South America to Africa to the Middle East and beyond. By way of example, Colombia relied on US support in the June 2008 rescue of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and others: "The U.S. provided aid during the operation in the form of surveillance aircraft that have the ability to eavesdrop on guerrilla communications. The planes' ability to electronically jam radios used by the rebels was pivotal once the operation was under way."
funding for counter-narcotics operations
This is most important in Latin America, where cocaine finds its way to Central America, the Caribbean, United States, Africa and Europe.
teeth in the Proliferation Security Initiative
This multilateral organization of 90-plus nations uses national laws and joint military forces to fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. America also provides for the development of missile defence, the first protection against the use of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, using sea, land and air platforms.
military supports the development of new technologies
These technologies include computers, communications, aviation, satellite, medicine, aviation, clean water, nuclear and alternative fuels, which begin as military innovations and find their way into the civilian world and the private sector.
 'The 15 major spender countries in 2007', Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2008, at http://www.sipri.org/contents/milap/milex/mex_major_spenders.pdf/download
 Writing for the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/05/books/chapters/0305-1st-mand.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print.
 'Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country (309A)', Department of Defense, 31 December 2007, pp.1-2 at http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/MILITARY/history/hst0712.pdf
 Iraq figure (145,000) taken from 'Iraq Index', Coalition troops strength in Iraq since May 2003, Michael E. O'Hanlon and Jason H. Campbell, The Brookings Institution, 31 July 2008 p.25, at http://www.brookings.edu/saban/~/media/Files/Centers/Saban/Iraq%20Index/index.pdf; Afghanistan figure (23,550) taken from 'International Security Assistance Force', NATO.int, 10 June 2008, p.2 at http://www.nato.int/ISAF/docu/epub/pdf/isaf_placemat.pdf
 Ibid, p.2
 'All about the United Nations Budget', UNAUSA.org, June 2006, at http://www.unausa.org/site/pp.asp?c=fvKRI8MPJpF&b=1813833
 'With Iran Ascendant, U.S. is Seen at Fault', Anthony Shadid, The Washington Post, 30 January 2007, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/29/AR2007012902090.html
 'Thirty-two killed by Oman cyclone', BBC, 8 June 2007, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6729371.stm
 'U.S. Role Seen in Colombia Hostage Rescue', Tom Bowman, NPR, 3 July 2008, at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92205734