Some random anonymous person got posted over at Daily Dish who critiqued my column on the top things you think about Iran that are not true. This person pretended to refute my column, but as is typical in propaganda, he really only harped on a few minor details and said nothing about the column’s larger point.
The source of some of my statistics was Globalfirepower.com. The poster at DD maintains that the estimate for Iran of the annual military budget is out of date and that it should be “a little over $7 bn. per annum” instead of “a little over $6 bn.” But my point was comparative, to countries like Norway and Singapore, who also likely increased expenditures over time. Given that the true US expenditure on things military is about $1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) a year, I think we may conclude that a difference of a billion isn’t fatal to my argument. Besides which, these comparative estimates are always slightly out of date and potentially misleading. Was the poster’s estimate of $7.4 bn. calculated in terms of purchasing power parity? What was it in riyals? Given that Iran had 30% inflation last year, anything calculated in riyals would be worth substantially less this year in real terms than last.
The individual argues that military expenditure as a percentage of GDP is more telling than a per capita figure. But actually both ways of figuring have drawbacks. Figuring expenditures per GDP means that poor countries look more militaristic than they really are and rich countries look pacifist when they are anything but. The CIA listing of countries by military expenditure as a percentage of GDP puts powerhouses like Oman, Eritrea, Burundi, and the Maldives at the top of the world list. The US, which spends more on the military than the next 40 countries combined, comes in 27th on this list behind the countries just mentioned. Of what use is that? Doesn’t it just tell us that many of the countries at the top of this list are poor and if they buy so much as a rusty artillery piece, it is a big part of their income? And by the way, if we figure it this way, Iran is 67 in the world. While the poster puts that between India and Vietnam, it is also between the Congo and Portugal. My original point, is that a country that spends $6 or $7 bn a year on military affairs doesn’t amount to much of a military threat to the US, is not damaged by this rather silly argument.
The poster also points to the sheer size of Iran’s army and reserves, which globalfirepower.com puts at 875,000. But it estimates Israel’s active military and reserves at about 600,000, and if we wanted to pull a Jonah Golberg and make a bet on which of the two would win if they went to war in 2009 I’d put my whole life savings on Israel’s 600,000 versus Iran’s mangy 875,000. Iraq was also puffed up by American hawks as having had a “million-man army,” but I think we all saw in 1991 and 2003 what that really amounted to.
Demonizing and building up as threats to the US small third world countries like Cuba, Grenada, Libya, Iraq, Venezuela, and Iran has been a cottage industry since the fall of the Soviet Union and the adoption by the Chinese of the Capitalist Road deprived hawks of any credible great-power rivalry with which to scare Americans into allowing themselves to be fleeced by the military-industrial complex. It is natural that I should be attacked for puncturing the illusion of menace that the American Spartans (slogan: live poverty-stricken in barracks but own Big Spears) want to project about Iran.
When Andrew Sullivan first linked to my post, he asked what the comparison would be to Israel. First of all, Iran ranks much higher on the Global Peace Index than does Israel. Then, here are some comparative statistics as between Iran and Israel, in answer to the question. But note that the comparisons are misleading. Israel has 1220 aircraft and Iran has 84. But Iran’s include a lot of things like old F-4 Phantoms from Nixon in the 1970s whereas Israel’s are state of the art. And, while Israel’s military budget is now estimated at a little over $13 bn. annually, it should be noted that over $2 bn. of that is extracted from us Americans and handed over directly with no oversight to Tel Aviv every year, so it isn’t exactly all Israel’s money (and of course these are only the official figures, ignoring a lot of informal tariff and other tax breaks and transfers of resources). Israel’s massive nuclear weapons industry is not counted in the $13 bn. Again, the figures for what they are worth are from Globalfirepower.com. You’ll have to scroll down because somehow my table formatting is making an unsightly gap between this text and the table, below.
|Population||Israel: 7.2 mn.||Iran: 70 mn.||Wars launched on neighbors:||Israel: 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2008-9||Iran: 0|
|Nuclear Warheads||Israel: ~200||Iran: 0|
|Military Budgets:||Israel: $13.4 bn.||Iran: $7.4 bn.|
|Per capita military expenditure:||Israel: $1,805||Iran: $105|
|Total Aircraft||Israel: 1,220||Iran: 84|
|Active Military and Reserve Personnel||Israel: ~600,000||Iran: 875,000|
|Total land-based weapons:||Israel: 14,200||Iran: 5,499|
End/ (Not Continued)