Thursday, June 19, 2008

Japan is number five

In the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) 2008 yearbook, released earlier this month, Japan ranked fifth in military expenditures (valued at $43.6 billion in market exchange rate terms and amounting to 4% of total world military expenditures), behind the USA, the UK, China, and France.

But it turns out that Japan also ranked fifth in Vision of Humanity's Global Peace Index, behind Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and New Zealand. Looking at the top five, it seems obvious that homogeneity helps. (Wikipedia has more on the index here.)

A look at the index's methodology shows that Vision of Humanity is measuring not just international peacefulness, but "societal safety and security."

Japan's gross military expenditures didn't hurt its rank because the index considered military expenditures as a percentage of GDP, not total spending. Incidentally, according to Vision of Humanity, Japan's defense spending is 1.295% of GDP, not less than 1%, reflecting the fact that Japan hides some military expenditures in other ministries and agencies. (VoH uses the following definition for military expenditures as a percentage of GDP: "Cash outlays of central or federal government to meet the costs of national armed forces - including strategic, land, naval, air, command, administration and support forces as well as paramilitary forces, customs forces and border guards if these are trained and equipped as a military force.")

Meanwhile, the Economist, which played a role in organizing the index, has acknowledged that the index is distorted somewhat because many countries may score well on the index because they are protected by the US, enabling them to lower their military expenditures. This certainly must be kept in mind — were the US-Japan alliance to loosen or dissolve, Japan's rank would probably rise over time. Nevertheless, given the range of variables used to determine the ranking, the alliance with the US doesn't explain all or most of the result. As I argued in this post, Japan has built an extraordinary society in the sixty years since the war ended, an island of peace, stability, and prosperity in a region and world that is often anything but.

It seems that the Japanese people should be proud of this achievement, and their leaders should not be so quick to discard it.

(Hat tip to The Strategist for the survey.)

6 comments:

tornadoes28 said...

Japan endured the horrors of war more than any other nation. Allso, since they were defeated, they were not given the option in the beginning. Their Constitution was written by the Americans.

Another nation that witnessed the horrors of war worse then any other nation except maybe Japan was Russia. But since the Russians were on the winning side, they have not turned out to be such a peace loving nation.

David said...

If only all countries could be so "homogeneous"---and intent on remaining so...

Anonymous said...

@tornadoes28

I think it's generally a bad idea to get into a pi$$ing competition over who had the worst war experience. But your comment that "Japan endured the horrors of war more than any other nation," cannot stand unchallenged:

Many Asian people who suffered Japanese invasion and occupation would strongly disagree with your assessment of who suffered most in WWII. In terms of death tolls, inhumane treatment, length of suffering, degree of deprivation and number of criminal acts suffered... How can you claim that Japan had things worse than China, for instance?

Japan witnessed greater "horrors of war" that she inflicted on her neighbours than those she suffered on her own territory.

As for your comment "since [the Japanese] were defeated, they were not given the option in the beginning. Their Constitution was written by the Americans." This is utterly specious:

Shortly after the war, the Japanese people were able to enjoy all the options afforded by a free and democratic society. Compare this with the experiences of Eastern Europeans and Asians who endured decades of continued totalitarianism, or conflict. Some of those countries still haven't emerged from the aftermath of the war. (Look at Korea and much of South East Asia for example).

It is true that Japan suffered two nuclear attacks, which should never be repeated. But your suggestion that Japan's suffering is greater than anyone else's is an odious lie.

Anonymous said...

"As for your comment "since [the Japanese] were defeated, they were not given the option in the beginning. Their Constitution was written by the Americans." This is utterly specious"

Is it?

"Some of those countries still haven't emerged from the aftermath of the war. (Look at Korea and much of South East Asia for example)."

You don't mean the one we started,right?
I've heard something like "Asian Tigers" more than a decade ago.

But yeah,I agree that in the world championship of misery and suffering,you can't claim Japan as No.1

Re:Vuision of humanity and Homogeneity.

New Zealand is a multi-ethnic society.6% of Icelandic population are either foreigner or immigrant.Danmark has 9%.Norway has 9.7.

Maybe we shold look for some other reasons.

Aceface

Bryce said...

Yes, I was about to challenge homogeneity as the basis for 'peace', but I see Aceface has done it for me.

The most compelling reason why NZ is a "peaceful nation" (how do people measure this stuff?) is that it is some 1800 kms away from its nearest neighbour, which also happens to be its closest ally. Its only territorial dispute happens to be with said ally. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that the reason Iceland and Norway, and probably Denmark as well have become 'peace nations' probably also has something to do with 'strategic inconsequence'.

Which leaves Japan. Obviously in a strategic hotspot, and all the more impressive for it that it chooses not to throw its weight around significantly.

Bryce said...

"How do people measure this stuff"

Oops, silly me. The methodology is right there!

Still things like social trust and violent crime are notoriously hard to quantify reliably.