Why Is Military Spending Significant?
National Yemen, August 17th 2014
Countries wrestling with debt and unemployment at a time when an ongoing economic crisis is still badly affecting the world are making no concessions when it comes to military expenditure. Many countries continue to spend a significant part of their revenues on arms and the military.
The amount spent on arms across the world in 2012 was $1.75 trillion. With the amount spent on armaments in one year, 120,000 fully equipped hospitals could be opened, or 1.75 million schools. With that same money you could also feed 200,000,000 people for a year.
So what is the military spending position in Yemen?
Yemen spent $1.25 billion on its military in 2012. Many international bodies and observers are of the opinion that this military expenditure is grossly excessive: Income per capita in Yemen is only $2,500. In other words, the earnings of some 500,000 people in Yemen are used entirely for military purposes.
Why does Yemen, with national revenues far below the global average, feel the need for such great military spending? Yemen has been the scene of many coups and attempted coups in the past. Politicians and soldiers have been assassinated, and many civil conflicts and uprisings have occurred in the country. All these threats emanating from inside Yemen have led to great security concerns in the state for many years. The security forces in Yemen are organized, not against any external threat or common crime within the country, but against political instability and domestic enemies.
Therefore, every incoming administration regards it as absolutely essential to establish control over the military or police in order to remain in power. That control is only possible by raising the wages of the military and police force to the highest level on a regular basis and to endow them with a wide range of privileges. That of course means a massive amount of spending from the state treasury.
Nothing can be more natural than for a country to foresee external and internal threats against it and to take precautions against them; indeed, that is one of the primary responsibilities of the state. However, if it does not consider various factors in doing so, this can lead to severe problems in the national economy and structure.
Defense expenditures are high in many Middle Eastern countries; the difference between Yemen and other Arab countries is that its defense spending is largely focused on personnel costs than buying arms. In contrast to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, spending on weapons and technological improvements is at a low level, while paying salaries occupies a very important place. Enrolment in the military is used as a form of job creation, rather than meeting security needs. Therefore, rather than the military being highly developed, modern and with a strong defensive capacity, it is technologically weak, cumbersome and difficult to manage.
Soldiers' salaries must not be used for social or political purposes other than military objectives. If that happens, the result will be people who are soldiers only on paper, yet who contribute nothing to national defense and security. Troops who do not really exist but whose salaries are paid every month will begin to be used as vehicles for transferring funds to please the tribes or ensure their loyalty, and this will lead to big problems.
Politicians must not establish military and security forces out of tribes or relatives they regard as loyal to them. If that happens, the army stops being a national army and becomes the armed force of one particular group; that, of course, leads to the targeting of those who cannot be part of the army and their arming themselves by illegal means.
Another important matter is the establishment of transparency in military spending and arms purchases from overseas, and a regulatory mechanism for that is of primary importance for the stability of Yemen.
The problems with the military and security forces are not restricted to compromised security. They also involve widespread material losses and economic collapse. If efficient use cannot be made of the military, anarchy and turmoil caused by revolts and terrorist actions will prevent investment in the country. Terrorist attacks aimed at damaging the economic infrastructure of Yemen not only prevent regeneration in the regions concerned, but also destroy existing means. Economic obstructions lead to backwardness in many areas, and particularly social life.
Military spending on the fight against terror represents a separate burden for every country. Material resources that should be used to raise people's standards of living are instead being diverted to military spending, and this has a damaging effect on the national economy.
Therefore, in moving toward rearranging and restructuring its army, Yemen must also try to ensure security using methods that are not based on arms. The only way of combating terror and domestic conflict is not through resorting to arms. Students in Yemeni schools must be taught that sectarian division is incompatible with Islam, that Zaidis and Shiites and Sunnis are all real Muslims, and that they should not fight against one another. The moral virtues of Islam that ensure peace and goodness must be emphasized on a frequent basis, and people must be taught the difference between fanaticism and the true faith.
Efforts must be made, in the military and in schools, to prevent Yemenis from being raised as people devoid of affection and compassion, who regard life as a battleground, who regard love and solidarity as unnecessary and who are cruel and selfish. That will prevent the emergence of impoverished young people, who have fallen into the clutches of the notorious drug khat and of corruption, who are morally degenerate and whose only desire is money, as enemies of their own country.