Deciding How Much to Spend on Defence

A country’s assessment of how strong it needs to be, to defend itself, is directly related to its lack of confidence in other countries’ observance of international law and its lack of confidence in the UN’s willingness or ability to keep the peace.

Formal alliances ( and ad hoc coalitions ( can increase the effectiveness, and share the cost, of self-defence.  Some countries have negligible military capabilities because they can rely upon being protected by others.

Countries have to make difficult assessments: of the threats facing them, and of the likely value of increasing their defence capabilities:

  • Military force may be of limited utility (7.4.1).
  • Deterrence (7.4.2) is ineffective against terrorist threats.
  • Gathering intelligence ( might be more cost-effective than increasing a military capability whose use could be avoided if there were more time to find a political solution.
  • As noted at the end of this chapter, adopting a posture of being militarily powerful is likely to lead to symmetrical responses by other countries and is not conducive to long-term security (7.4.7).

Additional economic aspects of defence spending are considered below: internal activities of defence forces (, the economic impact of defence manufacturing (, arms sales (, sub-contracts ( and the cost of war (



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/7461.htm