Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Measuring Military Might

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Measuring Military Might

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Economic Development and Military Effectiveness" by Michael Beckley, in The Journal of Strategic Studies, Feb. 2010.

IT'S THE MILLION-DOLLAR question of international relations scholarship: Why are some states stronger than others? The prevailing theory says that military power is the direct result of material resources--size of the defense budget, number of soldiers, or stockpiles of materiel. But in empirical studies, material resources are no better than a coin toss at predicting victory in battle. Other theories have sprung up to compensate: Perhaps "nonmaterial" factors such as democratic institutions, Western culture, or good civil-military relations are the keys to military power. Try again, says Columbia University political scientist Michael Beckley: In 381 battles fought since 1900, the single best measure for predicting which side emerged victorious was a country's income per capita.

Could it really be so simple? Beckley says that the problem with the material resources theory is that it doesn't account for economic development and its bedfellows-technology, infrastructure, and human capital. An undeveloped nation can pour all the money it wants into its military, but without the right tools and educated leaders, it's no match for a rich country's force. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.