The other day I was reading an article which nonchalantly stated “X is one of the world’s top military powers” and I wondered, “How do you measure a country’s military power”. I am sure this is already a well-thought out question, but my graph above is where my explorations took me.
Major Caveat: I found this unreliable site listing many factors used to evaluate a country’s military strength. So since the data is highly questionable, so is my chart which was constructed using the data. Nonetheless, that is what I used.
I chose to compare only four of the many factors listed on the site. Nonetheless, I think they are very important factors. To obtain relative strengths on a scale of 0 to 100, for each category I find the country with the highest number and then divide other countries by that number and then multiply by 100 to get relative strengths. I chose some of the most powerful countries and a few others to illustrate points.
Here, then, listed by each factor, are my thoughts (in light of the caveat) about the results:
- Fit for Military Service: Number of possible soldiers means little unless attack by air (either from planes, ships or launch pads). So though China and India are the highest, they are only immediate threats to her neighbors by that factor — and even then, weapons are what matter.
- Total Aircraft: This is key to modern warfare, especially unmanned aircraft — which takes a large budget and technology.
- Total Navy: North Korea oddly has the highest number of ships (making me doubt this site), but then it is probably highest because all ships are counted irrespective of the power of the ships (including ability to carry planes, long-range guns and missiles).
- Defense Budget: This is huge. But one must also realize the China, owning much of US debt, could ruin the US economy and so comparing China and US Defense budgets does not tell the whole story.
Conclusion: The vast majority of the world’s countries have weak militaries but can do significant damage within their own countries. And when it comes to international war, the analysis becomes complicated. The vast majority of countries have poor international means for war and among the big powers the story depends on locations and means of war. Also, be careful of your data sources. (ouch)