Budgeting for defence : a model and an empirical analysis of the South Korean experience
This study is an attempt to record, analyse and understand the South Korean experience in allocating resources to military purposes. It is divided into four parts. The first of these is introductory. It does no more than outline the analytical framework for the exercise and explain the structure of the work (Part A). The second part contains an elaboration of the analytical framework. Here I developed an elementary 'model' of defence budgeting (Part B). The third and largest part of the text is an account of 'the South Korean experience' of the past 30-40 years. Here I explain in detail the allocation of resources to defence, with statistical data assembled from a variety of sources and not assembled in this way before (Part C). The fourth and final part of the work consists of a single short concluding chapter (Part D). The basis of the 'model' outlined in part B is that a nation's defence effort is shaped by its external environment on the one hand, its domestic environment the other. Key features of the external environment are: the country's relationship(s) with its principal ally (or allies) and those with its principal adversary (or adversaries). Especially relevant are the extent to which it can obtain, and rely upon, help from a particular ally (or allies in general); and the condition of the balance of military forces between it and a particular adversary (or adversaries in general). Key features of the domestic environment are the country's overall economic capacity (determining the resources available for all purposes); and the country's preferences among competing claims on resources (determining the allocation to military purposes). Especially relevant is the judgement made about the priority for safeguarding security (or ensuring survival) and that for promoting economic development (and social stability). More generally, I argue that the external environment is the main source of imperatives relating to security goals, defence posture, and the form and scale of military provision. I believe the internal environment is the main source of constraints relating to objectives, dispositions and the shape and size of a country's armed forces. The main conclusions of the analysis of the South Korean experience in Part C are these. First, regarding the impact of external factors on South Korea's decision-making (and specifically its position in a triangular relationship with North Korea, its principal adversary, and the USA, its superpower patron), I suggest that while the American connection has been of great benefit, it has also entailed costs. It has compensated for South Korean vulnerability (given an unfavourable military balance). But it may also have induced the North Koreans to acquire stronger capabilities than they might otherwise have done (making the imbalance harder to correct). I note also that the South has feared rundown or withdrawal of US forces; and hence has recently sought self-reliance in its military dispositions, though up to now this has stayed out of reach. The paradoxical conclusion is that in the past the USA has made it possible for the South to do less than it might otherwise have had to do; but it has also made it necessary for the South now to do more than it might otherwise have had to do in providing for its own defence. Secondly, regarding internal aspects of the South's decision-making (and specifically South Korean preferences and priorities), I observe that, while the South has constantly asserted the primacy of security provision as a claim on national resources - because survival is at stake - in at least one crucial period it put 'economic development first' in order to establish the economic base for greater military provision. Thus the South demonstrated that even a sorely-threatened nation can take short-run risks for long-term advantage. Thirdly, regarding future prospects, I contend that after decades in which the South has been - and still is - the militarily weaker of the two Korean states equilibrium in the military balance is now in sight. It should be reached by the early years of the 21st century, if not before. The final question which I raise in Part D is whether the South should pursue parity strenuously. That could prompt the North to new effort, prolonging the intense competition. I suggest that it might be better if Seoul settled for a force level which, while perhaps nominally inferior, would be enough to deny the North Koreans a decisive superiority (and would, therefore, ensure the South's survival). I think the South Korean authorities should certainly declare that they do not seek military superiority.