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Military Balance Databases

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Director: Richard Fisher, Jr.

To assist American policy makers and other interested parties here and abroad the International Assessment and Strategy Center seeks to provide accurate and updated information to assist analysis of balances of military power. The IASCís Military Databases Project will provide ongoing assessments of order of battle and assessments of specific military weapon systems to assist individual analysis of relative military strength. These data bases will draw largely from open source information and new data obtained from field research by IASC members or colleagues. Initially this project will focus on three regions:

  • The Taiwan Strait
  • Asia
  • South Asia

The International Assessment and Strategy Center grounds this project in the conviction that democracies are able to make better decisions regarding their national security when their citizens are informed about emerging threats. In the United States, and increasingly in the Asian democracies of Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, national security issues form a critical element of their respective national debates and feature prominently in national election campaigns. There is a clear understanding that investments in national security form the bedrock for their regionís stability upon which rests the conditions for peaceful commerce and economic security. When critical information is denied, this debate can be adversely impacted and it may not serve the higher goal of national security. It is the IASCís goal to help promote a better informed debate.

In addition, greater transparency in military information can serve longer term goals that may in turn lead to reduced military threats. It was proven during the latter years of the Cold War that U.S. efforts to disseminate greater information about the former Soviet Unionís enormous military expenditures served to inform citizens of the greater Soviet Bloc, and to undermine public support for military expenditures in the face of their parlous economic and social conditions.

Importantly, the introduction of such information in the U.S. and western media and political debate, through such efforts as the annual Department of Defense "Soviet Military Power," helped inform public opinion and strengthen policymakers' resolve regarding the scale of the threats posed by the Soviet Bloc and the need for a sustained deterrent.  This determination was a key element both in keeping the peace and winning the Cold War.

Today, it is Asiaís dictatorships or non-democracies that are spending ever greater proportions of their nationsí wealth to build new conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction. And like the former Soviet Union, their military expenditures bear no relation to real foreign threats and consume resources needed to confront daunting social and economic challenges. In most cases their citizens have little or no say in this matter. Someday they may and they will also need such information.

With today's focus on the "Global war against terror,"there is a tendency to eschew in-depth coverage of military balance issues such as: traditional great power rivalries in Eurasia; the continuing advancement of the Chinese military and its strategic capacity; and, the political, economic and military effects that uncertain security environments have upon the new generation of democracies in Asia, Latin America and Africa -- regions which are already breeding grounds for greater instability, including terrorism. We believe this database project will help to provide some needed perspective and indicate important future trends requiring policy focus.

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