Military versus wealth, what shapes a true superpower?


Contributor opinion.


In the past, I heard the idea that the most important asset for any leading world power for it to be a successful country relied exclusively on their “wealth” (that comes from a financial point of view). Having always great flows of commerce and liquidity,  past and present societies living in fertile lands where crops grew in abundance or living next to a sea port where goods, imports and exports foment constant growth. Many past and present superpowers depend(ed) on their wealth to be successful and had the economic prosperity to keep productive and strong for years to come. Wealth seems the primordial factor to endure as a superpower.  

However, that’s not always the case. Wealth might not be the most important asset that countries require for them to become leading superpowers. Let’s say for instance, the ‘Mongolian Empire’ a nation that was not as wealthy as neighboring China, but had an unrivaled military force. China’s wealth was never sufficient to stop the Mongol military raids.The Mongols relying on their military force already spreading far West from their home, conquered the Caliphates in the ME, who had also greater wealth and a formidable military. 

Military power, just as seen with Alexander Magnus military campaigns can overtake the idea that ‘wealth’ itself, is not the most essential asset a country relies for it to become a superpower. In other words, a country might be less wealthy than others that show far better economic developments, but instead have a great military that will make them a superpower regardless of the wealth they posses. So wealth and military bring about the success of any nation, but are independent in nature, for the founding roots of any leading superpower.

The critics will point out that without wealth you can’t build an army (rightly so). But history has shown time and time again that without an expanding force no society can grow in wealth or remain wealthy, independently from having already wealth or not.

It’s like the chicken and the egg paradox. What was first for any successful empire to become a world power, their’ wealth’ or ‘military’? Is wealth more important to preserve a country than having an actual military? Or is military the best way to preserve wealth and obtain wealth? What do present superpowers rely mostly on, their military or wealth to remain unchallenged?



Frank Palatnick.

“In order to answer that proposition we must first define two of the terms. The first is ‘ superpower ‘ . According to Wikipedia, a superpower is a state with a dominant position in the international system which has the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests.

There are four standards ( axes ) that measure a country’s superpower potential according to Lyman Miller, a research fellow at Hoover Institute. These are military, economic, political and cultural. Wealth, according to Wikipedia, is defined as the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The United Nations added that a nation’s wealth must include ‘ human potential ‘. A nation’s impact is due to the capability of its population.

India, according to the U.N. And other global sources, is an up and coming superpower. The question put to us suggests that only military or wealth frameworks should be weighed. India is a country without a strong military. But, according to the new definition of wealth, both the culture and economy have assisted in their rising to possible superpower status. An example of their global impact is due to the philosophy of one man.

Correction……… The whole existence of India was due to one man. Mahatma Gandhi founded the philosophy of non violence. According to the original definition of a superpower, Gandhi has influenced not only his country, but others as well. His philosophy of non-violence has been inculcated in many countries including Poland, China and the U.S. Lech Walessa used non violence to bring about change in his own country not only making him President, but wining him the Nobel Peace Prize. In America, non violence has created the sixties term of ‘ sit ins ‘ which has been used to gain certain human freedoms.

In the sixties, in Beijing, the famous Tienneman Square incident was initiated by a student sitting and standing in front of a military tank. India’s wealth also comes from its music. Ravi Shankar used a sitar to perform his ragas. He has created many schools to learn the sitar. The Beatles used the sitar in their songs. The queen of England requested a command performance. People from all over the world attend Shankar’s Institute. India’s art can be found in museums all over the world. In terms of the economy, India’s symbol of the ‘ all seeing eye ‘ can be seen on the dollar bills of the U.S.

Their medical know how has influenced the world’s understanding of herbs and flowers. Items such as saffron and rose hips can be found in various health food applications. Their practice of yoga and other tantric frameworks have influenced the global health market. Their technology has influenced the world’ s economy. The process of quality production for the masses has had a significant effect on the world’s negative economy since the 2008 downfall. In short, the definition of a superpower has morphed into a country that has a huge positive influence on the world through, by and for their populations individuals.


Claude Nougat.

“It is a chicken and egg paradox, but according to genetics we now know this is a non-paradox…The egg started it! I would argue the same in the wealth and military paradox.

The starting point is wealth (the egg). The military is the outcome (the chicken). But to have another egg,  the chicken has to grow into a hen…Likewise, the military preserves the wealth, so that wealth can spawn off more military. Hence the arms race!”



Jose Luis Chalhoub Naffah.

“In my perspective, regarding this current but highly interesting topic important nowadays, decades ago military was the very determinant element for a country to show and promote its muscles everywhere in the world. Based of course on its wealth each country, depended on their military and the economic development of a country, i. e Great Britain, United States, Germany, which in each case and without any doubt, surpassed many countries in both categories, proving an inextricable relationship between military and economic power.

Now, as far as we can see and analyze in international relations and geopolitics, wealth is almost the main and probably the smartest way for global powers to project themselves on the world arena as decision makers. Examples abound, but two of the most prominent, China and Russia, being the Chinese model the best example for the wealth based power projection in the world. So far at the very beginning of the XXI century, without waging a single war, only through its wealth.

Russia is another example, but of the duplex military-wealth power framework over which it depends. The US is the best of all of them, used to privilege military and hard power over financial and economic resources, but realized that in the world of today, only through the power of wealth creation and ideas (soft power) it can re-adapt itself on the global scene. The whole point is that both key points wealth-military are very current, but wealth based countries are better positioned to succeed in today’s world.”



Mr. Jaime Lopez.

“There are four questions being asked concerning the correlation between a nation’s wealth and military strengths.  There is no clear answer, a yes or no, as the definition of wealth is one that is muddied in the perception of the reader.  These questions apply to both the macro and micro society as they can be easily tied to the evolutionist theory of survival of the fittest.    What is the purpose of wealth, which then drives the answer to the question of the purpose of the military?

The core element of human society is summed up in “go forth and prosper”.  This applies to the man and lady, family unit with children, a nomadic community, villages, towns, cities, city-states, up to the nations, and confederations.   Prosperity is often defined in terms of wealth, which are further defined in what that particular society deems as wealth; cattle, land, children, homes, gold, silver, etc.  In our discussion we will use the classical monetary definition as it represents the ability to acquire those ‘things’ which constitutes a society’s definition of wealth.  Let us not forget the theories of the innate requirement to continue on DNA as the foundation of “prosper”, but this is another discussion.

In the past in order to gain wealth a person, family, etc would either earn it, or take it.  Then as society matured the same situation existed with towns, villages, city-states, on and on; earn it, take it, or a combination.  In correlation with that was the defense of keeping those who would come take it from taking it.

Moving on to modern society we find that the USA is a superpower both from wealth and military (conventional, not just nuclear).  Other nations such as China, Japan, Germany, India, Russia etc have some level of wealth and/or military strength.  Of those nations, China is the only one that is rising to the status of superpower in both categories.

The USA built its foundation for wealth before it gained its stature as a military superpower.  It can be debated that its relative isolation from stronger nations apt to come and take, allowed it to develop its economic might without the burden of having to raise a large military.  Once it became an economic superpower, with the requirements of the corporations to expand their economic net over the world came with it the requirement to maintain a large military force to protect its interest.   The protection required now not of the homeland, but of the US corporate interests in other lands, which had to be defended.  The defense of “our way of life” is not a defense of the USA territory, but that of its international economy.

This is the similar situation as Great Britain when it expanded its military influence over the world in correlation with its economic growth.  As a island it has its own natural defenses, so the military was simply an extension of its international economic expansion.

Applying this ‘model’ we can see the same correlation with China.  China is a country that has been isolated,so able to grow economically unencumbered by the necessity to establish itself as a military superpower.  Now as it extends itself economically outside of its borders its military is being built up to ‘defend’ its interests in places such as mineral rich Africa.But it is using its wealth as a key element in its economic growth in the nations of Africa, Asia, South/Central America.

Japan has been able to climb to the status of a wealthy superpower without the corresponding requirement to be a military superpower.  This has been accomplished by allowing the USA to take on that role, so in essence the US taxpayer has propped up the Japanese economy.

Yet in the developing modern global society we are seeing a shift away from the ‘who is carrying the bigger stick’ towards a co-mingling of economies that forces the participants to work together towards common ground.  The USA/China relationship of buyer-seller-debtor-creditor makes military actions between the two far less likely than if the relationship were strictly as competitor.    Both nations’ economic structures are based upon this symbiotic relationship of company manager and cheap labor.  If the USA were to ever extract itself from this relationship we would see a less stable relationship, as the two would come to a point of collision to determine who makes the decisions.

Question 1:  What was first for any successful empire to become a world power, their’ wealth’ or ‘military’?

Answer:  Depending on the society, and the time period.  Currently, an ‘empire’ will co-develop its wealth and military.

Question 2:  Is wealth more important to preserve a country than having an actual military?  Wealth can buy protection, seen throughout history.  As is shown currently by the Kuwait and USA relationship.

Question 3:  Or is military the best way to preserve wealth and obtain wealth?

It is a balance between a sword and the pen.  The ability for others to know that the country will defend itself, no matter how minor a defense, is all that is needed as long as there are countries willing to come to that country aid.

It is not a requirement for obtaining wealth.

Question 4:  What do present superpowers rely mostly on, their military or wealth to remain unchallenged?  Both.  The USA has strong economic influence in many areas around the world which country leaders enjoy the benefits (monetary influence).  The military provides a check towards others (Somalian pirates-national government?).”


Catherine Haig.

C. Bonjukian Patten.

“This question reminds me of that cartoon I saw as a kid. First there were cavemen throwing rocks at each other, then bows and arrows, then swords, then muskets, then cannons, then guns and rifles, then atomic bombs…last frame two cavemen throwing rocks at each other.

The answer would be not wealth but military. Human beings are argumentative in nature and they argue either intellectually with their minds if they are upwardly mobile in class but if not they argue with their hands and are physical. I always thought that military had a lot to do with class structure in life. The lower classes who cannot afford to go to college, went into the military instead to receive their college education. That is true for people who emerged from those ranks like COL COLIN POWELL and others who came from less fortunate backgrounds and could not afford to go to college on their parents dime or even by themselves. History keeps repeating itself with the younger generation as well. The parents of rich kids who do not get into trouble before college are sending them off to faraway colleges to get an education where they are expected to return and work for daddy or start out on their own.

Not every one is wealthy but some rich people have their own personal armies called BODYGUARDS. Look at the POPE who is protected by the SWISS GUARD; these guys may look like tulips but they are a vicious lot when confronted and can be aggressive if need be. But you don’t have to be rich to have a military – look at gangs in ghettos – THE BLOODS, THE CRIPS, other types of gangs, MAFIA all different types of nationalities belong to this group. They may have some wealth but they hire others to do the footwork. People are generally community oriented and they tend to hang with others who share their likes and dreams.”


Melissa Annette Ortega

Melissa A. Ortega.

“Intelligence reports explain that our best defense is a good offense.  This planning is best understood in the areas of science, medicine, and business. I think that as human beings we are meant to work, create industry and expand on opportunity in an effort promote fair trade and commerce. It is important to remember that as people our planning impacts the lives of others. The structure and shape of our ideas should help everyone, share, build, and grow.

The integrity of our nation’s wealth here in America lies the wise decision to defend the basic human rights of everyone.  The laws enacted by the SEC protect the wealth and integration of even the smallest stakeholder in a company.   We build the military to protect our rights and property as because we have worked to build lives and homes that are respectable and life sharing.

Our integrity is based on an honest work week, here in America, so that we can take of ourselves and feed our families. Human beings have the right to build and prosper, nobody has the right to tear it down. Super leaders who care about war are often people who are driven by power, fear, and greed. They lack commitment to the human condition either because they are ignorant and often misguided.  Here in America we defend life, we even go so far as to inspect the rights of the unborn, and of course the elderly or handicapped.  I think it is important to use wisdom when planning the citizenship of any nation.  Important treaties have established by the United States that help business people lead responsibly; as well as manage and assess important risks are the 1949 Geneva Convention and the Global Working Conditions Guidance Statement.

Both have been established by the Department of the Army (2010) to prevent war.  The Geneva Conventions expects “unconditional obeying of international, foreign nation, federal, state, and local environmental rules, regulations, and guidelines that affect current operations for military as well as business people”  (Department of the U.S Army, 2010).

The Global Working Conditions Guidance Statement requires “responsible working conditions and the treatment of all individuals with dignity and respect under treaty for preventing war” (Department of the Army, 2010). I think that good leadership should always be positive, promote peace, and expect peace.

The problems and attack on the United States September 11th has sadly created a situation where every any power in the world should be prepared for war.  It is sad that we have to use war tactics to make hostile countries even listen to us. Money is mostly a means to an end and war is a long road back.”



Nicole Horelt.

“The birth and survival of a nation requires a people to share the collective will and action to succeed; having the same objectives and motives at the core of their strategy. The governed and those in government, both have to be in sync in order to have long-lasting success.

Since wealth and military superiority (as in skill and weaponry and/or the power to control military forces) are essential to national survival and superpower status on the global stage, it would make sense that the overall national ‘character’ plays a vital role (inate willingness of the people to succeed as powerful nation), fitting well with the mode and direction of government, or that the persuaviness and control of a government over its people, be effective enough to disway rebellion and to command loyalty to the ‘national character’-and rule of law . Cohesiveness of people and government to abide by its national constitution, or the rule of law within an empire or organization, is a determining factor for success. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’

The European Union is a rising economic and political superpower whose success is based on the cohesiveness of its 28 member states (nations) to its rule of law based upon democratically voted treaties, such as the Lisbon Treaty, signed in 2009. It began initially after world war ll as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) which served to unify the European countries. The EU’s member states integrate economically and politically within the Union. states the EU’s ‘ultimate objective is to foster economic prosperity and stability in the EU and, while serving the Union’s interests, also in the rest of the world.’ EU economic strength and governance through integration/globalization is aimed for.

The political concept, (and abstractly – military control..) of this strategy maintains that nations which are linked together economically and who trade with one another are more likely to avoid conflict. With the politicalization of an economic zone, a nation member could place themselves at risk of economic isolation and financial, trade, and other losses due to sanctions, for non-compliance with the EU’s rule of law, in a number of ways that bring their national defenses down. Wealth ‘management’ and control can be powerful persuasive tools in the hands of a superpower, possibly moreso than military power. This seems to be the where the EU is leading.

Simultaneously, the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) is another emerging superpower with a differing strategy than that of the EU, primarily in the area of military might and range of force, focusing primarily on regional security and stability. An article in Xinhua describes it as, ‘a young mechanism with a promising prospect in pooling regional resources to boost common security and development.’ The SCO had its start originally in 1996 with the signing of the ‘Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in Shanghai,’ by The Shangai Five (Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan), and declared its official status as an organisation on the 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China).

The strategy is not one of political and economical integration which risks national sovereignty, but of regionalization, where members retain their national identity and share strengths regionally with focus on security. The SCO has been compared to being a counter force to NATO. It is also an economic and political power. There are 6 Members: China, Russia,Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and 5 Observers: Afghanistan,India, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, 3 Dialogue Partners: Turkey, Sri Lanka, Belarus, and 3 Guests: ASEAN, CIS, Turkmenistan.

The organization represents nearly half of the global population and spans a land mass covering 60 percent of Eurasia! This building superpower acknowledges what it defines as its ‘Spirit’; in an article by China daily, it was written, “The SCO embodies a spirit, that is the “Shanghai Spirit” whose essence is mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and seeking common development. It reflects the member states’ fresh perspectives on security, development, cooperation and civilization.” This writer noted earlier nations as having a ‘national character’; the ‘Shanghai Spirit’ could be compared to that.

The EU and the SCO are main competing world superpowers on the world stage today. The question posed by the editor relayed the importance of the power of wealth and military for the preservation of a country. Increased ease and speed of global intelligence, communication and travel in today’s world has necessitated change in the economic and military sectors of national governments and superpowers. There is a move towards global governance as the world of trade, and cooperation in solving global problems and exploration bring the nations closer than ever before.”


David Merkel

David J. Merkel.

“Neither wealth nor military is the correct answer – the answer is culture.

Rome rotted from within, as did the Greek city-states.  The USSR was not defeated in battle – it crumbled.

We need to understand that nations that follow the Ten Commandments tend to prosper and grow.  Righteousness exalts nations, and makes them more powerful than their resources would ordinarily be.

Militaries get lazy.  Wealth corrupts via laziness as well.  If a nation does not have citizens that are independently motivated to protect the nation, there is little hope over the intermediate-term.

As it is, most of the developed nations are going to run through pensions crises as their populations grey, and few are prepared for it.   How well will their societies fare when generations scrap over how high tax rates should be?

But a culture that is not greedy will fare better than others.”


Jaime Ortega. (Editor)

“Unbalanced force is a destructive force, while wealth is a constructive force that keeps necessity on balance. But destructive forces undoubtedly rule the natural spectrum of the universe rather than constructive wealth humans store.

Force is a natural power that is unstoppable and wealth cannot withstand destructive forces greater than its own assets. Because its ten times easier to destroy a city, than to build one.

Also military forces tamper with the commodity of fear, which can easily overtake wealthy nations, primarily because the conquered nations have more to lose than to gain if they’re successful.  And historically, many nations have submitted their wealth and cultural laws, to more powerful armies which sole purpose was to destroy rather than to build.

If you look at the fall of Rome, against the barbarian raids, it’s clear that despite their wealth, they were conquered by a bunch of unshaven dirty warmongers. However, when Rome was powerful, it was their military that made them rule for over half a millennium. As a matter fact, it is said by many historians that Carthage, was wealthier than Rome, but Romans were just better warriors. What I take from that,  is that wealth does not translate always to having better military!

What most wealthy cultures do to remain in power, is trap the natural chaotic forces of destruction and accommodate , laws and regulations to keep the population on ease, to control the society they rule.

Revolutions are loopholes in all well established societies that spark change, wealthy or not. And with revolutions all it takes is to oppose a system and fight against it with ideology rather than with wealth. You grow in numbers with ideology and if popularity and numbers arise in your favor, then you have power to strike a war.

Every successful military is fueled by central core belief and ideologies rather than driven by wealth alone. Wealth is not the main utensil to shape a solid military, whereas belief is.

I think Military (power in numbers) played and plays a bigger role in the overall historical ascension to power, specially when comparing ancient civilizations. Ancient history and modern history proves it.

The only boundary I see, between wealth and military is the present accommodation of technology. I believe technology helps strengthen the power of the military, alongside the power of economic freedom. But without technology, military forces would run free like wild horses, that would consequently counterweight any financial equilibrium, which of course sets any culture to be wealthy.

Technology traps wealth and military power, and they become more solid structures. Case and point, the U.S., China,..

Belief is the main core of fighting a war, not wealth. If you’re willing to sacrifice your life in numbers to achieve a goal, wealth itself is not influenced in how you response, but gives you a better edge thanks to technology. That’s it.    The truth is. Military (power in numbers) can live without wealth, and simply survive without structuring anything.

Wealth can possibly live without military, but not in this universe. Wealth is exclusively dependent on military power, whereas strength in numbers is not dependent on wealth but ideology.  That gives military power in my opinion, the key factor for any leading world power to succeed and even to start working.

Financial powers depend exclusively on their military to remain powerful. And China’s military and Russia’s military are no different than the lesser barbarian tribes that ended up conquering the great Rome. The U.S. is not Rome, it has a shorter expiration date. Belief is what will make the military successful, wealth will only help that success to prevail more relevant.”

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