International Unitarian Universalism: Disarmament

Maintaining an Army - Some Considerations

By Joanne Dufour

A statue of a knotted gun stands in front of United Nations Headquarters in New York City

The bronze sculpture "Non-Violence" by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd is located just outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and shows a revolver with a knotted barrel.

Were you aware of the fact that 22 countries in the world do not have an army? How can that be? While many may think that armed forces are an indispensable part of any nation, and many governments often spend millions in order to strengthen their armed forces (or billions in the case of the United States), there are 22 nations that have made the decision to have no army at all. Here are a list of those leaders:

  1. Andorra – Here the police maintain law and order. Should protection be needed Spain and France agreed to provide it through separate military treaties.
  2. Costa Rica – This was the fourth country to abolish its army in 1948 after a civil war, and has continued this policy since that time. The police maintain internal security and do not carry guns. Private security forces do exist, with some fully armed, but they cannot identify themselves as police.
  3. Dominica – The government made their decision to have no standing army in 1981 after an attempted army coup. There is a Regional security system that is responsible for the defense of most of the Caribbean nations, but Dominican police maintain local security.
  4. Grenada – In 1983 after an American invasion, this government disbanded their standing army, in favor of police security and the Regional security system.
  5. Haiti – In 1995 after dozens of military coups, the government decided to disband the Army.
  6. Iceland – This was the first country which abolished their army in 1869. Their security is provided through their NATO membership and defense agreements with the United States which maintains a Navy presence on the island.
  7. Kiribati – This island nation is made up of three groups of islands (Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands) and gave up their army in 1978. Australia and New Zealand provide defense assistance when required.
  8. Liechtenstein – In 1868 a decision was made to dissolve the standing army because of its cost. They have a provision for creating an army in case of war, but thankfully this situation has not occurred.
  9. The Marshall Islands – Since its formation in 1991 the sole force is the police, which maintain a Maritime Surveillance Unit dealing with internal security. The United States is responsible for its security in return for use by their army in five bases located there.
  10. Mauritius – Although it has no army of its own since 1968, it has an active police presence responsible for all military, police, and security functions under the command of the Commissioner of Police.
  11. Micronesia - This country is also under United States defense since its independence in 1991. It has no army of its own, but maintains US armed forces bases.
  12. Monaco – This small country renounced its military investment in the 17th century. However it does have two small military units, one protecting the Prince and the other for civilians. France is responsible for its defense.
  13. Nauru – With protection provided by Australia, there is no standing army but a competent police force. It is one of the smallest countries in the world.
  14. Palau – Since its independence from United States trusteeship in 1994, there is no standing army. The only forces permitted are the police, but US bases control a large portion of the island. No nuclear weapons are allowed.
  15. Panama – The Panamanian Public Forces are responsible for internal security and border problems as there has been no army since 1990 when control of the Panama Canal transferred to the Panamanian Government from the United States.
  16. St. Lucia – The Regional Security System Defense of the Caribbean area is responsible for this country with no army of its own, but an active police force.
  17. St. Vincent and the Grenadines – This country also depends on the Regional Security System Defense as does its neighbor above.
  18. Samoa – Since it foundation in 1962, New Zealand is responsible for its defense and the police for internal security.
  19. Solomon Islands – since a serious ethnic conflict when Australia and New Zealand intervened to bring about peace, there has been no armed force but a relatively large police force.
  20. Tuvalu – In 2000 when it became a member of the United Nations, it abolished its armed force and relies on its police force for security.
  21. Vanuatu – The Vanuatu mobile force maintains internal security and is equipped with small arms but there is no army since 1981 when it became a member of the United Nations.
  22. Vatican City – This smallest country in the world has a Swiss Guard which protects the Holy See, but not the Vatican City State. Although there is no formal defense accord with Italy, informally the Italian military provides protection. The Palatine Guard and Noble Guard were abolished in 1970.

By comparison, the U.S. Army (PDF) has 186,520 soldiers committed worldwide, with over 99,000 soldiers overseas in over 140 countries and another 87,000 soldiers within the U.S. and its territories.

The United States has military bases (PDF) in all 50 states, territories like Guam, Puerto Rico, District of Columbia, Marshall Islands, North Marianas, Virgin Islands, and all of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Diego Garcia, Egypt, El Salvador, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Guantanamo, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Netherlands, Netherland Antilles, Norway, Oman, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Saint Helena, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The largest installations of US armed forces (PDF) are found in Germany, Japan and South Korea. Of the entire $667 billion cost of the U.S. military, the 2019 budget request (PDF) for the Department of the Army is $181,995,885. Each of the departments within our armed services has its own budget request per annum: the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, etc. All of this is in addition to the billions spent on research and development of new forms of weaponry.

It is possible for a government to exist without an army and to manage its foreign affairs so as to avoid use of violent military response when a conflict emerges. Working more consistently at diplomatic responses to conflict situations is a lesson which more countries in our armed and militarized world might well take to heart.

About the Author

Joanne Dufour

Joanne Dufour is a Volunteer for the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations completing a circle of connection with the office since 1968....


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