By: Zafrullah Saroya
Federated States of Micronesia
Leading up to World War II, the Federated States of Micronesia was under Japanese control, which explains why Micronesia became the site of some of the most fearsome battles ever fought in the South Pacific. After the war, the region became part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, beginning a long relationship with the United States. Given that history, the country didn’t make military spending a priority when it finally gained independence in 1979. In 1986, Micronesia entered into a Compact of Free Association with the United States, and its defence has been the US’s responsibility ever since. While Micronesians rely on the United States for their defence, they can also enlist in American fighting forces. In fact, Micronesians have actually suffered more fatalities as a percentage of their population in Iraq and Afghan wars than the US military has.
Panama first ran into the dangers of an unchecked military in 1968, when it threw the democratically elected president, Dr Arnulfo Arias Madrid, out of office for the third and final time before taking over. The military would play a major role in Panama’s government throughout the 1980s, when Gen. Manuel Noriega came to power. In 1989, the United States invaded Panama, removing Noriega from power and ushering in democratic elections. The deep distrust Panamanians held for the military led the government to adopt a constitutional amendment disbanding the military in 1994. Despite a much-improved relationship, Panama has refused to allow the US to set up a military base for combating drug trafficking within its borders. After all, if you don’t trust your own army, you probably won’t trust that of another country.
The Republic of Mauritius
Located east of Madagascar, the island nation of Mauritius is home to more than a million people and one of the strongest economies in Africa. What you won’t find, however, are regular military forces. In fact, since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1968, Mauritius has never felt the need to develop a national defence. Today, Mauritius spends only 0.3 percent of its gross domestic product on defence, which comprises a police force, Special Mobile Force (SMF) and National Coast Guard. All told, 10,115 personnel work for these agencies. These organizations are charged with handling everything from riot control to search-and-rescue missions, though they aren’t equipped to handle national defence. Mauritius receives counterterrorism training from the United States, and its coast guard works closely with the Indian Navy, proving that if your country doesn’t have a military, it’s good to have allies that do.
Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America. In 1948, after an unusual period of political upheaval, the country burst into a civil war that lasted for 44 days, resulting in 2,000 casualties. In an effort to ensure such a conflict would never happen again, the new government drafted a constitution that not only guaranteed free and open elections but also abolished the country’s armed forces. Former President José Figueres Ferrer abolished the armed forces in Costa Rica on Dec. 1, 1948 following the end of the civil war that brought him to power.
Its president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, said at Davos 2019: “Seventy years ago, Costa Rica did away with the army. This allows for many things. Eight percent of our GDP is invested in education because we don’t have to spend on the army. So our strength is human talent, human wellbeing.”
Haiti has the unfortunate distinction of being the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, a status it held well before a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the nation in January 2010. Although the reasons behind the country’s poverty are complex and varied, Haiti’s history of political turmoil certainly has played a part in its current hardships, and that turmoil often involved the military. For instance, less than a year after Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president on Dec. 16, 1990, his government was overrun by a military coup. Haiti endured the makeshift military government until 1994, when the United Nations intervened and forcefully ousted Haiti’s leadership. After Aristide was reinstated as president, he moved quickly to disband Haiti’s armed forces before they could pose any further problems. Nowadays, Haiti relies heavily on UN forces for security.