Wars have been a plague on mankind’s history. Unfortunately, many nations have to establish large national armies in order to deter future conflicts. Sometimes they are used to initiate needless wars at the whims of politicians. Because different nations have more resources to devote to military spending, some have an inherent advantage if they were brought into any conflict. Here is a list of the top 10 largest armed forces, sorted by the number of active “ready to fight” military personnel.
Egypt has 468,500 active soldiers in its army. Egypt has been involved in many wars in the twentieth century, with five of these conflicts involving its neighbor Israel. Due to its history of recent conflict and a significant threat believed to possess nuclear weapons on its eastern front, it is not surprising that Egypt has quite a substantial army.
There are 545,000 active military troops in the Iranian army. That is 545,000 reasons for many people in the Middle East to lose sleep at night given many of the statements of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Based on his public comments, he believes in the Shiite Islamic view that the twelfth Imam will arise to help the Muslim world defeat the “Great Satan” of the United States and its prominent ally Israel. Many people believe the next major conflict could begin here if Israel takes pre-emptive action to stop Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
Turkey has 612,900 active duty military troops, which also is not surprising given that it sits on the outskirts of the hotbed of conflict in the Middle East. Turkey is the only country on this list besides the United States that is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
This nation has 617,000 active duty troops and rounds out a complete sweep of the bottom four of the list by Islamic republics. Pakistan has had a long history of conflict with its neighbor India since the two nations split along artificial religious lines following the British occupation. Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, and a significant conflict between the two nations was narrowly averted between in the late 1980’s.
6. South Korea
This nation has a active military of 653,000 members. The country has to keep a large armed presence because it has technically been at war with its northern neighbor for more than 60 years. An uneasy armistice has existed for decades, many troops and fortifications are manned on the demilitarized zone separating the two countries.
5. North Korea
With 1.106 million active duty soldiers in a nation whose population is roughly 24 million, this is the most over-sized military of any nation on this list. The country exists as a brutal dictatorship with the large army used to intimidate its own population into submission, not to mention its neighbors. The country has developed nuclear weapons and has made flippant threats to use them, including a not so veiled threat to bomb the west coast of the USA. Meanwhile many of its citizens starve to death because so many resources have been put into war.
This former Cold War rival of the United States has a total active armed forced of 1.200 million. While number four on the list, if you take into account their substantial nuclear and modern weapons stockpiles, they are considered the second most dangerous military in the world in terms of force strength.
The nation of India fields a national army of 1.325 million. Since the nation has a population of approximately 1 billion people, this is not that great a percentage of its population. The nation has tense relations with two border nations, China and Pakistan, both of which are nuclear powers and have large armies.
2. United States of America
The USA has 1.478 million people in its active armed forces spread out at military based all over the world. In terms of force strength, is it by far considered the most powerful military machine in the world. It spends more money on national defense than any other nation, nearly four times the amount of the number two spender in China. It also has been involved in more wars than any other nation over the last century and has earned the nickname “policeman of the world.”
With a massive army of 2.285 million people, China claims position one on the list of top 10 largest armed forces. This bests the number two of the USA by over 50%. With the world’s largest population of well over 1.3 billion it also possesses many other people who can be be used to fight a war if necessary.
This top 10 largest armed forces list represents most of the nations best-prepared to withstand a military conflict. As a result, it is a list that most of the other nations would probably be hesitant to pick a fight with.