At first glance the latest annual report on military spending by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is reason to cheer. Worldwide military expenditures dropped for the first time since 1998, shrinking 0.5 percent in real terms over 2011.

But scrutinize the numbers and the applause will be short-lived. Much of the decline reflected cutbacks in the United States as it winds down two wars, as well as reductions throughout the West as part of the austerity mentality that has been imposed in the wake of the global financial crisis and economic crisis in Europe.

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