During the end-of-year holiday period people’s wishes routinely turn to wishes for  peace and goodwill, and the hope that the new year will bring growth and prosperity. However, the guarantor of peace often seems to be military power rather than goodwill.

This raises the question as to who holds militarily power and what their intentions are. An answer to the first part of the question is presented by the  ‘Global Firepower’ think tank.

Global Firepower ranks the conventional (non-nuclear) military capacity of 136 countries. Their Global Firepower Index (PwrIndex) reflects a range of military factors in addition to the size of the military. As a result technologically advanced military forces may obtain a higher ranking than a larger military force with a lower diversity of weapons. The resulting index ranks South Korea (which has an active military compliment of 645 000) the 7th most powerful military power.

By comparison North Korea, which has an active military compliment of almost one-million (945 000), is ranked 18th. With the exception of 4th ranked India the strongest military powers are all permanent members of the United National Security Council.

The PwrIndex ranks the USA, Russia and China as the foremost conventional military powers on the globe. The Brics countries feature prominently on the PwrIndex with Russia, China and India holding second, third and fourth highest spots respectively. Brazil is ranked the 17th most capable military power with South Africa being ranked 33rd.

With only 7 500 active military personnel the least powerful country is Bhutan (136). Joining Bhutan as the bottom of the power rankings are several African countries which have recently been subject to devastating internal conflicts. These include Liberia (135), Sierra Leone (133), Somalia (132) and the Central African Republic (130).

The poor rankings of these countries can be seen as a result  of their conflicts. However the data also suggests that the inability of the military in each of these countries to respond divisively to warlords and secessionist may have contributed to the internal instability and thus to the conflict.

South Africa has the third most powerful military on the African continent. South Africa with an active military compliment of 78 000 is considered more powerful than Nigeria (43)  and Angola (48). Nigeria has 124 000 active military personnel and Angola has 107 000.  South Africa ranks behind Egypt (12) and Algeria (23).

The PwrIndex ranks the USA, Russia and China as the foremost conventional military powers.