Which Countries Don't Have An Army?

Not all countries have active militaries. Why do some nations refuse to have armies and how do they protect themselves without them?

Today, there are 23 countries that have no active military force, including Costa Rica, Iceland, Panama, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and The Vatican. These nations vary in size, history, and reasons behind choosing to not have a standing army. Some have split off from larger countries and are so small with so few resources that it's simply not feasible to have a fully formed military force. Others have agreements in place with neighboring countries to call on their armed personnel as needed.

Maintaining an army is expensive in today's world and, for many of these countries, forgoing a military force can provide funds for other public services. On December 1, 1948, Costa Rican President Jose Figueres made a symbolic display of bashing a hole into the nation's soon to be shuttered military headquarters, Cuartel Bellavista. The compound would be transformed into a national art museum and the military budget would be diverted to health care, education, and environmental protection. Today, Costa Rica has local police forces, but no national army. When a foreign dignitary comes to visit, the official welcome ceremony consists of schoolchildren dressed in the visitor's national colors-rather than soldiers in formal military dress. Costa Rica also happens to be one of the happiest countries on the planet-perhaps related to its lack of a military.

Learn More:
Countries Without Militaries (via The Atlantic)

The World Factbook: Military Branches by Country (via The CIA)
"This entry lists the service branches subordinate to defense ministries or the equivalent (typically ground, naval, air, and marine forces)."

Imagine There's No Army (via Diplomat Magazine)
"It sounds like something off John Lennon's wishlist on Imagine, but there are currently more than 20 countries in the world who have chosen to dispense with defence (or attacking) forces to bring peace and stability to their countries."

Costa Rica: An Army-Less Nation in a Problem-Prone Region (via Council on Hempispheric Affairs)
"The Central American nation of Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that does not possess a standing military. Nevertheless, Costa Rica, like other Latin American countries, faces a variety of security threats that test the country's security capacity."

Haitians Train for a Future With a Military (via The New York Times)

U.S. Military Dismantling Haiti's Former Military Power, 1994 (via The Item)