In reference to the small size and decorative nature of bonsai plants.
- A sovereign state's army or military force that is small and could be considered merely "for decoration". A bonsai army is not large enough to fundamentally protect a country.
- Without Soviet support surrounding the missile crisis, Cuba's military would have been merely a bonsai army and they would have quickly succumbed to any serious invasion from the west.
- A tiny, largely ornamental (military) structure bereft of the capability to effectively carry out its constitutional missions.
- A military that covers the entire spectrum of capabilities but has virtually no external military clout.