Will War Spending Finish Bankrupting the US Economy?


The main topics of the day in Washington were jobs and possibly injecting some of the TARP money — paid back by the banks as an economic stimulus. While addressing the dreadful unemployment situation and a shaky economy is urgent, it would be wise to address the financial consequences of the Obama administration escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan. According to the Brookings Institute and the Congressional Research Service, the total cost for both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be 1.08 trillion for 2010.

A question comes to mind: besides any type of geopolitical or military considerations, is it financially sustainable even for the short term to pursue such policies? America’s debt is exploding, and as a consequence the value of the US dollar is rapidly falling. The cost to deploy one US soldier in Afghanistan is 1 million dollars a year, which means that the price tag for the additional 30,000 troops to be deployed in Afghanistan is around 30 billion. Americans should start doing the math and understand that the economy will not recover unless the military spending is cut.

Some politicians are doing the math. “Rather than nation-building in Afghanistan, we should be doing a little more nation-building at home”, said Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern from Massachusetts. “I support the President’s mission in Afghanistan but I do not support adding more troops,” said Senator Barbara Boxer from California. Rep. Jane Harman went even further and said that President Obama’s decision “carried eerie echoes of Vietnam”.

For some Democrats, opposition to the troop increase could lead to an attempt to block supplemental funding to cover the 30 billion price tag for the military buildup. Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Service Committee, said a vote on such a supplemental bill could come early next year. However, it is very likely that the bill will pass as few Democrats will have the guts to oppose the bill.

President Obama mentioned a start of withdrawal from Afghanistan in summer 2011. The “strategy” in Afghanistan is still undefined between counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency and nation building. The Pakistanis are not enthusiastic about the troop surge, they estimate that it will bring more Afghans Taliban to Pakistan.

What Americans should ask themselves  is a simple question: How can we do nation building in a nation with no national identity, per say, and with an illegitimate government that few Afghans trust? It would be like trying to build a house with foundations made of sand.  But further, the policy of escalation is financially reckless, the cost of   the two wars combined, for 2010 and 2011, will be more than 2 trillion dollars for the US tax payers. It is money that America doesn’t have, except by printing more of it or borrowing it from China, Japan and Europe. At some point, America will run out of option to re-finance its colossal debt, reason and logic will finally prevail and troops will be coming home.


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