Eternal Wars and its Ramifications on the Public
Every worldly citizen acknowledges that wars cost money and it doesn’t come as a surprise. Yet what does is the fact that ongoing American wars since 9/11 have been waged almost entirely on borrowed money. They are credit-card wars, 60% funded by U.S. investors, 40% by those in other countries. Unlike the other wars in medieval history, they are not being paid for as they happen and are racking up a substantial debt to foreign countries.
The Pentagon has a website that tells us how much the U.S. pays for each war, but that only tells us how much of those icebergs we can see above the waves. While it includes totals for warfighting, it doesn’t track the Pentagon’s bigger war budget: interest paid on money borrowed to fight the wars, veterans’ care, and other ancillary costs. There’s a whole lot more hidden beneath the waves and the real issue isn’t whether the cost of war is high; the issue is why the U.S. government keeps under-estimating it, and why U.S. citizens and taxpayers keep tolerating it.
A Historic Tour of America and its Wars
For nearly two decades, America has been in a series of wars in the Middle East and beyond, that have taken a staggering human and economic toll. Tens of thousands of service members have been killed or wounded, many live with the invisible scars of war inflicted on themselves or their loved ones and millions of civilians have suffered. These conflicts have cost trillions that could be used for urgent priorities, created a drag on the economy, and contributed to the decay of democratic culture.
For those too young to remember, U.S.A’s seemingly never-ending post-9/11 wars began as an invasion of Afghanistan. It was designed to crush its Taliban-run government for offering sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, but it quickly morphed into a “Global War on Terrorism” that has involved U.S. military action in 80 nations.
In 2003, U.S. invaded Iraq unknown to the fact that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction and would play a role in the 9/11 attacks. The invasion of Iraq destabilized the Middle East, empowered Iran, and created the conditions that produced ISIS. In Afghanistan, we’ve “turned the corner” so many times that we seem to be going in circles, and the Taliban controls more territory now than it has since it was first invaded, in 2001. U.S.-enabled wars in Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere have resulted in humanitarian tragedies and created new training grounds for international terrorists.
The True Costs of Wars
As of 2018, U.S. had spent the stupefying sum of $5.9 trillion on the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria. This means the average taxpayer has paid more than $23,000 since 9/11 to fund these wars in which more than 480,000 people have martyred according to conclusions of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.
Setting aside the deeply troubling moral issues raised by these wars, the practical implications alone scream for public attention. Although the borrowed money provides the means to pursue a heady policy of military supremacy and global hegemony, the payback will be enormous. So enormous that it could wipe away the last vestiges of U.S. democracy.
So far, the interest payments alone have cost more than $534 billion and since we are not likely to see huge sums like $5.9 trillion paid back very quickly, scholars at the Watson Institute have projected that, because of compound interest, the payments on interest alone will reach a stratospheric $8 trillion by 2053.
Practical Ramifications for Common People
First of all, since the government has to pay back those from whom they’ve borrowed. Huge sums of money will flow out of the United States to foreign investors, diminishing funds necessary for solving problems besetting us such as health care, poverty, homelessness, violence, and infrastructure. Second, the payback also means that vast amounts will flow to already wealthy U.S investors—making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The mounting rise of social and economic inequality, already at a shamefully high level, will be driven unimaginably higher.
Our commitment to military supremacy and global dominance, based as it is on a deep foundation of debt, is no longer compatible with American democracy. In order to maintain our empire of 800 military bases around the world, deploy military operations in more than 140 nations, and conduct counterterrorism operations in 76 different countries we cannot satisfy the legitimate needs and desires of a democratic citizenry, and a government that stops satisfying the needs of its people also stops being a representative government.
The time to act is now. U.S., needs to stop investing so much on wars, machinery and attempts to dissolve conflicts in other countries. If efforts, policies and laws are put into place, the U.S.A. could cut $100 billion from outdated, ill-conceived, or outrightly dangerous programs like counter-terrorism and wars. Yes, the contractors and investors will howl but it is time the government stops paying heed to them and pays more attention to the needy sectors of our public. If we join hands together and raise enough awareness for the government to stop its endless wars, then maybe one day, one final glory day, we shall be able to say proudly, that we live in a world with no wars!
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