THE REAL OUT-OF-CONTROL SPENDING: Trillions-plus cost of Iraq, Afghanistan Wars wrecking federal budget
THE REAL OUT-OF-CONTROL SPENDING: Trillions-plus cost of Iraq, Afghanistan Wars wrecking federal budget.
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Spending on the Afghanistan War is out of control, and we can’t afford to keep wasting lives and resources on a war that’s not making us safer. That’s what makes the administration’s end-date for combat operations–2014, according to news accounts–completely unacceptable. That’s another four years of futile waste of taxpayer resources on a war that’s not worth the cost. Eugene Robinson’s latest column in the Washington Post tears apart the ridiculous waste in spending trillions on wars that hurt American security. Excerpts below.
The United States accounts for 46.5 percent of the combined defense spending of all the nations of the world, according to a widely accepted recent estimate. The next-biggest spender is China, which has undertaken an immense build-up to become a military as well as economic superpower — yet accounts for just 6.6 percent of the world’s total.
…[deficit panel co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson] properly classify defense spending as discretionary, meaning we are able to make choices. This should be axiomatic. But it has been Republican Party orthodoxy to inveigh against “big government” and its out-of-control spending while blithely ignoring the nearly $700 billion we’re lavishing annually on the Pentagon, as if every penny were somehow preordained and inviolate.
…But Bowles and Simpson don’t state the obvious, which is that a much more effective way to cut defense costs would be to bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to a report prepared in September by the Congressional Research Service, the two wars have already cost $1.1 trillion. That figure doesn’t include an estimated $170 billion for the current fiscal year — and there’s no real end in sight.
As Obama promised, we are withdrawing from Iraq; the cost of George W. Bush’s epic misadventure has fallen to “only” an estimated $51 billion in 2011. By contrast, the price tag for Obama’s expanded war in Afghanistan has nearly doubled since Bush’s last year in office.
…Overall, the federal budget is expected to run a $1 trillion deficit this year. In effect, we’re borrowing money from China and using some of it to keep a measure of order in Afghanistan. This is allowing the Chinese to sign contracts and build infrastructure that will let them exploit Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth — while we pay the borrowed money back with interest.
And what kind of return are we getting on our $119.4 billion investment in Afghanistan this year? Our enemy, the Taliban, remains powerful and entrenched. Under Gen. David Petraeus, our forces are trying to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy. But one prerequisite — a trustworthy local government that deserves and wins popular support — does not exist. The administration of President Hamid Karzai is seen as riddled with corruption, and Karzai himself can be as inconstant as a zephyr.
In an interview with The Washington Post published Sunday, Karzai demanded that a key element of Petraeus’ plan — nighttime “capture-and-kill” raids by Special Operations forces — be halted because they generate such anger among civilians.
“The time has come to reduce military operations. The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan … to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life,” Karzai told the Post.
All right, then, let’s save American lives and a ton of money. Let’s oblige him.