Our military industrial complex of mega-corporate interests has rolled on for generations, making loads of money for the billionaires, and those in government who get paid off. But the costs to our society have been high, and they get higher every day.
According to the prestigious Watson Institute https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have contributed to significant economic setbacks in the United States, through lost opportunities for investment in public infrastructure and services and higher borrowing rates. Contrary to the widespread belief that war is a particularly effective way to create jobs, US federal spending on the current wars would have led to at least 1.4 million more jobs had the money been invested instead in education, health care, or green energy.
Similarly, the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in military assets such as ships and aircraft during the first decade of the wars would have led to larger capital improvements had these dollars instead been invested in core public economic infrastructure, such as roads and water systems.
The wars have also impacted interest rates charged to borrowers by banks and other creditors. This is the result of war spending financed entirely by debt, something the USA has never done before, which has contributed to a higher ratio of national debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and subsequent rising long-term interest rates.
As of 2019, .9 Trillion has been spent and obligated on the post 9-11 Wars in Afganistan, Iraq and Pakistan, not counting the cost of medical and disability payments for veterans and administrative overhead costs that will total another estimated trillion through 2053. Finally, among the costs of these wars are increases in Homeland Security spending, intended to avert the threat of a terrorist attack and respond to and recover from attacks. This spending totals 48 billion to date.
The Human Costt
Also according to the Watson Institute, At least 800,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan. The number of people who have been wounded or have fallen ill as a result of the conflicts is far higher, as is the number of civilians who have died indirectly as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure and environmental contamination, among other war-related problems.
Thousands of United States service members have died in combat, as have thousands of civilian contractors. Many have died later on from injuries and illnesses sustained in the war zones. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and contractors have been wounded and are living with disabilities and war-related illnesses. Allied security forces have also suffered significant casualties, as have opposition forces.
However, the vast majority of people killed are civilians. More than 310,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting.
Millions of people living in the war zones have also been displaced by war. To date, over 8.4 million Afghans, Pakistanis, and Iraqis are living as war refugees in other countries or are displaced from their homes. An additional 12.6 million Syrians are displaced, many as a result of the US war against the Islamic State in Syria.
2.7 million service members have been to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and over half of them have deployed more than once. Many times that number of Americans have borne the costs of war as spouses, parents, children, and friends cope with their loved ones’ absence, mourn their deaths, or greet the changed person who often returns.
Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans face a life of disability due to the physical and psychological injuries they sustain in the war zones. At least 970,000 veterans, nearly 30% of those deployed, have some degree of officially recognized disability as a result of the wars. Many more live with physical and emotional scars despite lack of disability status.
The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been more difficult for military families than have past wars, with more frequent deployments and shorter periods at home. In comparison to the civilian population, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are facing elevated rates of suicide and mental illness, drug and alcohol dependence, car crashes, and homelessness. They and their families also experience higher rates of divorce as well as homicide, child abuse, and child neglect by both parents left behind and returning veterans.
When service members return home injured, it is often their families who provide care – even when veterans are housed in military hospitals. The offloading of care for the war wounded onto families and community organizations has been an express part of military planning, and should count among the costs of war.
Social and Political Costss
The United States-led War on Terror has led to encroachments on basic social and political rights in the US and the war zones.
In the US, new legislation and intelligence practices have eroded Americans’ constitutional freedoms from surveillance and their rights to privacy. Law enforcement officials’ profiling of people of Arab and South Asian descent remains common.
At home, in the war zones, and in many other countries, US and allied officials continue to indefinitely detain terror suspects without fair trial or access to legal counsel. Torture and mistreatment in custody remain major problems.
In Afghanistan, the return to power of discredited warlords, the marginalization of other groups, and the concentration of power in the presidency have contributed to a government that does not represent the interests of large numbers of Afghans. Afghan women remain cut out of political decisions, and many suffer violations of basic human rights such as health care, food, housing, and security.
The Iraqi government lacks political and economic inclusion, does not provide basic security for its citizens, and has regressed towards authoritarianism in recent years. The government’s failure to provide basic security for its citizens and to protect rule of law has contributed to widespread gender violence against Iraqi women, though the international community has been silent about these issues.
Around the world in Syria and elsewhere, no positive democratic progress has been achieved at all.
In fact, all these wars have served to further stoke the fires of Islamist organizations to hate and destroy the United States, and served as training grounds for operatives from all over the world.
Environmental Costs of War r
All of the areas where war has been waged for decades have undergone huge environmental degradation. Desert areas that used to be farmland are now become toxic dust bowls, with air pollution at high levels. Permanent disabilities in lung capacity, requiring discharge and medical disability for life have occurred for a large number of previously super-fit military personnel. It is unknown what the indigenous residents of these areas have or will be suffering, and how they will cope with the lack of water and infrastructure that now has been created over the years.
Corporate Power and Profiteeringg
The post-9/11 wars have produced corporate contracts and profiteering that is unprecedented.
Outsourcing of intelligence by our military is so pervasive that there are now more contract than government employees working in the intelligence community, and contract military personnel numbers (unknown) may outnumber U.S. armed forces military personnel.
Defense contractors’ practices, including profiteering, fraud, waste, and corruption, have raised major concerns, as has potential misuse of newly purchased arms that land in the hands of the enemy. It’s truly a mess.
Current Regime and Efforts to Withdraw Troopss
While the Trump regime made troop withdrawal a major platform of the 2016 campaign, they have been unable to withdraw troops without getting huge blowback due to unforeseen repercussions in Syria and in Germany, with our allies around the world getting a message of lack of support against the common enemies incursions. Russia will be gaining, as is Turkey and the Islamic State in all of these hasty un-deployments.
Alternative Ideas for Peace-Building Instead of War Making.
Let’s dream a new dream: Instead of withdrawing troops in a cavalcade of collapse, troops could be re-trained as peace-keepers and peace-builders, helping re-establish infrastructure in the deployed areas, and create a dialogue with indigenous residents for establishing them as self-sufficient politically and economically. Empatharian could be used as a bridge-building tool and method for starting conversations when language barriers seem insurmountable and trust and truth are needing to be secured.
Empatharian is a gestural language which is readily understood from afar, as well as face to face. Not only that but it helps provide clarity and focus when appearances can be intimidating and off-putting. Calmness prospers, and the intent of seeking solutions for self-rule by the indigenous peoples, with fairness to all parties involved, can progress.
Perhaps our troops could help begin some re-building and infrastructure projects, with water engineering technologies and power generating technologies they could bring or make available. Perhaps we would assist with re-establishing farmlands, with safe waste disposal and compost making technologies, and introducing some farm animals. The cost of these technologies would be borne by our billionaires who have profited from the war, reparations for damage done. At any rate, a lower cost on every level than destruction.
We would be assisting and supporting the local people in their plans for community strengthening and peaceful self-rule, and we would need to be able to dialogue with the people who had previously been “the enemy”. Sabotage of projects would be a risk and a certainty, especially at first until trust is established. Even the corporate profiteers from the US and other countries might be invested in undermining our good faith efforts. Person to person communication would be encouraged and essential for allowing even the individuals contracted by those powers to find new constructive roles in a new order that would be building a sustainable peace.
It’s a huge new undertaking, but under the circumstances, it’s probably our very best chance for success at withdrawing without leaving our allies in a lurch. Can we do it? YES.