ToDo: War on Terror Accounting

With all the talk of whether or not to increase troops in Afghanistan, and the ethics of killing from your armchair, I think a group needs to sit down and study the full costs and benefits of these wars. As provoking as tragedies like 9/11 are, if we assign value to “innocent” human lives equally and start adding up the numbers and the opportunity cost of our war on terror spending, I think we would be sickened at what we find.

The War on Malaria seems more worthy of resources, or we could just keep the money for silly things like food and health coverage for the unemployed.

One thought on “ToDo: War on Terror Accounting

  1. Many people have studied why “the nations so furiously rage together”. A good discussion can be found in the first chapter of P.M.H. Bell’s “The Origins of the Second World War in Europe”. I am not a socialist, so I don’t think the following is true in all cases, but a theory that I find intriguing is that capitalism itself is a cause of war: “Capitalists, under the influence of bankers and great industrialists, fought for markets, raw materials, and fields for investment” (Bell 9). In that sense, capitalist countries will wage war to protect their economic interests, oil being the most obvious example. Of course, there are many wars in places where there is no capitalism, but in those places money can still be traced as a primary motive. That is, someone is getting rich from the fighting.

    I am sure you must have seen President Eisenhower’s famous 1961 farewell address in which he warned of the dangers of a new “military industrial complex”. Having been a five-star general, Eisenhower keenly understood what a threat was posed by a “permanent armaments industry”. Why would we buy all these weapons if not to use them? So, the argument goes, we go to war to benefit the military industrial complex.

    I know someone with another theory directly related to our present struggle. The attacks of 11 September, goes my friend’s theory, wasn’t at all about the terrorists hating “our freedom”, but about them hating our absurd excess. They don’t hate people like you or me, who live in modest houses and drive five-year-old automobiles. They hate people who have rooms in their homes just for wrapping presents. I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but perhaps something can be said for the notion that people like you and me aren’t what our massive military is out to defend. It costs a lot more money to defend the interests of the very rich–to protect their economic and political interests–than to protect the average guy. If you think of the U.S. Military as a hired bodyguard, you can ask, who are they guarding: the guy making $30,000 a year who owns a $100,000 house, or the guy worth $3 billion?

    Those ideas obviously don’t hold true for a conflict like the Second World War. The United States wasn’t interested in expanding its economic might then. That ended up happening, of course, but we’d have just assumed stay out of it in November 1941. But the worthy motives become harder to find when you get to the Vietnam War, and so on. It could be that that is because the Second World War created the permanent armaments industry that we had by the time of the Vietnam War. Then again, when you listen to the Oval Office tapes of Kennedy and Johnson, they aren’t talking about defending Coca-Cola’s markets in Southeast Asia; they’re talking about stopping communism. Some, of course, would argue that it’s the same difference.

    There is no easy answer, but I think you’re right to ask the question.

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