Saturday, 7 May 2011


I understand that it is only natural for many Americans to want closure with the killing of Osama bin Laden. It is only natural that the sitting president takes credit and tries to 'milk' the event for all it is worth in votes and campaign contributions. It is only natural to feel good about something these days, even if that something is the macabre event of a political assassination, considering that the US has felt deeply wounded since 9/11, it has in essence lost the war in Afghanistan, and it has only losses to show for the war in Iraq. Putting mass psychology aside, however, there are some real issues to consider about America's war economy and the country's future along that course.

An excerpt from the following article by Paul B. Farrell, entitled "America's Outrageous War Economy!" published on 18 August 2008, expresses the spirit today as well, regardless of public opinion poll indicating that the majority want an end to foreign wars.

"Deep inside we (Americans) love war. War is in our genes, deep in our DNA. War excites our economic brain. War drives our entrepreneurial spirit. War thrills the American soul. Oh just admit it, we have a love affair with war. We love "America's Outrageous War Economy. Americans passively zone out playing video war games. We nod at 90-second news clips of Afghan war casualties and collateral damage in Georgia. We laugh at Jon Stewart's dark comedic news and Ben Stiller's new war spoof "Tropic Thunder" ... all the while silently, by default, we're cheering on our leaders as they aggressively expand "America's Outrageous War Economy," a relentless machine that needs a steady diet of war after war, feeding on itself, consuming our values, always on the edge of self-destruction."

If the political, civic, religious, and journalistic leadership perpetually indoctrinates the nation to 'love war'', as Paul Ferrell suggested in 2008, then ' a society of sheep will invariably permit wolves to govern it', as the saying goes. Let us compare the costs to the sheep!

1. US Civil War cost -$80-280 billion (civilian economy losses included)
2. WWII cost to US -$4.1-4.4 trillion (or 36% of GDP)
3. 40 years of Cold War - $19 trillion in defense costs
4. Chasing al-Qaeda with Iraq and Afghanistan wars included and institutionalizing an anti-terrorism bureaucracy at home - $3.3 to $6 trillion - the nation has spent an estimated $1.15 trillion on combat overseas (1% of GDP), while the rest is on other related spending. The estimate is for an additional $2.4 trillion to be spent on Iraq and Afghanistan in the next six years, unless of course there is a complete absence of US operations in those two countries.  

In 2008, TIME magazine reported that after adjusting for inflation, America's war on terrorism will cost four times more than what US spent for World War I, and more than 10 times the cost of the first Persian Gulf War (90% of which was paid for by U.S. allies). According to some estimates,  America's war on terrorism has surpassed costs for the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. This may afford the American political and business establishment the sense that they are 'safe', or that this is the way to keep 'America strong', or that there is no alternative to the war economy.

The reality is China will surpass the US as the world's leading economy, according to the IMF, in less than five years; the middle class is shrinking, living standards are dropping, unemployment - official and unofficial are in historic highs, public debt will add another $9 trillion by 2020, if nothing is done, and the and the political arena is polarized. If this is the cost of the new Cold War euphemistically called 'war on terrorism', is it worth it?

There are 1,271 government institutions currently dealing with counter-terrorism, 51 of which track financing, and all of them generating more than 50,000 reports a year. Who reads all of these reports? Billions of dollars is unaccounted not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan. The government has no idea of how these billions have disappeared and the Pentagon audits remain more of a mystical than an empirical exercise. How long can the US afford to continue an out of control war economy that the defense industry, right-wing ideologues, defense department bureaucrats, and populist politicians continue to push without any regard of the chronic damage it does to the civilian economy now and in the future? America needs bold leadership toward a new direction away from war economy as a way of life, otherwise the long road to decline is just straight ahead.


Anonymous said...

"[T]he macabre. . . ." is like Edgar A. Poe's The Raven. He is watching. The era of the Hassassin. . . .

But what might be of greater concern to friends and family is the fact that claims are being made: the Chinese government is exploiting torture in this era mentioned above, you can rest assured; their methods are at a below cost rate. Let us not despair at these gruesome known philosophies for light still shines onto "Night's Plutonian shore! . . . [because] the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor. . . ."

Edgar A. Poe, 1845

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article, it may help me put my own ideas down to send to my Senator and Representative. I would like to add that not all Americans are militarists, although since Reagan they have been in control. There was a long period of isolationism where Americans did not want involvement in foreign wars. WWII seemed to change that however, turning us into a world empire. I do fear that the war machine will soon destroy our economy, if it hasn't already done so.

Susmita said...

What sustains and feeds the War economy? It is our collective ignorance of the nature of money or money as privatized debt. Google for the "Millennium Koan"