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.