Afghanistan: Financial Folly
December 1, 2009 - 3:04pm ET
President Obama’s expected announcement Tuesday night of a 34,000 troop surge in Afghanistan is indeed a worrisome as well as costly decision. Putting policy discussions aside on troop levels and what defines success of this eight-year-plus-long mission, a troop increase is certainly a budget-buster of misplaced priorities. We have domestic rebuilding needs right here in our country that unfortunately will remain deferred because of a misguided, wrong strategy in Afghanistan.
The cost of Afghanistan already stands at $300 billion through fiscal year 2010. Add in the Iraq War and the figure climbs to over $1 trillion. Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes predict the total cost of both wars to tally up to $3 trillion if we consider veteran care and the other social and economic costs that are incurred during and decades after combat.
The price tag of this war is staggering. With Obama’s surge of nearly 35,000 troops, this brings the total number of American troops to about 100,000. It is estimated that to deploy each soldier to Afghanistan, it costs $1 million annually. That doesn't even include such war costs as weapons and equipment replacement or supply transport. For example, shipping just one gallon of gas to the mountainous region costs an astonishing $400, but this figure can balloon up to $1,000 per gallon in some cases. Keep in mind that the Marines in Afghanistan alone consume 800,000 gallons of gas a day.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., has gained a lot of attention this past week with his proposed war surcharge. Essentially his idea would place a tax upon middle- and high-income earners to help pay for operations abroad and to build a sense of shared sacrifice and burden upon Americans that largely has been absent the past eight years. Not surprisingly, Congress has little appetite to pass such a drastic proposal, but Obey’s idea makes a strong statement on its own: We just cannot afford large scale military operations without fiscal action.
It is time we take a hard look at our nation’s investment strategy. We simply cannot afford to do it all at home and abroad, without addressing the elephant in the room: defense spending. The Pentagon and its operations already consume more than half of total federal discretionary spending–far more than education, health and transportation combined. While our politicians bicker and conservative hawks screech over the costs of providing universal health care or rebuilding our transportation and infrastructure–real tangible benefits that will help America grow stronger–little ruckus is made by the nearly $700 billion in defense spending appropriated for this year alone.
Source: Office of Management and Budget
Rep. Obey said it best, stating,
“The Pentagon has only one job, and that's to talk about this war and this war only…But [Obama] has, and I have jobs that require us to look at everything else that's tied into it. “I have to look at the entire federal budget, as chairman of the committee, for instance. I have to see what $400 billion or $500 billion, $600 billion, $700 billion, over a decade, for this effort, will cost us on education, on our efforts to build the entire economy. And - and when you look at it that way, I come to a different conclusion than [Obama] does.”
We have gone too long signing a blank check over to the Pentagon, while avoiding needed investments here at home that bolster our national and economic security. The American Society of Civil Engineers places our infrastructure investment needs at $2.2 trillion over the next five years. The Obama administration and Congress did well by making down payments on education, transportation and energy in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus”), but it is only a drop in the bucket. Fortunately, there are progressive members in Congress who recognize that we must rebuild America, not risk financial folly that is Afghanistan —we should stand with them.
Help us spread the word about these important stories...
Email to a friend
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future