The cost of U.S. warmongering

August 10, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More

There are several websites that attempt to give real time estimates as to the cost of U.S. warmongering, and these numbers are staggering, repulsive and immoral. Those of us who are not caught up in the zealous tribalism seized upon and revved up by opportunistic politicians and media outlets can see that the alleged need to fight unending wars is a fraud perpetrated on the American People, with an even bigger burden borne by those who are the targets of our weapons, including untold numbers of civilians.  It is perfectly clear that America must always have an enemy–that is how our collective mind works–and there must always be war, even when we can’t explain why we are going to war.

Those of us who know how to maintain an emotional distance can see that instigating wars makes a politician look more powerful and thus electable. The media outlets are loath to show graphic photos of the violence we are dispensing halfway around the world and, in fact, they rarely give any specifics in writing. But they use the unexamined fact that we are “at war” to keep their audiences spellbound because they can also feed the raw consumerist instinct of their audiences with non-stop commercials.

But what is the cost of warmongering? Cost of War offers up these numbers:

When I saw these numbers today, I also remembered the even more horrifying number offered by economist Joseph Stiglitz, published in the Washington Post:

Joseph Stigliz has done a study suggesting that these are merely the basic costs, and that the true costs are much higher:  “Writing in these pages in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration’s 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war. But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war’s broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.”

It is for the above reasons that I consider America’s warmongering to be the most pressing moral issue of the day.    America is massively dysfunctional.  We are setting terrible priorities.  We are robbing young Americans of a future.  We are needlessly killing soldiers and civilians.  And in Afghanistan, we are fighting the longest war America has ever fought, a war borne of frustration on 9/11.  A war with no objectives and a war no politician has the courage to stop, lest an opponent call him/her weak.

I’m tempted to announced, as George Carlin did, that I “have no stake” in any of this nonsense, but I do have a stake in the outcome.  I often write about this insanity, and I often try to understand how to make it stop, but it seems that I can do very little.   I can write to you, however, and you can talk to people you know.   And together, we can try to assemble a critical mass of people who are willing to speak up to our friends, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances, as well as strangers, and we can do this politely and we can also do this impolitely, when others around us would rather talk about sports and TV and movies.  We can ask them for a couple minutes of their time during which we can look them in the eyes and tell them this much:  America’s warmongering is insane and it must stop.  It is time to re-set our priorities to become a strong country again.  This warmongering is making us weak.  We spending our school money and our health care money and our infrastructure money on bombs and bullets and an additional $20 billion dollars every year to air condition military tents in the deserts (this last item is the equivalent of the annual budget of NASA).   We need to remind others that we are hallucinating when we say that America is constantly under attack.  We need to remind them that we create enemies when they don’t really exist, and that all of this needs to stop.  All of this needs to be discussed frankly during presidential debates (but it won’t be–our delusion will be repeated and enlarged on that stage). If only we had someone who will speak for ordinary Americans on that stage.

None of us can change one million people at one, but we can each challenge one person.  One at a time, and we’ll soon have a million, because I am having trouble finding ANYONE who supports America’s warmongering priorities anymore, except for those caught up in war industries and politicians.    Let’s have lots of polite and impolite conversation, and collectively raise our voices and our ridicule and our scorn of America’s claimed need to fight endless wars.   Let’s make it our sworn quest to each talk to at least several people each day, so that all of us soon realize that none of us our alone, and then let’s take it to the streets and let’s get in the faces of the politicians, and let’s complain loudly to the media outlets that they are failing to adequately cover the most important moral issue of the day.




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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Arguably the greatest cost of America’s constant warmongering is not the out-of-pocket expense (even though that is, itself, staggering), but rather the *lost opportunity cost* of not putting those resources to better use. Imagine a wildfire were headed toward your neighborhood, but instead of fighting the blaze you and your neighbors spent your time arguing and throwing rocks at each other. Well, the United States — indeed, the entire planet — is facing a wildfire of troubles — disease, environmental damage, hunger, energy shortage, the list goes on — yet instead of focusing on the fires the U.S. wastes trillions of dollars and trillions of person-hours arguing and throwing rocks. A fraction of U.S. “defense” spending and manpower could revolutionize research on cancer, energy, food, the list goes on, but too many powerful interests profit from military spending, so that is where the money and human energy goes. It is no accident that the two industries that George Bush and Dick Cheney came from — oil and military — enjoyed record profits during their tenure. If more of that money and manpower went toward *investments in productive assets* (roads, schools, information infrastructure, etc.) rather than toward *consumption* (e.g., things that explode), the U.S. would not only be much more economically competitive, but just might put out some of those wildfires.

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