The latest tragedy that took the lives of 38 American soldiers, 7 afghan troops,and a translator in Afghanistan has forced the "why are we still there?" discussion back into the headlines. The Obama administration still has no credible plan for complete withdrawal from either Iraq or Afghanistan. This helicopter being shot down shows the American public that an untold number of lives could still be lost as long as we have 100's of thousands of men and women deployed in the region.
But I want to set aside for a second the obvious moral and strategic debate for either continuing or discontinuing the wars. It is the perfect time to make the case to end these wars simply for economic reasons. We can obviously not afford these wars, and I don't believe that we ever could. This is now painfully clear with the downgrading of the United States' credit rating by Standard and Poors Friday evening.
If a reason for a truly just war were to arise the United States would be left broke and defenseless. And this is the reality at a time with the majority of the developed world is furious at our irresponsible handling of our debt to GDP ratio.
China has issued statements on the debt ceiling deal and the downgrade that are harsher than any in recent memory, saying editorial in a state run newspaper the Xinhua, "All Americans, both beltway politicians and those on Main Street, have to do some serious soul-searching to bring their country back from a potential financial abyss." While ending the wars alone would not solve the debt crisis it would be a sincere sign of good faith that the US is serious about paying it's debt obligations.
Iraq and Afghanistan have cost US taxpayers $1.2 trillion over the last 10 years and with the planners in Washington adding conflicts to the list every year (Libya, bombings in Yemen and Pakistan) it is conceivable that the US will spend well over $1 trillion in the coming decade attempting to maintain a global empire.
If the US could take that $1 trillion off of the balance sheet it would be a serious signal to not only the rating agencies but the world at large that they are serious about getting their debt to GDP ratio on a sustainable path.
Very few politicians or economists, save Ron Paul and a select few in the tea party, want to point to the wars as a cause for the debt/spending crisis. Most politicians were more comfortable to stay in their predefined corners which only allowed the Republicans to point to entitlements as a way to cut spending. And to be fair entitlement reform would have to play a role but not to the extent proposed if the wars would end. Writing off the debt owed to the Federal Reserve system is also an intriguing possibility but I will save that for another post.
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