Ten More Years, At Least. At What Cost?

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I should start by saying this essay focuses on money, not the number of US military lives spent or those of the Iraq and Afghanistan citizens, and not the horrendous cost to the nations of Iraq and Afghanistan.  If I had my way, that would be the true cost and the ultimate reason to end the wars.  But the American public has become so apathetic to the sins of war, it seems the only thing that may awaken them enough to stop the madness is to appeal to their greed.

The United States military, NATO, and it’s hired guns will be in the Middle East and Central Asia for at least ten more years.   Regardless the promises made by Obama, or the SOFA agreement with Iraq, there is no way military forces will be out of, or even drawing down from, either country by the end of 2011.   The counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts currently being deployed as ordered by CINC Obama and directed by Generals Petreaus, Odierno and McChyrstal in both countries are generally agreed upon by experts as tactics that could take decades.  

So let’s assume the US military will be in those countries for ten more years.  It certainly has been predicted for Afghanistan.   “Asked by NBC’s David Gregory about British General Sir David Richards’ remark in August about staying in Iraq 30 or 40 years longer, McCaffrey claimed the United States needs another 10-year commitment in Afghanistan. Of the policymakers in the Obama administration, McCaffrey said: They’ve got to decide are we in, are we going to stay for 10 years and build a viable state? Or do we try and downsize, watch our allies disappear, watch the Pakistanis go unstable? My guess is they’ve got a political decision that’s unbelievably difficult. The country isn’t with him, his party isn’t with him.”  Of course, we know now what Obama’s decision was, and we must also realize he knows about the long term possibilities.


That 30-40 year prediction comes from Britains head of their Army:  “General Sir David Richards, who becomes Chief of the General Staff on August 28, said: “The Army’s role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years.”


And the issue of extending the stay in Iraq has certainly been put on the table:  “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki opened the door for the first time Thursday to the prospect of a U.S. military presence in Iraq after the December 2011 deadline for troop withdrawal set by last year’s bilateral accord – something President Obama appeared to rule out during a joint appearance on Tuesday.”


A decade can go by very quickly in our permanent war culture.  Before you know it, we’ve been in Afghanistan for over 8 years and Iraq for over 6 years, both soon to become the second and third longest wars in US history, on the verge of surpassing the Vietnam war and more than WWI and WWII combined.  When all is said and done, only the Apache Wars from 1840 to 1886 will exceed these wars.  Hopefully.  

What are the economic costs?

Most estimates put the total cost of both wars over the $1 trillion mark after the latest war supplemental ordered by President Obama.   That figure is derived from the official war supplementals, above and beyond the US defense budget,  actually approved by Congress.  Those supplementals are financed by debt, which is another hidden cost of these wars.  It certainly doesn’t include a vast array of other economic costs, many of which will not be felt for years to come.  For instance, the greatest outlay of medical services for WWII veterans was in the 1990’s, forty to fifty years after the war. because when they get older, it costs more.  

Other estimates put the real economic cost over $3 trillion.  “From the unhealthy brew of emergency funding, multiple sets of books, and chronic underestimates of the resources required to prosecute the war, we have attempted to identify how much we have been spending, and how much we will, in the end, likely have to spend.  The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion.  Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions.  A $3 trillion figure for the total cost strikes us as judicious, and probably errs on the low side.  Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States.  It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq.”  (Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes).  


Those figures do not include the base budget for so called defense and security of this country.    The base DOD budget  for 2009 is $654 billion dollars.  That doesn’t include the war appropriations.  Combine DOD with National Intelligence (classified budget but the 2007 budget was disclosed to be $43.7 billion, not counting drug, weapon and money laundering money), and Homeland Security and you can add over $100 billion to DOD totals for overall US defense and security.  So the total baseline budget for defense and national security is at least $750 billion dollars per year, not counting off the books money.  It isn’t a stretch to say we now spend one trillion dollars per year on defense and national security, not counting wars.  

So let’s combine the baseline spending on national security and defense from the fiscal years 2002 thru 2010:

Grand total:  Approximately $4.5 trillion.  That’s just the baseline, keep reading, there are more trillions out there.    

How does that compare to domestic spending?

Approximate ten year official budget totals per agency (2002-2010):

Agriculture – $180 billion

Commerce – $70 billion

Education – $430 billion

Energy – $220 billion

HHS – $630 billion

DHS – $320 billion

HUD – $300 billion

Interior – $95 billion

DOJ – $200 billion

DOL – $108 billion

State – $360 billion

Transportation – $240 billion

Treasury – $108 billion

VA – $350 billion

COE – $50 billion

EPA – $90 billion

NASA – $135 billion

NSF – $45 billion

SBA – $6.3 billion

SSA – 75 billion

Other – $200 billion


Of course, this is the discretionary budget, that which we supposedly have a choice on how to spend, as opposed to non-discretionary items such as Social Security, Medicare, and our national debt.   Let’s take out all defense and national security related budgets, including the VA, and see how that compares.

Total non defense discretionary spending, ten year total –  $3.9 Trillion

Total defense and national security spending – $5.2 Trillion

Total defense and national security spending with war supplementals – $6.2 trillion

Total defense and national security spending with war supplementals and all long term costs – Over $9 trillion dollars.  And remember, that does not include off the books money.

What about the next ten years, assuming the US stays in those countries.

The baseline DOD budget for the next ten years is estimated at well over $6 trillion dollars.  Combined with other national security agencies and the VA, the total is well over $7 trillion.  That does not include any future war supplementals requested by President Obama and future presidents.  It isn’t beyond the realm of the possible that the total economic cost for national defense and security, and the waging of wars for the next ten years could easily exceed $10 trillion dollars in real and long term costs.  

It wasn’t long ago that it could be claimed fairly rationally that domestic spending was half of our total discretionary budget.  However, the last ten years cumulatively has seen that percentage drop to approximately 45 percent.  The next ten years appears to be continuing that trend to the point where it could be lower than 40 percent.  While pressure looms on the nondiscretionary budget, i.e., social security and medicare.  Aint nothing they can do about the debt except continue to expand it.    

This is all while the U.S. is experiencing the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, the largest transfer of wealth since the Gilded Ages, and the turning of western societies into virtual police states.

Question time:  Should we spend up to ten trillion dollars over the next decade on national security and defense, while spending less than half of that on all domestic programs?

What if we cut that total in half and spent it domestically?  Single Payer, done.  Jobs program, done.  Infrastructure program, done.  State assistance, done. Border security, done.  Alot could be done with $5 trillion dollars.  

The United States has somewhere around 1,000 military bases stationed in about 130 countries around the globe.  More are being built as we speak, including in Colombia and Africa.  The Pentagon has initiated the official agenda of Full Spectrum Dominance, control of the planet’s land and air spaces and waterways.


DOD has  reorganized accordingly to establish a uniform global military command structure for this agenda.  Africom was the latest major military command established as announced by President Bush and Defense Secretary Gates on Feb. 6, 2007.


The U.S. is clearly an imperialist nation.  I find it hard to believe anyone can’t recognize that at this point.  NATO nations are right there with us, according to their own interests, but imperialist nations have always had their minions.  At this point, our two major adversaries, Russia and China, are just positioning themselves to play the game in this New World Order power structure.  Both have some economic advantages, Russia with its natural resources, and China with its economic power and status as Chief Buyer of US debt.  Both obviously have their own interests at heart, but neither have any illusions of yet to take over as the imperial power on the planet.  The US military is so overwhelmingly strong at this point that no other country can challenge that strength for decades.  Money talks, bullshit walks, but bombs trump it all.  

Based on that military strength, and the unprecedented imperialist reach around the entire globe, the US is in a unique historical situation where it could, by virtue or in spite of its military strength, lead the world into a period of peace and prosperity never before achieved.  Relatively speaking, perhaps the Romans had that opportunity as well, but those times were different due to the extreme changes ahead for the world.  Many worldwide had high hopes that Obama would be the man to lead us into that period,  However, he has proven in the past eleven months that he won’t alter the present state of world affairs regarding world power, and the geopolitical games played in that regard.  

The reasons for the US being in the Middle East and Central Asia are complex yet simple.

The simple fact of the matter is that we are not in Afghanistan, or escalating in that country, to combat terrorism.  Let’s get that straight.  Assuredly, we are fighting some terrorists, insurgents, and rebels, many of whom we have created by our arrogant invasion of their lands.  But they are simply in the way of the primary mission.  The war on terrorism is an excuse, instigated by the events of 9/11, to advance US and Nato imperialism in the Middle East and Central Asia.  The basic reason is because of how the region fits in the overall imperialist plans, i.e., oil and natural gas pipelines, permanent military bases to facilitate Full Spectrum Dominance, and control over the major world source of heroin, the fabled Afghanistan opium crops.  The CIA coordinates the flow of drug money to Wall Street, big banks, the MIC, and other off the book needs which is essential particularly considering the lack of cash flow during the banking crisis.  You need cash to fight wars, to bribe the tribesmen and warlords. The same thing happened in Vietnam and Cambodia.  

Over 3000 people died because of the 9/11 attack, on 9/11/2001.  The United States has spent over $6 trillion and up to $9 trillion in that time on national security, including the establishment of a new government department, Homeland Security.  Since that time, over 300,000 people have been killed in this country in traffic accidents.  The United States has allocated approximately $240 billion to the Department of Transportation during that period.  Simplistic rationality, maybe.  I would say not unless you actually believe we are in danger of a nuclear bomb being smuggled into the country by some al Qaeda terrorist, who somehow could gain access to one in Pakistan.  In that case, we may want to total up the cost of national security for the next sixty years, because that can go by pretty quickly as well.  What comes after trillion anyway?


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    • Underdog on December 27, 2009 at 09:42
    • pfiore8 on December 27, 2009 at 12:14

    Over 3000 people died because of the 9/11 attack, on 9/11/2001.  The United States has spent over $6 trillion and up to $9 trillion in that time on national security, including the establishment of a new government department, Homeland Security.  Since that time, over 300,000 people have been killed in this country in traffic accidents.  The United States has allocated approximately $240 billion to the Department of Transportation during that period.

    These are the arguments to be made: proportionality and rationality. we need to draw it so people can see . . .

    9 trillion dollars on death… yet they balk at 1 trillion over ten years on health care.

    these are the things we have to start talking about and over and over and over again until people start to see these things through all the other bullshit and noise… Sarah Palin is nothing more than chum thrown into our cultural waters to stir us up into frenzies fer and again. We have to fight being distracted by her, Glenn, Rush et al . . .

    I don’t care about Democrats or a Dem president either We have to make our own game. We need to start by showing some version of sanity.

    And who the “we” are? Well, we’ll just have to find each other I guess. And when we do, visions will clash. That’s okay and healthy. But maybe we craft some baseline goals… on how to get things done, what things are priorities, and how to keep our ethical compass in tune.

    happy new year, Underdog. and good piece!!!

    • banger on December 27, 2009 at 15:11

    The facts you gathered are just the sort of thing we need to keep at hand when speaking to people who are hypnotized by the Narrative. Gradually, I think we can be forces in altering the MSM Narrative so that the possibility that “defense” may actually mean “imperialism”.

    But underlying all this is the meme of American Exceptionalism that essentially says that if you are the American government everything you do is for the good or, in the case of atrocities that cannot be hidden, it is a “mistake” or an exception to the rule that we are a force for “good” in the world which, of course, the rest of the world should be grateful for but isn’t which further goes to show how much in need they all are for “democratization” or, as some on the right prefer, death.

  1. It should be called that.

    There are military elements in many other departments as well, including the dept of education, nasa, and obviously the VA.  And, the debt from past wars is staggering.  I didn’t see foreign aid on your list-but that’s very often military spending as well.  

    • UTvoter on December 27, 2009 at 20:37

    and it’s a puzzle to me why we still need bases in places like Germany and Japan. makes no sense in this day and age.

    and if we tried to address the causes of terrorism, we might have a better chance of turning the tide of human opinion. ah well. if only we were in charge.

  2. Thank you.

  3. I`m glad you included the description of the “poker chips”, ie; healthcare, infrastructure etc.

    It wasn`t that many years ago that ‘trillions’ never entered the conversation, but now that it has, it`s treated just as poker chips in casinos.

    Most people wouldn`t toss all their savings on the table in vegas, but since they`re only “chips” , they do & lose it.

    Reality rears it`s ugly head when they go back home to their repossessed

    life`s work.

    By defining the trillions in terms of what is really important we can better see what those trillions represent.

    • Inky99 on December 28, 2009 at 03:31

    That might be sooner than anyone thinks.  Or it could be several more years.  But the clock will run out with our troops in Afghanistan, and Iraq.

    Here’s what I’m afraid we’re facing:


    Where are we right now?

    In terms of the GDP, we are about halfway to depression level. If you look at retail sales, industrial production, we are already well into depressionary. If you look at things such as the housing industry, the new orders for durable goods we are in Great Depression territory. If we have hyperinflation, which I see coming not too far down the road, that would be so disruptive to our system that it would result in the cessation of many levels of normal economic commerce, and that would throw us into a great depression, and one worse than was seen in the 1930s.

    What kind of hyperinflation are we talking about?

    I am talking something like you saw with the Weimar Republic of the 1930s. There the currency became worthless enough that people used it actually as toilet paper or wallpaper. You could go to a fine restaurant and have an expensive dinner and order an expensive bottle of wine. The next morning that empty bottle of wine is worth more as scrap glass than it had been the night before filled with expensive wine.

    We just saw an extreme example in Zimbabwe. … Probably the most extreme hyperinflation that anyone has ever seen. At the same time, you still had a functioning, albeit troubled, Zimbabwe economy. How could that be? They had a workable backup system of a black market in U.S. dollars. We don’t have a backup system of anything. Our system, with its heavy dependence on electronic currency, in a hyperinflation would not do well. It would probably cease to function very quickly. You could have disruptions in supply chains to food stores. The economy would devolve into something like a barter system until they came up with a replacement global currency.

    What can we do to avoid hyperinflation? What if we just shut down the Fed or something like that?

    We can’t. The actions have already been taken to put us in it. It’s beyond control. The government does put out financial statements usually in December using generally accepted accounting principles, where unfunded liabilities like Medicare and Social Security are included in the same way as corporations account for their employee pension liabilities. And in 2008, for example, the one-year deficit was $5.1 trillion dollars. And that’s instead of the $450 billion, plus or minus, that was officially reported.


    These numbers are beyond containment. Even the 2008 numbers, you can take 100 percent of people’s income and corporate profit and you’d still be in deficit. There’s no way you can raise enough money in taxes.

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