As we watch our 20 year investment in Afghanistan explode like a supernova and note that our two wars and continuing entanglement in Iraq, which began in 1993, have produced nothing worthy of the sacrifices of our service men and women, one must ask: When will we learn?
Who is responsible for our arrogant commitment to a permanent wartime footing and bloody adventurism: the politicians, the military leadership, the military industrial complex, the intelligence community, the think tank pundits, the K Street lobbyists or a disengaged, oblivious and uninformed American public? All the usual suspects and be certain none will accept an iota of individual or collective responsibility. As to accountability, forget it. The big players just shuffle off to military promotions, book deals, talking head gigs on propagandist TV, high priced consultancies, and summers on Martha’s Vineyard sipping only the finest as they clink glasses and celebrate their fabulous bullet proof lives.
Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us approximately $3,000,000,000,000. That’s three trillion, enough to provide each of us with $9,000 and a family of four with $36,000, not including the waste, fraud and abuse rampant in our national defense spending. Most of us do not have bullet proof fabulous lives. We get ahead or we get by, but we are usually held accountable for our decisions and actions. Approximately 34,000,000 of our fellow citizens live below the poverty line thresholds of $13,000 for an individual household and $26,000 for a family of four. Fair or unfair it is real and presents immense challenges, especially for the children.
I only put forth these numbers for discussion purposes. To be clear, I have no political agenda and simply want to highlight the disparity I see between the lives of our unaccountable elites and our less fortunate neighbors, not only the impoverished but also the lower and middle class families and heros who have borne the brunt of the sacrifices made in our failed efforts from Vietnam to today. These abysmally planned and executed debacles are the creations of our unaccountable, arrogant and cynical “Best and Brightest.” I also want to compare wasteful military spending to other critical national interests, such as our decaying infrastructure, our imploding major cities, our escalating violent criminality, racial animus, poverty and an undeniable deterioration in the quality of life for most of us. It’s no one’s fault It’s everyone’s fault.
I grew up in a Navy family and mostly in Navy towns and am proud of this heritage. I also spent ten months in Vietnam as an Army artillery officer. We lost there not because of feckless political leadership, or our ARVN allies or for failing to carpet bomb and napalm every square inch of the country. We lost because we were arrogant, ignorant of history and reckless. We thought money and military might is all that matters.
I am not an expert on geopolitics or national security but I know we can and must do better. An exceptional military is essential in this world but we must treasure our military personnel and spend our taxpayers money wisely. Carefully identify real risks to our security and put our troops in harms’ way only as a last resort, as if they were your own children. Learn from the past and hold those accountable to higher standards than they demand of others. Stop looking to force the world to bow to our truculent might.
Remember, borrowing from the late John Prine: your McMansion, your gated/ moted community, your luxury SUV, all the right schools and your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore. Just sayin’