Monday, April 01, 2019

Editorial: The forever war and the forever increasing price tag

The Iraq War hit 16 and still it continues.  And it's not just the US government dragging it out.  Dave Armstrong (New Zealand's STUFF) explains:

But while our gun laws have quickly changed, will the Christchurch attack have any effect on our foreign policy? We currently have a number of "military trainers" and soldiers in Iraq supporting the US "war on terror", as well as troops in Afghanistan taking part in a conflict that will soon enter its third decade.
These deployments were not initiated by our current government. Helen Clark's government sent troops to Afghanistan after 9/11, though she refused to send troops to Iraq. John Key, who called the Labour government "missing in action" over Iraq, initiated our current deployment there.
While in Opposition, Labour leader Andrew Little promised to bring our soldiers in Iraq home. However, once in government, Ardern announced that they will be there until at least June of this year. Our deployment in Afghanistan was extended to September.

Extended and extended.  That's the way it is with never-ending wars.  Seth Frantzman (JERUSALEM POST) speaks with Col James Rawlinson and types:

Regarding Iraq, the coalition stresses that it was invited by Iraq to aid the fight. “All 79 [coalition] members recognized the threat ISIS poses, what we are trying to accomplish, what the intricacies are. We are trying to improve the capabilities of those local forces – and in each region its different, even within Iraq,” the officer says. “It’s specific to the organization we are speaking about... we have seen ISIS moving more into the north of Iraq, so we may give different training to the area they are moving into; if it is in an urban location, it is different.” The coalition has trained 200,000 Iraqis, from foot soldiers to fighter pilots.

ISIS.  Who was the enemy before 2014?  It's always some enemy -- real or imagined that keeps 'justifying' the ongoing war.

Not only do never-ending wars never end, the bills for them keep mounting.  In the US, so much money is poured into the Defense Dept.  In fact, DoD is trying to get 'creative' because they are now trying to go over the legal caps for their budget:

Senator Elizabeth Warren: So the administration has submitted a national defense budget request for $750 billion for next year.  That is a pretty big number even by the Department's own standards.  In fact, the budget rules that govern how much money is available for defense spending is set at $576 billion dollars -- which is still a huge sum.  But you're requesting $174 billion more than the amount that is allowed by law.  $165 billion for the overseas contingency operations (OCO), and another 9 billion for emergency funds for the wall.  Now some of the things in the DOD budget seem to me to point in the right direction -- more investments in research, for example -- and we need to have a much larger conversation about whether these budget caps make sense and how defense and non-defense priorities should stack up.  But right now, I just want to dig into how you got your numbers so that all of the non-defense experts out there can understand the tricks the administration is using to justify sky rocketing defense spending.  Secretary Shanahan, the Department proposes to get around the budget rules by requesting that $165 billion in the OCO account.  The amount in the OCO account is not counted towards statutory budget caps.  Is that correct?  [Sec Shanahan nods.]  Okay, so let's dig in a bit on OCO.  As the cost to fight the war in Iraq and Afghanistan began to increase in the early 2000s, Congress had to pass emergency budgetary supplementations every year.  So in 2009, President [Barack] Obama established OCO so that they could set aside funds for this and other operations.  Because those funds are for emergencies, they don't count toward the overall limits in defense spending, as you just said.  This year's OCO request is a 140% increase from the 69 billion you requested in last year's OCO budget.  So tell me, did the cost of supporting our overseas operations suddenly increase by 140% last year?Secretary Patrick Shanahan:  Senator, they did not.

Senator Elizabeth Warren:  They did not.  Okay. In fact, the last time OCO account was even close to the amount you've proposed for next year was in 2010 when we had approximately 100,000 deployed in Afghanistan and another 50 to 100,000 deployed in Iraq.  Today, we have about 21,000 troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria combined -- a number that's largely unchanged from last year.  So let me ask another question, has the department deployed a large number of troops to fight a war someplace other than Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan?  
Secretary Patrick Shanahan:  Senator, no we have not.

Senator Elizabeth Warren:  Okay, so the actual cost of supporting operations overseas did not increase by 140% and we haven't lost a war someplace else triggering that kind of an emergency.  And yet you're asking for $165 billion for "overseas contingency operations."  I just want to be absolutely clear so the taxpayer understands, you're requesting funding in OCO to fund activities that have nothing to do with the reason that OCO was established. 

Never-ending wars are sinkholes.  They take up all the money that could be used for other things.  Grasp that.  If you've never favored ending these wars for any other reason, factor in all the things we cannot afford while these never-ending wars continue.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }