The discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle, announced this week, is one of the biggest triumphs in the history of science. The discovery was announced by scientists at the CERN, the research center in Switzerland that operates the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the massive particle accelerator that detected the Higgs boson.
Once upon a time, most big scientific breakthroughs like this were made in the U.S. But in an era of declining science budgets and fewer science degrees awarded, America is increasingly no longer the leader in cutting-edge science.
The Large Hadron Collider cost around $8 billion. Although that sounds like a steep price tag, it's important to keep this figure in perspective. After all, during the Iraq War, the U.S. was typically spending $8 billion every month in that disastrous and unnecessary conflict.
For that same $8 billion that we pissed away every month in the Iraq War, the U.S. could have built its own Large Hadron Collider. And the amazing Higgs boson scientific breakthrough could well have been a U.S., not a European, triumph.
It's also important to remember that, for their $8 billion, the Europeans will almost certainly be enjoying many other benefits in the years to come, via the LHC. Who knows what other major unforeseen scientific breakthroughs the LHC will make possible? (If you doubt this, consider that the World Wide Web itself was originally invented at CERN, as a means of sharing computer data, before it went on to conquer the world).
Yes, the $8 billion spent on the LHC will likely pay benefits to Europe for decades to come. By contrast, what, exactly, did the U.S. get for spending $8 billion per month in Iraq? We didn't get anything in return, except to draw out that disastrous war yet another bloody month.
Even today, nearly a decade after George W. Bush ordered the invasion, Iraq remains a shambles. It is still one of the most dangerous and unstable nations on earth. And Iraq must be the only nation in world history where on a given day, car bombs can kill 100 people and the world's media outlets no longer consider such a tragedy front page news.
Indeed, Iraq remains a broken, bloodied state and a shattered society, abandoned by the West. Outside of the nation's large oil reserves, the U.S. simply doesn't care about Iraq, much less its people.
The Iraq War remains one of the great tragedies of human history, with hundreds of thousands (if not a million) needless deaths. And, of course, the fiscal cost was tremendous, as well, with the U.S. sinking well over $1 trillion into the quagmire.
And for the cost of only one month of the Iraq War, the U.S. could have enjoyed one of the great scientific triumphs of history. But that's really the story of modern day America: a nation that has increasingly gutted budgets for essentials like science and education, while lavishing trillions of dollars for death, destruction, and greedy, pampered defense contractors.