I know. More than a few readers are gasping at that
blasphemy and infidelity. Some may even be sharpening their pencils for the
original draft of a critique in rebuttal. However, before you begin, hear me
Although our political and military leaders will deny this, it was never the purpose of Al-Qa'ida to defeat the U.S. or bring down its government. AQ simply did not have the resources to accomplish that. AQ's purpose was to destabilize America financially and militarily. It was no accident that bin Laden's targets on 9/11 were the World Trade Center -- the monoliths were the icons of America's economic power -- and the Pentagon, the very heart and brains of our military.
That was nearly ten years ago. Today the U.S. is humbled by a recession that will not end, crippling unemployment that reduces revenue and increases governmental costs, a burgeoning national debt, and a weakened, but extremely costly, military with ground forces stretched thin to the breaking point. That is our lot today, but did bin Laden cause all of this, of course not. There are several other factors, and the astute reader knows them all. However, the Great Recession was exacerbated by the two wars that were a direct consequence of bin Laden's attack on our shores on 9/11. Reuters reports, "" the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury, [eschewing] more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released [recently]. The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War' by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. (www.costsofwar.org)" That is not chump change. Now who do think caused that expenditure on the part of the U.S., bin Laden, of course, totally in line with what he intended.
What he achieved, however, exceeded all his expectations. Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch writes, "Greeted as if World War II had been won, the killing of Osama bin Laden should have been a reminder of the success of the Global War on Terror for a man with few troops and relatively modest amounts of money who somehow managed to land Washington in a financial and military quagmire." Put a different way, bin Laden achieved his goals due to American abject stupidity.
Years later we are still fighting those wars. Bush sent our troops into bin Laden's backyard, the explosive Middle East on the other side of the world with unsecured and extended supply lines. This is a lesson of how not to fight a war.
America played right into bin Laden's hand. Nearly a decade into the Afghan War there are the air strikes, night raids, assassinations, roadside bombs, and soldier and civilian deaths, we are assured, will continue to 2014 and beyond. In a war in which every gallon of gas used by a fuel-guzzling U.S. military costs $400 to $800 to import, time is no object and -- despite the panic in Washington over debt payments -- neither evidently is cost. Over the past few months there have been several military and civilian disasters in Afghanistan, proving that the Taliban can strike anywhere, any time. The most consequential, of course, happened recently. Insurgents shot down a U.S. military chopper, killing 30 Americans, most of whom were members of SEAL Team 6, the very best of our best. It was the deadliest single loss of life for American forces in the war. After nearly ten years of war in that primitive land, we just experienced our worst defeat. This is progress?
In the meantime al-Qaeda has moved on, Afghanistan being a little bit unfriendly for their taste. Their operations have moved to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, Iraq, and who knows where else. Engelhardt continues, "In Yemen and Somalia, the drones, CIA and military, are being sent in, and special operations forces built up, while in the region a new base is being constructed and older ones expanded in the never-ending war against al-Qaeda, its affiliates, wannabes, and any other nasties around. (At the same time, the Obama administration is leaking information that the original al-Qaeda teeters at the edge of defeat, even as it intensifies the CIA's drone war in the Pakistani tribal borderlands.) And further expansion of the war on terror -- watch out, al-Qaeda in North Africa! -- seems to be a given."
Lamentably, he adds, "Meanwhile back in Washington -- not, mind you, the Washington of the debt-ceiling crisis, but the war capital on the banks of the Potomac -- national security spending still seems to be on an upward trajectory. At $526 billion (without the costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars added in), the 2011 Pentagon budget is, as Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan, has written, "in real or inflation adjusted dollars " is higher than at any time since World War II, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the height of the Reagan buildup.' The 2012 Pentagon budget is presently slated to go even higher."
Columnist Ray McGovern, a CIA veteran of 27 years, reports, ""58 cents of every dollar in federal "discretionary spending' now goes to the Pentagon. It might be worth noting that the Soviet Union -- America's "great enemy' -- imploded 20 years ago. Despite the lack of a threat from a major power, the U.S. military spending equals that of all the other countries of the world put together."
President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in his State of the Union address in 1957, "National security requires far more than military power. Economic and moral factors play indispensable roles." William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel in the USAF, writes, "Eschewing Ike's wisdom, our government today equates national security with astronomical defense budgets and global military intervention, never mind the damage done to our economy or to our moral standing."
He adds, "Afforded the luxury of space provided by two oceans, rich natural resources and the wisdom of the founders who forged a representative democracy (however imperfect) based on personal liberty, the United States had the option of preferring peace and prosperity to war and destitution. Yet, partly because we've come to believe in our own military omnipotence, we seem today to be determined to choose the latter option of war and destitution. We persist in dissipating our economy and our energy in endless military action, a fate Ike perhaps had in mind when he said, "Only Americans can hurt America.'"