Monday, May 2, 2011

Worth the Cost?

Last night, it was announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a military operation.  In Washington D.C. and around the U.S. many people were seen cheering and celebrating.  Crowds gathered outside the White House and in Times Square in New York to celebrate the death of the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  When I came into work today, several of my colleagues asked me if I had gone to celebrate at the White House last night and what I thought about the killing of bin Laden.  While I am glad that families of 9/11 victims have justice and am proud of our troops that have accomplished this feat, I didn't and still don't find myself celebrating.  Now many will portray what I am writing as un-patriotic or un-American, but I have to wonder if the “war on terror” is truly worth the cost.

If you look at the cost in terms of dollars, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS):
Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). This estimate assumes that the current CR level continues through the rest of the year and that agencies allocate reductions proportionately.
This is ONLY the money appropriated by Congress; therefore it doesn’t include any future costs such as interest payments on the debt and long term medical costs for wounded (both physical and mental health).  In 2007, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the war would cost $2.4 trillion by 2017.  This estimate includes the impact of borrowing, but does include the expansion of the war in Afghanistan that began in 2008-09.  Of the $2.4 trillion, $1.9 trillion was expected to be spent in Iraq while only $500 billion in Afghanistan (we have already spent $444 billion in Afghanistan which doesn’t include any interest on the debt).  Most estimates now are in $3 trillion range.

The bigger cost in this “war on terror” is the number of fatalities and casualties.  The most up-to-date number for fatalities (American) is 6,336 (4,452 in Iraq and 1,566 in Afghanistan) according to iCasualties.  The official number of casualties (combination of wounded and fatalities) for Iraq (still trying to find Afghanistan number) is 33,023 according to

While I am proud of the troops who caught and killed a truly evil man and acknowledge that the world is better without bin Laden, I can’t quite celebrate.  I took a minute to be proud of my country and it’s amazing liberties and the men and women who defend those liberties.  Then I came back to reality.  This war has helped create a massive debt that is now approaching $15 trillion and cost too many American lives (although one is too many for me) to celebrate in the streets.  I’ll leave you with a couple questions and a statement.  My first question: Do we have more liberty and freedom now than before 9/11 and if not, Isn’t that what people who hate us want?  My second question: Was it worth the cost both in terms of dollars and lives?  I will, however celebrate when we bring all the troops home and end this war.

1 comment:

Coby Kavanaugh said...