Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We Get What We Pay For

Hypothetically thinking.... If I had a family to feed, a house to maintain, and doctors' bills to pay - yet I spent 58-cents of every dollar I made on, say, make-up and hair care products and acrylic fingernails - what might you think of me? Would you think vanity had gotten the best of my brain? What if I traveled the world with more than half my money? Would you think I was an adventurer? What if I gave that much of my money to worthy charities? Would you think I was benevolent and self-sacrificing? Suppose I spent more than half my money on guns. What would you think of me then? That I was crazy? Afraid? Paranoid? Dangerous? In Fiscal Year 2008, military spending represented 58-cents of every dollar spent by the US government on discretionary programs...programs like health, education, housing assistance, international affairs, the environment, justice, veteran's benefits, science and space, transportation, training/employment, social services, economic development - and war. This means military spending in the U.S. was larger in 2008 than military spending by all other nations in the world combined. It means US dollars spent in Iraq alone last year was a sum larger than the military budgets of China and Russia combined. It means US military spending in FY2008 was ten times the military budget of the 2nd largest military funding country in the world - China. What do you think that says about us? That we care deeply about the planet and its inhabitants? The FY2008 military spending was 120 times higher than the amount the government spent to combat global warming. It was 30 times higher than all spending on State Department operations and non-military foreign aid combined. If our money is where our mouths are, what are we hungry for? President Obama signed an order yesterday that promises 17,000 additional combat troops to Afghanistan this year. We have 37,000 troops on the ground there already...$2 billion a month being spent to support the effort. Meanwhile, we still have 140,000 soldiers in Iraq...which costs us roughly $10 billion a month. One of the president's chief strategists on the Middle East, Bruce Riedel, says this:
The terrorist network is hoping the United States keeps troops in Afghanistan and Iraq for the long haul. The 'bleeding wars' offer the best opportunity to defeat the United States.
You can see how he might be right. 58-cents of every dollar available to the US government is being put into fighting a battle experts say we can't win. Military think tanks like the Rand Corporation say terrorists cannot be defeated on the battlefield. The best answer instead, say the world thinkers, is political, local law enforcement, peacekeeping kind of work. Diplomatic escalation rather than military escalation. 18,000 Afghans have been killed since the US invasion of their country in 2001, and tens of thousands have been injured. Two-thirds of the people in Afghanistan oppose increasing combat troops and prolonging a crippling battle. Instead of war they want health care, clean water, and education. Imagine that. Hypothetically thinking... What if we spent $2 billion a month to give the Afghan people what they want? What if we spent money on peace? Because it seems when we spend money on war, we get war. And the world must think we like it.

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