The financial crisis and the harsh recession currently developing have sparked a debate about the fundamentals of America’s economy. But the debacle in Iraq has not had the same effect on the foreign policy debate. A challenge to America’s current global strategy will not come from Washington. It won’t come from the national security managers of either party. It can only come if citizens build a democratic movement willing and able to demand the debate that we need. For more, read today’s New York Times “op-ad” by the Institute for America’s Future by clicking here.
The Bush-McCain war in Iraq is a disaster. So far, the costs of the war include over 4,000 fallen American soldiers, approximately 30,000 more wounded, and $565 billion lost. This does not include the costs borne by other nations, or the tremendous suffering of innocent civilians in Iraq. Most Americans think the Iraq war is a failure [Gallup] and record numbers of Americans are dissatisfied with our nation’s position in the world. [Gallup] Among the citizens of other nations, America’s standing in the world is at an all-time low. [Gallup]
The war in Iraq costs $12 billion per month. So far, the federal government has authorized $656 billion for the Iraq war. Of that total, $152 billion was appropriated to fund the Iraq war during the current fiscal year. That amounts to more than $12 billion per month and $416 million per day. [Congressional Research Service]
Much of the Iraq war funding has been wasted. Almost 20 percent of funding for operations in Iraq—about $85 billion—has been paid to private contractors who are often not held accountable for their use of the money. [Congressional Budget Office] For example, a former Iraqi official recently estimated that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes. [Washington Post]
Bush continues to outsource national security. “Free market” ideology trumps national security in the Bush Administration. Not only have we outsourced critical military jobs to the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater, the Bush Administration has also hired private companies to spy for the United States. In fact, 70 percent of the intelligence budget now goes to contractors. In other words, private corporate interests control our nation’s most sensitive information and help direct our most critical foreign policy decisions. [CBS News]
Bush’s efforts to fight terrorism have backfired. According to the most recently declassified National Security Estimate, the Iraq war has had a “rejuvenating effect” on Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. [Washington Post] Worldwide, suicide bombings have increased greatly since 2001, and 2007 was the worst year for such bombings in more than a quarter-century. Over half of all suicide bombings last year took place in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. [Washington Post]
The cost of our military operations is staggering. The Pentagon’s budget accounts for more than half of all “discretionary spending”— that is, half of everything the federal government spends after paying for entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, and interest on the national debt. At $700 billion, the defense budget is about equal to the combined military spending of the rest of the world. But the actual cost of our military is strewn throughout the budget. Add in the cost of caring for our veterans, arms aid in the State Department budget, homeland security measures, and more, and actual spending climbs to over $1 trillion a year. [Center for Arms Control]
Bush has depleted our military. A poll of 3,400 military officers found that 60 percent say the U.S. military is weaker today than it was five years ago, and nearly 90 percent say the Iraq war has “stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.” [Foreign Policy] The military’s involuntary extensions of duty—especially “stop loss” orders to National Guard soldiers—have caused hardships for soldiers and their families and have made it more difficult to recruit future soldiers. [USA Today] The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that it will take years and cost about $200 billion to repair or replace equipment that was warn out or broken in the Iraq war. [GAO]
Many of our greatest national security threats can’t be solved by military might. The U.S. has more than 700 active military bases in over 30 countries. But despite their costs, these bases cannot address some of our most critical national security issues:
- America’s dependence on foreign oil. America imports about 58 percent of the oil it consumes. [Energy Information Administration] That leaves our nation vulnerable to price manipulation, speculation, and producer boycotts. We can’t drill our way to energy independence. It will take a concerted effort which must include improvements in energy conservation and energy efficiency, and expanded utilization of clean power.
- America’s global indebtedness. Every day, America has to borrow $2 billion from foreigners to finance our nation’s trade deficit. Last year’s deficit was $711 billion, up from $365 billion in 2001. [U.S. Census Bureau] In 2007, the United States’ trade deficit with China alone hit a record $256 billion. [U.S. Census Bureau] We simply can’t permit our country to become even more indebted to foreigners.
- Global warming. Catastrophic climate change, if left unchecked, could devastate our planet in a matter of decades. According to NASA scientists, 2007 tied with 1998 for the title of Earth’s second warmest year on record. In fact, the eight warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years have all occurred since 1990. [NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies] It’s not too late to stop the damage, but it will take a substantial change in national and worldwide priorities.
Bush has made no progress on energy independence. Our dependence on foreign oil remains a grave risk to national security. Fifty-eight percent of oil consumed in the U.S. is imported. [Energy Information Administration] Still, Bush slashed Department of Energy programs that promoted conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy sources. Bush and Senate conservatives killed 2007 legislation that would have required 15 percent of our electricity to come from renewable sources and they continue to block the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008. [Center for American Progress, Washington Post] Conservatives did nothing to improve fuel efficiency for cars and SUVs while they controlled Congress and the White House. Then in December 2007, the day after Bush signed Democratic legislation which modestly increases fuel efficiency standards, the administration blocked laws enacted in 18 states that would improve auto efficiency rules for a majority of Americans. [New York Times]
Bush has had little success in stopping nuclear proliferation. One of America’s greatest security threats is the possibility that nuclear weapons will find their way into the hands of rogue states or terrorists. Yet, the Administration’s ham-fisted approach to Iranian nuclear programs has accomplished nothing. Bush’s nuclear deal with North Korea is on the verge of breakdown. His nuclear agreement with India undermined nonproliferation arguments elsewhere. And Bush’s opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and his refusal to cooperate in other international efforts have worsened the problem. [Arms Control Association]