Neoconservatives’ policy of promoting democracy by strength, military intervention, and change of regime idea has come a full circle.
The Vietnam war to prevent the communist victory, reshaping the Middle East with the invasion of Iraq, Libya and Syria, and promoting democratic values in a tribal society like Afghanistan has floundered but not without a colossal financial and human cost.
President Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961, warned the nation of what he viewed as its biggest threat–The military-industrial complex consisting of contractors and lobbyists perpetuating war.
War is a big business with lots of money going to and fro and unfortunately with a lot of angst, a lot of fear and lots of doubt. (Jon Anderson).
The first World War was fought at an estimated cost of 208 billion dollars and caused the greatest economic depression of the twentieth century. The second World War cost nearly 4 trillion dollars. War-related production skyrocketing from 2 to 40 percent of the total GNP.
War is not only about one country’s military invading another country, it’s about logistics, arms and ammunition, constant supply of them, airpower, navy, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and aircrafts. It is about the intelligence network and surveillance satellites.
To sustain one’s presence on the ground one needs accommodation, food, and medical supplies. Bagram base is an example of it. It has two runways and cost nearly a billion dollars.
The treatment and rehabilitation of injured soldiers, both physical and psychological, further cost millions of dollars.
War is not just about the military, but also about private contractors. The role of Blackwaters in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Russia’s Wagener’s group in Libya is well known. This outsourcing of the military and security function has been a recent phenomenon and costs the exchequer a fortune.
The Vietnam War, the post 9/11 invasion of the Middle East and Afghanistan, brought a lot of instability and Misery to the regions.
The question is, has it brought any progress or development in the society or the country where the coalition of the willing has invaded. Did liberation by invasion bear fruit. Did it promote democratic values, and has it improved the quality of life of the general masses in the region? The answer is NO, and a big NO!
Questions arise, whether without knowing the history, culture, and traditions of a particular region which is known as the graveyard of the empires and without the knowledge about the level to which a society has evolved, …will imposing the values and norms of a developed society results in the betterment of that society?
Looking into Iraqi society, we see that the Sunni minority has been ruling the country with a dictator, who for his own ambitions fought an 8-year long war with Iran. His intention was to control Shate Al Arab waterway, to seize Khuzestan, an oil-rich province and was fully supported by the Western powers and the USA.
The dismantling of the ruling Baath party in Iraq with secular roots, on allegations of possession of weapons of mass destruction, and having links with Al-Qaida, both of which were proved false later, resulted in total chaos in the region. It also resulted in the rise of the crescent for the first time in Islamic history.
Analyzing the fabric of the Afghan society, we see that 22% of the population is urban and 78% lives in rural areas. 42 % Push toons live on both sides of Durand. 28% of Tajiks live in the northeastern region. Uzbeks 9%in the northern region. Hazaras 9%in Central Afghanistan in the Hazarajat area. Baloch’s 2% and Turkmens 3%.
Imposing a marionette government with no connection to the masses, in Afghanistan, but had to fail. The first president was a man, who worked for an American oil company UNOCAL. The second president was an employee of the World Bank. How could either connect to a tribal society! The outcome was that, when Taliban takeover was imminent, the finance minister took off and went to the USA. The information minister opted to be a delivery boy in Germany and the President of the country flew to the land of his safety, leaving behind a human catastrophe that the whole world is watching.
The Iran-Iraq war cost 350 billion dollars along with one million people dead, one and a half million injured, and two million people rendered homeless.
The first ten days in the Libyan War cost the administration nearly 550 million dollars.
The Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, in Brown University, regarding the cost of wars, reports:
The war in Afghanistan cost 2.26 trillion dollars to the USA from 2001 till now, which is nearly 300 million dollars every day for 20 years. By 2050 this will be nearly 6.5 trillion dollars. That amounts to 20,000 US dollars for every US citizen. It includes 800 million dollars in direct warfighting cost and 85 billion in training the Afghan army. Not only this, the US taxpayers were paying 750 million dollars for the payroll annually. The biggest chunk, 1.1 trillion went to overseas contingency operation under the department of defense, and nearly 530 billion dollars on the interest of the loans borrowed by the US government to finance the war.
Another study by the cost of war project post 9/11 by Pradee and Watson Institute of Brown University, also reported nearly 6 trillion dollars plus expenditure.
Yet only a very small amount was spent on human resource development, education, health infrastructure, power generation, and roads. Very recently, President Ashraf Ghani said that 90 percent of the Afghans are living on 2 dollars per day.
The human cost is also high with 2,500 US soldiers and 4,000 civilian contractors killed. To take care of 20,000 US casualties will cost another 300 billion US dollars.
If we look at the civilian casualties, it amounts to 111,000 since the United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan started recording in 2009.
Another report suggests 69,000 Afghan military police officials, 47,000 civilians, 51,000 opposition fighters were killed, though the actual figures could be much higher.
Other than all the people who have been killed, a large number have been displaced, having to take refuge in the neighboring countries. People incurring disabilities, being caught in the Crossfire, collateral damage, aerial bombardment, victims of IED (improvised explosive device), and the loss of male family members who are the breadwinners of a family in a tribal society has led to a total collapse of the family structure and the loss of hope for a better future. This does not account for post-traumatic stress disorders and psychological illnesses.
Global arm expenditures rose to 1981 billion dollars in 2020 an increase of nearly 2.6 % than the previous year at this time of the pandemic. The United States is the biggest spender on defense with 778 billion dollars in 2020 with China 252, India, 72.9, Russia 61, and UK 59.2 billion dollars
United States is the world’s largest exporter of arms with 37% of the share of the global arms market, Russia 20%, France 8.2%, Germany 5.5%, and China 5.2% (SIPRI Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).
The military-industrial complex thrives on war. War, as the saying goes, makes a select few richer. The United States is home to five of the ten World’s largest defense companies.
Lockheed Martin is the biggest defense manufacturers and contractor. Then there’s Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Raythorp Grumman, BAE systems.
These companies have benefited immensely from the expansion in the military budget, which is the largest in the world. War on terror military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria has made this a very profitable business. It supports and creates millions of jobs in America. According to a report by SIPRI, arms sales grew by 51% by 2011. Not only this, Halliburton with Dick Cheney as its CEO, gained 39.5 billion dollars of federal contracts during the middle-eastern war.
Involvement in foreign lands involves military, civilian contractors, intelligence operatives, arms manufacturers, companies involved in logistics, food, the housing of personnel, paychecks, careers, pensions, and lots of misappropriation of unaccounted funds, and it benefits the military-industrial complex.
War is a big business.
- Cost of war Watson Institute of International and Public affairs Brown University.
- New research from the cost of wars project post 9/11 Frederick. S Pradee Centre and Brown University Watson Institute of International and Public affairs
- Cost of war now and then Norwich University study