Wars Leave Crumbling Infrastructure At Home for US
ANGLO AMERICA, 16 April 2012
by Clifford A. Kiracofe - Global Times, China
While politicians in Washington recklessly call for bombing Syria and Iran, they ignore the economic costs of failed US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Such costs call into question the condition of the US economy and are not without significant social and political implications. They also call into question the competence of leadership elites in the US, not to mention fundamental issues of governance involving the preservation of constitutional democracy.
In the past, the US paid for its wars through increased taxes and the sale of war bonds. The recent wars, however, have been paid for mostly through borrowing. Thus, there is an adverse economic impact with respect to the increased national debt, to the increased budget deficits, and to the upward pressure on interest rates.
Ongoing analysis of economic, human, and social costs by the Eisenhower Study Group, a team of US academics, estimates these wars have cost between $3 trillion and $4 trillion through 2011.
In addition, there are additional significant macroeconomic consequences of war spending relating to infrastructure and jobs.
With respect to infrastructure, investment in defense displaces public investment in basic infrastructure. Private sector productivity is negatively impacted as a result.
Core public economic infrastructure includes transportation, roads, utilities, water systems, and sewerage. Other key non-military infrastructure would include that for education such as schools.
In terms of jobs, the report of the study team indicates that public spending for non-military purposes creates more jobs than bloated unnecessary wartime spending. Examples of non-military sectors are construction, education, and health care.
The US national infrastructure is disintegrating. Much of it was created after World War II and some even before. On a national basis, bridges, roads, waterways, canals and locks, and other public infrastructure are in bad condition and getting worse according to experts in civil engineering. Yet Washington’s bellicose politicians have squandered trillions on unnecessary wars and now want still further military action against Syria and Iran.
Such irresponsible politicians think in terms of their next election rather than the future of their country. They serve themselves and not the people.
So how did the US get into its current predicament?
One explanation points to the failure of US leadership elites to adapt to the changing global correlation of forces after the end of the Cold War in 1991.
At that time, clear-minded experts advised preparing for the inevitable emergence of a multipolar world.
Thus, they argued, the US should completely revise its national strategy by focusing on strengthening its economy and its diplomacy.
They foresaw an era of economic competition with other major powers which would have increasing weight in the emerging dynamic and multipolar strategic environment.
They also recommended a return to a vigorous peacetime diplomacy which would best serve the national interest by fostering a revived United Nations system, by contributing to an equitable and just transformation of the international system, and by fostering cooperation among the world’s major powers to meet the common challenges of many pressing global issues.
These experts were opposed by advocates of a triumphalist, unipolar world view that called for US global hegemony.
While the administration of former President Bill Clinton did promote a stronger economy and reduced military spending, its diplomacy did not properly adjust to new circumstances.
Instead, for example, under hegemonic influence, Washington went outside the United Nations and pushed NATO into a war against Serbia.
The administration that followed chose the path of global hegemony. The late Lieutenant General William E. Odom called the resulting Iraq war “the greatest strategic mistake in US history.”
Odom, a former head of the powerful National Security Agency, was a most well informed strategic thinker not to mention an honorable and patriotic man.
But has Washington learned from its strategic mistakes? Apparently not, judging from the present political jingoists, still blindly advocating yet more war in the always volatile Middle East.
The author is a professor at the Department of Politics, Washington and Lee University, and a former senior professional staff member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.
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