In Light Of The Latest Drone Strike: Iraq War vs Infrastructure

What could we have built for ourselves with the money for the Iraq War?

I’m still thinking of the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani carried out by the US military on Trump’s order. I am concerned that the cumulative actions of the Trump Administration will eventually lead to another war. I am hopeful that war can be avoided, but I’m reminded of what a certain Winston Churchill said about war (from the International Churchill Society):

“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that any one who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The Statesman who yields to war fever must realise that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events….” — My Early Life, 1930

We saw that “strange voyage” with the Iraq War and I am hopeful that Trump and his cronies will see that about any war they might contemplate with Iran. I really want to emphasize that point that Churchill made about war, that once the signal is given by a politician, he is no longer the master of policy, but the slave of circumstances far beyond his control. And Iran has declared that the assassination of their beloved military leader was an act of war.

I am thinking now about the cost of war. I found research on the Iraq War that tallies the total cost of that war at $3 trillion dollars. That sum is greater than the GDP of many small countries lumped together. That’s about the output of California in 2017. That kind of money could do a lot of good, instead, it was wasted on war.

I also want to draw a contrast between the United States and China. I see that China has been involved in numerous wars during the life of the People’s Republic of China. But none of their wars are on the scale of American war efforts, for if they were, they’d make the news. I note with interest that since about 2012, China has been at war with Muslims in 3 different groups and numerous allies, and the United States is not one of them. China seems a lot more interested in building a modern infrastructure than building weapons of war. I suppose that might come later. But China is big enough, and has enough of what they need now, and that they really don’t need to subjugate other countries to their will. Time will tell.

But that $3 trillion for Iraq…That could pay for a lot of infrastructures. That could put a lot of people through college. That could pay for a very nice health care system. A better health care system could pay for itself. War never pays for itself.

I was thinking yesterday about what life would be like if the United States just decided to drop their addiction to oil and to do something else. What if instead of throwing $3 trillion away on a war over oil, we spent that on education? With education, we can grow an army of scientists and engineers that can figure out how to build a hydrogen infrastructure, where instead of running our economy on oil, we find a way to make it economical to split water for fuel with renewable energy. Then we keep the hydrogen and let the oxygen run free.

Consider: the historic rise in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is due to burning oil, coal and gas. The United States had been on a long term trend of declining emissions until the Trump administration took over. Then emissions began to rise again. It’s almost as if they want to say, “Look, we’re going to be OK. Even if CO2 continues to climb past 400 parts per million, we’ll still live.” It’s like they’re trying to prove a point that they believe that CO2 is not the bogeyman environmentalists make it out to be. Nevermind that for much of human history and evolution, CO2 has been about 290 ppm. We evolved with far lower levels of CO2 in the air. Will we become dumber as a result of our machinations?

Just imagine if we spent that $3 trillion on an economy that ran on hydrogen, fusion, fission, solar, wind, geothermal and who knows what other forms of energy our scientists might find. We might even find a way to harness zero-point energy.

While we spent $3 trillion to make Iraq change to our liking, we could have spent that money on making America a better country, a more self-sufficient country. If your economy doesn’t depend on oil, you won’t care about the price of oil. Then you wouldn’t need to go to war over oil. And we’ve been pretty busy with wars over oil in this century and the last. Trump seems to want to continue that trend instead of actually doing the work we need to do to be independent of oil.

This is just one problem with the wartime economy. War diverts resources to changing some other country rather than our own. War is destructive, not constructive. After Bush had declared, “mission accomplish” to a hundred million eye-rolls, he set about the task of “nation-building”. Eyes rolled again. Nation-building? That’s what they call it when they destroy a country and rebuild it just so they can say they’re an “ally”. We paid for that.

And therein lies a moral hazard. During the “nation-building” phase of the war, the corruption set in, and the prize was all that free money. According to David Francis of the Fiscal Times:

Government auditors say some $61 billion was spent on reconstruction projects in Iraq from 2003 to 2012. At least 10 percent of the money cannot be accounted for. Some 15 percent of the money spent, or roughly $8 billion, was wasted.

To put this in some perspective, the total budget for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program is $16 billion. I find it deeply ironic how every year, conservative members of Congress take such pride in cutting the budget for TANF, yet remain silent on the money lost in wars. It would seem to many posturing conservatives in Congress, wars and nation-building are far more important than feeding the people we have here.

If there is a moral hazard to be found in our priorities, I’m more comfortable with feeding needy families than going to war, destroying a country, and building it again. These are just some of the things that I think about when Trump goes bellicose towards other countries. And I will be thinking about that contrast in November.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store