Saturday, May 7, 2011
The most elusive public enemy in American history was killed one week ago from two bullets wounds; one to the chest and one to the head. It all sounds so simple. If only this were true.
What’s stunning is how much efforts to hunt him down and kill the 9/11 mastermind cost America. By conservative estimates, Osama bin Laden cost the U.S. at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he brought to our domestic economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the increased security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered and funded.
What do we have to show for that tab?
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that continue to occupy 150,000 troops and tie up one quarter of our national defense budget; a bloated homeland-security apparatus that often oversteps the bounds of our cherished civil liberties; soaring oil prices attributable to the global war on al-Qaeda; and a mounting national debt nearing $15 trillion dollars which threatens to destroy the U.S. economy unless lawmakers agree to cut critical domestic programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Other enemies throughout our history have extracted higher gross costs, in blood and in treasure, from the United States. The Civil War and World War II produced higher casualties and consumed larger shares of our economic output. But the Civil War ended slavery and eventually united the nation. The World War II machine revved up our economic engine after the Great Depression and led to an unparalleled expansion of postwar growth and prosperity.
But the War on Terror resulted in none of these benefits. What we’re left with is a national debt now equal to our entire national GDP. Was it all worth it? I suppose only history will ultimately be able to answer that question.