Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Iraq War Costs Too Much and is Fundamentally Wrong
"The United States spends roughly $100 billion per year on homeland security. This includes the services of federal, state, and local law enforcement and emergency services but excludes most spending for the armed forces. The cost is great, and we will strive to minimize the sacrifices asked of Americans, but as a Nation we will spend whatever is necessary to secure the homeland.
In recent years, the federal government has allocated considerable resources to homeland security. Including supplemental funding, the federal budget allocated $17 billion to homeland security in Fiscal Year 2001. This amount increased to $29 billion in Fiscal Year 2002. In Fiscal Year 2003, the President budgeted $38 billion for homeland security activities. These budget allocations must be viewed as down payments to cover the most immediate security vulnerabilities."
2006 budget proposal for DHS is $41 billion.
Spending "whatever is necesary to secure the homeland" is exactly the sort of thinking a traditional Republican opposes. "Whatever is necessary" is hardly ever "what is truly needed".
Spending "Whatever is necessary to educate our children" or spending "whatever is necessary to defeat poverty" or spending "whatever is necessary to win the war on drugs" or spending "whatever is necessary to defeat the North Vietnamese" should all sound really familiar by now. All have resulted in massive cost overruns, high and continuing tax burdens, extensive collateral damage, earmarking and interest-group hijacking, and have delivered minimal positive effects. Good intentions are really difficult to implement correctly when it's all someone else's money.
In reality, there is no way to spend ourselves into security. It's a charade of security addiction. In fact, real security improvements can be purchased with a whole lot less money that what we're spending to continue to occupy Iraq.
Bush administration officials used to say that the war on terrorism had to be fought "in Baghdad, not Boston." You don't hear that line much anymore, yet it's clearly reflected in the administration's spending priorities. The war in Iraq so far has cost $150 billion; for the Department of Homeland Security, the administration has allocated $27 billion this year, with the bulk of that going to the routine operations of agencies like the Customs Service. When it comes to new programs to make planes, trains, ports, and urban centers safer, there's precious little left over—which is why a range of critics, from local firefighters to Republican members of Congress, have lambasted Bush for shortchanging the nation's true homeland security needs. Below, a sample of those needs, along with Bush's budget allocations, compared with the time it takes to burn through the same amount in Iraq.
Amount needed for basic security upgrades for subway and commuter trains in large cities: $6 BILLION
(Iraq spending equivalent: 20 days)
Bush budget allocation for train security: $100 MILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 8 hours)
Amount needed to equip all U.S. airports with machines that screen baggage for explosives: $3 BILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 10 days)
Bush budget allocation for baggage-screening machines: $400 MILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 32 hours)
Amount needed for security upgrades at 361 U.S. ports: $1.1 BILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 4 days)
Bush budget allocation for port security: $210 MILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 17 hours)
Amount needed to buy radiation portals for U.S. ports to detect dirty bombs in cargo: $290 MILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 23 hours)
Bush budget allocation for radiation portals: $43 MILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 3 hours)
Amount needed to help local firefighters preparefor terrorist attacks: $36.8 BILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 122 days)
Bush budget allocation for firefighter grants: $500 MILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 40 hours)
Amount needed to get local emergency medical crews ready for terrorist atttacks: $1.4 BILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 5 days)
Bush budget allocation for emergency medical training grants prior to eliminating program altogether: $50 MILLION
(Iraq equivalent: 4 hours)
All Bush allocation figures taken from administration estimates of FY 2005 budget
Subway and rail security upgrades
Amount needed: Statement by William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, 5/20/04
Amount needed: Government Accountability Office, "Aviation Security: Challenges Exist in Stabilizing and Enhancing Passenger and Baggage Screening Operations" [PDF], 2/12/04, p. 28
Port security upgrades
American Association of Port Authorities, "AAPA Concerned FY '05 Lacks Funds For Port Facility Security", 2/2/04
Amount needed: Calculation based on figures from House Committee on Appropriations (Total cost of radiation portals: $495.5 million. Amount already spent: $205.5 million. Remaining amount: $290 million)
Amount needed: Council on Foreign Relations, "Emergency Responders: Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Underprepared", p. 34
Emergency medical preparedness
Amount needed: Council on Foreign Relations, "Emergency Responders: Drastically Underfunded, Dangerously Underprepared", p. 37
Being categorically opposed to pre-emptive laws - let alone pre-emptive war - it should be no surprise to anyone that I completely oppose the occupation of Iraq, which was presented by the Bush Administration as a pre-emptive war. This unmitigated disaster of a decision will have long-term consequences for the nation, none of which can be easily rectified.
Yes, some good has been done in the process. However, from where I sit, the good does not and can not balance out the bad. It's not simply that the ends doesn't justify the means, it's the fact that the means naturally causes more evil than the good that happens to come from the means. Pre-emptive wars never liberate, they only enslave. They enslave the warring nation to a degree that is equal to or greater than the resulting enslavement of a population to a foreign occupier. People simply don't like being occupied, regardless of the reason. Occupation never results in a society flourishing. To expect otherwise is be in the grip of a special kind of egoistic denial.
Perhaps, relatively improbably, democracy will take root in Iraq and then spread around to other nation-states in the region. Recently, The Economist magazine declared this to be about the only thing that Bush got right in Iraq - the need for democracy in the Middle East as a way of solving global tension and conflict.
This would require a heretofore unknown process of externally forced culture-to-government creation.
Democracy at gunpoint has worked in what other situation? None that I can find. In fact, there are plenty of examples of failure of trying to force democracy along with violence.
The war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, interventions in Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, and the invasion of Grenada are all sobering examples of what happens when you try to either institute democracy by force, or pre-empt another nation's politics. In the case of each of these examples, the "democracy excuse" was in hindsight either remarkably and unjustifiably idealistic, or a relatively weak public relations excuse for military action. If there is a situation where a pre-emptive war created a democratic system of government where it didn't exist before, I'd like to know about it.
"British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who declared in his famous 1946 Iron Curtain speech that "we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man," but that "it is not our duty ... to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries."
Churchill urged the Free World to lead by principled example, not to impose such principles by force; adopting the latter course risks subverting these principles from within, and thus eroding the foundations of our own democracy as we propose to build new democratic foundations abroad. The reality is that the ingredients for successful democracy are found in domestic political kitchens. Democracy is a dish that Iraqis and others throughout the Middle East must prepare for themselves."
This war costs too much and is fundamentally wrong.