Mission Not Accomplished


ow that President Barack Obama has declared U.S. combat operations in Iraq over, it might be useful to remember just how much this effort and the one in Afghanistan cost.

This is particularly important right now since there is so much hullabaloo over federal spending. The immediate critical question is whether there should be more stimulus spending or not to try to invigorate the stumbling recovery.
Another curious point is that a good part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) funds haven’t even been spent yet. In Virginia, for instance only about $3.2 billion of the $5.5 billion in stimulus funding for Virginia had been spent as of Aug. 1. The Wall Street Journal has reported that only a fraction of stimulus funding for such efforts as infrastructure, housing, education and homeland security has been spent.
This once again puts the cart before the horse. If there’s such an outcry among the right wing, including many bloggers and commenters here, how come they don’t point out that a lot of this infamous money hasn’t even been released yet? Would the recovery be faster if it were? If we had a faster recovery, wouldn’t the supposedly dangerous spiral a la “Boomergeddon” be slowed or set right?
Let’s talk about the wars. According to the National Priorities Project, $1.09 billion has been allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, It isn’t clear how much of this sum has actually been spent yet, but the end of combat operations in Iraq suggests some easing of spending is in the future, although some 50,000 U.S. still will remain in Iraq.
Afghanistan is anyone’s guess. Obama has made that the strategic U.S. priority in fighting global terror, but faces a corrupt Afghan government and centuries of history in which foreigners could never get their way. My personal experience goes back to the 1980s and the Soviet experience there. I was there in January 1989 when, with great fanfare, columns of Soviet tanks and BTRs (personnel carriers) streamed across the Amu Darya River into Uzbekistan after a futile and bloody decade of fighting.
As for how much all of this will eventually cost is anyone’s guess. Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has put the price tag at as much as $3 trillion. As he and Linda J. Bilmes wrote in The Washington Post in 2008, “You can’t spend $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.”
He’s right about the pain. As far as failed, well, it seemed that way in 2008. To his credit, President George W, Bush’s escalation in Iraq did seem to settle things enough to set the stage for a U.S. withdrawal of its combat forces. But the, it was Bush who got us in the probably unnecessary war with Iraq with his bogus intelligence reports of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
That’s a bit off my point. More on my point is the question: When they moan about spending do the newly-hatched deficit hawks consider the war price tag? Or are they content to blame instead the “socialist” Obama they accuse of profligate spending? It could be that Obama is guilty of not spending enough and not getting the money allocated for recovery out there in time.
Once again, the cart before the horse.
Peter Galuszka

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10 responses to “Mission Not Accomplished”

  1. From my observation the GOP doesn't consider the cost of war in swelling the deficit. They didn't complain from early 2003 when the Bush administration took the deficit from 87B in the black to $374 in the red. And that was before we even got into Iraq. Spending on war is always ok.
    The stimulus: one-sixth of the total cost–as you point out, Peter, has not been spent yet–is an all-out effort to to make green energy, green building and green transportation real; launch green manufacturing industries; computerize a pen-and-paper health system; promote data-driven school reforms; and ramp up the research of the future. Investing in our future and saving money in the long run. If the private sector had done more of this kind of investment previous to the crash we might not be in the pickle we're currently in. But it appears private sector has short-term memory deficits about investing in the future. I see signs already the top 1% rich are back into conspicuous consumption. Tiffany & Co.'s fiscal second-quarter net profit rose 19%. I'm sure this is a happy sign for merchants, as they have been polled as not fearing taxes, they fear soft sales. So all the GOP crying about deficit/debt I take with a grain of salt.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    When governments [that use GAAP accounting] appropriate money for something, it is pretty much spent even though cash has not been paid to someone yet.

  3. Good article. You are starting to sound almost reasonable.

    Probably unecessary war? I agree. We'll never know because we'll never know what Saddam or his sons would have done. However, it sure cost a lot of money to unwravel three maniacs.

    Iraq was always winnable. Afghanistan is probably not winnable (despite an exemplary US led fighting force).

    Afhganistan reminds me of Vietnam. Somebody once said, "We'll bomb them (meaning Vietnam) into the stone age.". To which someone else remarked, "They are already in the stone age.".

    I am not sure what winning in Afghanistan really means because I am not sure that any government (corrupt or not) can really control that so-called country. And if no government can control the country then who would keep terrorists out?

    This does not seem like it's going to go well.

    Obama is doing the right thing in Iraq. It's still far from a certainty that there will be stability in that country but Obama is on the right path. He deserves credit for ending the combat operations.

    Finally, Peter – I think you have a typo. You quote somebody as saying that the cost of the wars could be $1.09B. I think you mean $1.09T.

    Moira – not sure what you would have done with regard to Afhganistan. The Taliban were established there and they had just killed 3,000 Americans. Yes, conservatives believe that striking back at the Taliban was worth the cost of doing so … even if it increased the budget.

    Obama has been president for almost 2 years. If the stimulus hasn't been spent … whose fault is that? My friends in the fed tell me that the states are dragging their feet. I figured they were just blowing smoke. Maybe not. If McDonnell can't spend the money he should send it to me. I'll spend it to expand George Mason University or develop multi-media lessons and tutorials for our school children.

    Merchants fear soft sales more than taxes because they don't pay taxes on losses. So, the only way to even get to the point of fearing taxes is to make a profit which can be subject to tax.

  4. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Groveton, It is Trillion, sorry.

  5. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Oh an Groveton,
    Thanks you very much for saying that my article is one that finally sounds reasonable.

    Cloming from someone who calls hiself Groovy G. Groveton, that means a lot.

    Peter Galuszka

  6. "Oh an Groveton,
    Thanks you very much for saying that my article is one that finally sounds reasonable.

    Cloming from someone who calls hiself Groovy G. Groveton, that means a lot.".


    Yes, I understand that Maslow's hierarchy of needs has its corollary in blogging.

    From the bottom up:

    Basic logic and writing skills


    Wit and humor


    Ability to influence the actions of readers

    Congratulations on you successful entry into level 2.

    Wishing you the best in making it to level 3.

    The Groove-Master

  7. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Thanks so much for the pat on the head.
    Having blogged professionally for bnet.com, part of CBS INteractive and now,The Washington Post, your how-to advice means so much!


  8. Goozer:

    When touting your blogging skills it is generally best not to double post the comment.

    Just a tip from the Shecky Green of Bacon's Rebellion.

  9. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    I do this by mistake because I never get the visual verification and have to type everything twice. Maybe Bacon is sneding me a message.

  10. I've had the same problem.

    Something about Blogger is broken.

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