Recently, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, Randall Schriver, told senators that the Afghan war would cost this country’s taxpayers $45 billion in 2018, including $5 billion for the Afghan security forces, $13 billion for U.S. forces in that country, and $780 million in economic aid. How the other $26 billion would be spent is unclear and, given the Pentagon’s record in these years, Schriver’s estimate could prove a low-ball figure. All in all, it’s just another year in this country’s endless war there. Still, if Schriver is on the mark, in Afghanistan alone the American taxpayer will spend more than a fifth of the $200 billion the Trump administration is urging Congress to put up for the rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure. (The estimated cost of the full war on terror in President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, according to the Costs of War Project, is approximately… yep, you guessed it: $200 billion.) And, of course, all of that is next to nothing when compared to the $5.6 trillion the Costs of War Project estimates the war on terror has already cost us (with certain future expenses added in).
Under the circumstances, isn’t it remarkable that the government has sent so many taxpayer dollars tumbling down the rabbit hole of its failed wars and the “reconstruction” scams in Afghanistan and Iraq that once passed for “nation-building”? (By 2014, the U.S. had already sunk more money into “reconstructing” Afghanistan than it had once put into the Marshall Plan to rebuild all of Western Europe — and compare the results of each of those investments!) More remarkable still, for all the bitter political disputes in these years about how government money should be spent, there has never been real disagreement here, no less significant protest, over the decision to put such staggering sums into America’s wars. Imagine for a moment anything like the same amount of money being spent on this country’s crumbling infrastructure or just about anything else domestically and you know that there would have been protests of every imaginable sort and such decisions would have become the heart and soul of endless election campaigns.
Instead, in 2018, Congress has, in a thoroughly bipartisan fashion, agreed to shovel yet more dollars into the U.S. military and its wars with hardly a complaint from the American public. Keep the strangeness of this in mind as you read U.S. Army major and TomDispatch regular Danny Sjursen’s account of how, via one key document, the Pentagon is preparing the way for the next bipartisan flood of dollars into those wars and the military-industrial complex. Someday, this may seem like one of the true scandals of our age, but if so, that day has yet to come. In the meantime, the lack of opposition to such spending should be considered a great mystery of our era.