Aside from grumblings on the left about endless war in Afghanistan, Tom Brokaw is right:
Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape?
How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.
In those nine years, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on combat operations and other parts of the war effort, including foreign aid, reconstruction projects, embassy costs and veterans’ health care. And the end is not in sight.
So why aren’t the wars and their human and economic consequences front and center in this campaign, right up there with jobs and taxes? The answer is very likely that the vast majority of Americans wake up every day worrying, with good reason, about their economic security, but they can opt out of the call to arms. Unless they are enlisted in the armed services — or have a family member who has stepped forward — nothing much is asked of them in the war effort.
Perhaps the way to bring it front and center is to put it in purely financial terms:
CostOfWar lets you measure the tradeoffs of the trillion+ spent on those two wars. You can spend hours on the site researching the cops, nurses, teachers and infrastructure we could have paid for with the billions spent on Iraq.
I’d like to focus on one particularly stunning number put forth by Arlen Specter. Granted, he wasn’t doing it in the context of the cost of war, but it’s a perfect example of why we need to be dubious about the growing consensus that Iraq was a success:
It is my opinion that it is scandalous in this country that we haven’t done more by way of combating these illnesses. I requested an estimate from the cancer community of what it would take to make a major attack to virtually cure cancer. We can’t talk about curing cancer, but the kind of a major attack which would reduce cancer vary materially. We got back a figure of $335 billion over 15 years. Well, those are big numbers, but they would pay off in very substantial rewards when you consider the cost of cancer is over $200 billion a year. The cost of heart disease is almost $450 billion a year. There are ways and economies within the Federal budget to deal with those issues.
Specter asked a fundamental question: what would it cost to cure cancer? The number he was given was less than half the cost of the Iraq war. To launch a frontal assault on cancer and save innumerable lives.
It is an unspeakable travesty that we can afford to go to war based on lies and deceptions, causing the death and injury of hundreds of thousands, but we can’t spend the money it takes to embark on an assault against a scourge like cancer.