As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

They Always Get You With The Hidden Costs

It's perfectly justifiable to look at the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in totality, adding in things like the costs of healing wounded veterans, the rise in the price of oil, and the interest on the debt used to finance them. When you perform the accounting, you get a $1.5 trillion dollar boondoggle.

That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008, according to the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee. Its report, titled "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.

The report argues that war funding is diverting billions of dollars away from "productive investment" by American businesses in the United States. It also says that the conflicts are pulling reservists and National Guardsmen away from their jobs, resulting in economic disruptions for U.S. employers that the report estimates at $1 billion to $2 billion.

The committee, which includes House and Senate members from both parties and is chaired by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), is expected to present the report this morning on Capitol Hill. Democratic leaders plan to use the report as evidence that the wars are far costlier than most realize and that a change of course could save taxpayers billions of dollars in the coming decade.

Saving money is not a reason to end a war. But we should take a look at what all this money is buying us, and the real answer is, not much. 2007 is the deadliest year for troops in not only Iraq but also Afghanistan, where a resurgent Taliban has taken over so much of the country that Hamid Karzai has asked them into the government. And in Iraq, the political reconciliation is at a complete stalemate.

The U.S. effort to organize nearly 70,000 local fighters to solidify security gains in Iraq is facing severe political and logistical challenges as U.S.-led forces struggle to manage the recruits and the central government resists incorporating them into the Iraqi police and army, according to senior military officials.

Gen. David H. Petraeus and other top commanders have hailed the initiative to enlist Iraqi tribes and former insurgents in the battle against extremist groups, but leaders of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government have feared that the local fighters known as "volunteers" -- more than 80 percent of whom are Sunni -- could eventually mount an armed opposition, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.

This is madness. We're arming a militia that will never show fealty to a country led by their ethnic opposition. The folly of "bottom-up" reconciliation is that those at the bottom have no interest in reconciling with those at the top. They want to engage the enemy and protect their turf. This is less of a pitched battle right now, but it's nowhere near closer to a solution, and while we have enough forces to keep a lid on things right now, that's nothing but a stopgap measure.

Iraqi officials are concerned about the past behavior of many of the men now working with the Americans, citing problems arising from the infiltration of the police by Shiite militias. "We ended up with a police force that is not loyal to the government and to the country," said Sami al-Askiri, a Shiite legislator and Maliki adviser. "If we copy this and do it with Sunnis, we will just create another problem."

"We have to take the Sunnis inside the police and the army. They are part of the Iraqi society, but we have to check them, we have to check all their backgrounds," Askiri said. "If we do this the wrong way, we will end up with another militia inside the police force, but a Sunni one, not a Shiite one."

It's dumb to continue ANY training of Iraqi forces in this enviroment, something that is stupidly still in the plans of top Democrats. And it's worth looking at the value of fighting two wars the wrong way, bankrupting future generations while actually decreasing our security.

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