Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Expansive and Expensive War on Terror

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has been on a war footing, projecting its military might around the globe and its technological might both domestically and internationally in a rather less than effective effort to end terrorism.  A recent study by the Watson Institute at Brown University has put the United States war efforts into both geographic and financial perspective, showing us how this never-ending war has spread and how much it has cost U.S. taxpayers.

Let's start by looking at the geographic perspective of the War on Terror.  While most of us only think of Afghanistan, Iraq and perhaps Pakistan when we think about the War on Terror, here is a map from the Watson Institute showing the involvement of the United States military in the counterterrorism war between the beginning of 2015 and October 2017:

Documented U.S. military activity includes one or more of the following aspects and excludes what is termed "cooperation" or "interagency coordination" by the U.S. State Department:

1.) U.S. Military Bases - 44 military bases, lily pads or contingency locations are used in counterterrorism activity.

2.) Training in Counterterrorism - 58 nations receive United States military training or assistance to the country's security apparatus to combat terrorism.

3.) Combat Troops - 15 nations host United States military personnel who take direct action on the ground against terrorism either in the host nation or in a neighbouring nation.

4.) Air and Drone Strikes - 7 nations are used by the United States to direct air and drone strikes.

As you can see, the United States War on Terror now involves 39 percent of the world's nations.

Now, let's look at the cost of the War on Terror.  The Watson Institute summary of costs by Neta Crawford at Boston University shows that the post-September 11, 2001 wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as spending on Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of State and Veterans Affairs have totalled more than $4.3 trillion in 2017 dollars through to the end of fiscal 2017.  Adding in the costs for fiscal 2018 and the cost of future care for veterans of these wars brings the total to more than $5.6 trillion, including the interest that has already been paid on the debt accrued.  This works out to an average of $23,386 per United States taxpayer since 2001.  Ultimately, the situation will become even more painful; calculations show that over the coming decades, the cumulative cost of interest related to the current spending on the War on Terror will exceed $8 trillion by 2050.

Let's close with two charts from Our World in Data.  First, here is a chart showing the number of terrorist attacks around the world going back to 1970:

Here is a chart showing the number of fatalities from terrorism-related attacks on both a global basis and specifically showing the number of fatalities in three nations that have been part of the War on Terror:

These charts show that the War on Terror has been a spectacular failure, unless you happen to live in the United States.

Lastly, here is a map showing the number of terrorism-related incidents by nation for the period between 1970 and 2016:

The War on Terror - apparently it's a very geographically expansive and monetarily expensive business.  Thank goodness that the military-industrial-intelligence complex is there to soak up all of those tax dollars!

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