Last week, I wrote about President Obama’s announcement that he had signed an agreement to extend the US military occupation of Afghanistan for twelve more years. I said that, at this point, the war in Afghanistan very much resembles what, in October 2002, State Sen. Barack Obama called a “dumb war.”
Which begs this question: what is not a “dumb war”? Well, we just saw a good example of a not-dumb war, at least if you happen to be French.
Last year, Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, decided that he was going to take out Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. I’m not going to argue whether that was right or wrong; that’s not the point. The point is that France won that war, at very minimal cost.
So, the French Air Force bombed Libyan targets. But France also enlisted NATO support. In fact, France’s NATO allies bore 80 percent of the cost of the war in Libya.
The actual cost to France was 320 million euros, which equals around US $415 million. And not one French soldier died. (I’m aware of the fact that around 25,000 Libyans died, but again, the point for the purpose of this analysis is the minimal cost incurred by France.)
Assuming that you buy into the goal, the French war in Libya was a smart war. Very smart.
Now let’s compare that to the war in Iraq. Same stated goal: remove the dictator. And same result: dictator removed.
But the war in Iraq cost $4 trillion ($4,000,000,000,000), according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. More than World War II. The cost was the death of 4,487 American soldiers and perhaps as many as 500,000 Iraqis.
The war in Iraq dragged on for eight years and nine months. During that period, US taxpayers spent $415 million on the war in Iraq every eight hours. And an average of ten American soldiers were killed every week.
Now that is a dumb war. Really dumb.
And the war in Afghanistan is no different from the war in Iraq. We are spending almost $1 million a year for each American soldier in Afghanistan.
Another dumb war.
So, I agree with State Sen. Barack Obama: “That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war.”
“All we are saying is give peace a chance.” -John Lennon (1969).