Now, we know. According to Todd Harrison, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the replacement cost for the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles recently dumped on an air base in Syria: $89 million. That not-exactly-decisive strike in Washington’s 15 years of war in the ever more chaotic Greater Middle East against… well, you tell me what or whom… was but a drop in the bucket. After all, the cost of those never-ending wars has already reached into the trillions of dollars. And keep in mind that these are wars in which, as U.S. Army major and TomDispatch regular Danny Sjursen suggests today, the most all-American military word around may be “more” — as in more troops for Syria, more troops for Iraq, more troops for Afghanistan, and of course more missiles, planes, ships, advanced arms, you name it.
In that context, $89 million is a laughably small sum. Still, just for the hell of it, let’s think about what a figure like that might mean if spent domestically rather than on a strike of more or less no significance in Syria. That sum is, for instance, well more than half of the $149 million budget for the National Endowment for the Arts and also of the $149 million budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities, both of which the Trump administration would like to wipe out. It represents one-fifth of the $445 million the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also on Trump’s chopping block, gets from the federal government. That single strike also represents about a thirtieth of the $2.6 billion his administration wants to cut from the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and about a sixtieth of the $5.8 billion that it plans to excise from the budget of the National Institutes of Health.
So each time those Tomahawks are launched, or American planes or drones take off on their latest missions over Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, or Somalia, or the next batch of U.S. troops heads for Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, or elsewhere in the Greater Middle East and those millions of dollars start to add up to billions and finally trillions, just think to yourself: that’s the arts, the sciences, public health, and environmental safety that we’re knocking off. Think of that as part of the “collateral damage” produced by our never-ending wars, or take a moment with Major Sjursen and imagine just how Washington might continue to lose those wars in the future with even greater flare and at even greater cost. Tom
How to Lose the Next War in the Middle East
The Short Answer: Fight it!
By Danny Sjursen
Make no mistake: after 15 years of losing wars, spreading terror movements, and multiplying failed states across the Greater Middle East, America will fight the next versions of our ongoing wars. Not that we ever really stopped. Sure, Washington traded in George W. Bush’s expansive, almost messianic attitude toward his Global War on Terror for Barack Obama’s more precise, deliberate, even cautious approach to an unnamed version of the same war for hegemony in the Greater Middle East. Sure, in the process kitted-up 19 year-olds from Iowa became less ubiquitous features on Baghdad’s and Kabul’s busy boulevards, even if that distinction was lost on the real-life targets of America’s wars — and the bystanders (call them “collateral damage”) scurrying across digital drone display screens.
It’s hardly a brilliant observation to point out that, more than 15 years later, the entire region is a remarkable mess. So much worse off than Washington found it, even if all of that mess can’t simply be blamed on the United States — at least not directly. It’s too late now, as the Trumpadministration is discovering, to retreat behind two oceans and cover our collective eyes. And yet, acts that might still do some modest amount of good (resettling refugees, sending aid, brokering truces, anything within reason to limit suffering) don’t seem to be on any American agenda.