The price of war is 30 percent of our nation's debt. So says syndicated columnist (and former New York Times reporter) Joel Brinkley in the Des Moines Register on Sept. 4.
Brinkley opens with a charge to the "Super Committee" now beginning its work. He says to the committee: You'd better take into account trillions of dollars in anticipated war costs that no one in Washington (or few in the media, I would add) seem willing to acknowledge.
Brinkley details how, for decades, government estimates of war costs consciously have left out many expenses. An official Congressional Budget Office report recently put the total costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars at $1.4 trillion.
But a new academic study, under the auspices of the Eisenhower Study Group, counts everything and comes up with about $4 trillion.
Almost all of this is deficit spending. Even this estimate is low, according to the authors.
It gets worse. In the coming years wars are likely to cost the nation another $2 trillion. In Brinkley's view, "no one in Washington is talking about that."
Back to the congressional Super Committee: It is supposed to find $1.5 trillion in reduced outlays over 10 years. But if it "succeeds" while ignoring new war costs, it fails.
A big part of the problem is the terrible waste in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's hard to argue that either war has succeeded or will succeed.
Brinkley points out that, in Afghanistan, though the primary goal is to train army and police, the trainers can't even come up with an accurate count of the Afghan police force!
Brinkley's reasonable conclusion:
"The United States has little to gain from continuing either war. They are mile-deep money pits. If the Super Committee wants to find trillions of dollars in savings, it should look there first."