Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Osama's Victory

No, there's not going to be a new, worldwide Muslim caliphate; and no, al-Qaeda's hyper-Sunni Wahhabi-style extremism will never emerge as the basis of some worldwide Islamic resurgence.

But insofar as one of Osama bin Laden's goals was to bring down the United States just as he and his fellow jihadists brought down the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan - and, arguably, the Soviet Union itself, a new report out of Brown University (and highlighted in this Huffington Post report) makes it clear that the wars into which the 9-11 attacks drew the US have inflicted on it a crippling and long-lasting economic blow:
The United States will have spent a total of $3.7 trillion on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, costing 225,000 lives and creating 7.8 million refugees, by the time the conflicts end, according to a report released on Wednesday by Brown University.

The report, written by more than 20 economists, political scientists, lawyers, anthropologists and humanitarian personnel for Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies, gives staggering estimates for the cost of military action in those three countries. Nearly ten years since U.S. troops first entered Afghanistan, the report estimates the final cost of all three conflicts will be between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion -- far higher than the $1 trillion price tag referenced by President Barack Obama earlier this year. The report estimates the U.S. government has already spent between $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion and will spend at least a trillion more over the next fifty years.

Long-term obligations to war veterans will cause the price tag of the conflicts to climb for decades after troops have returned home. The report puts the cost of health care for veterans at between $600 to $950 billion, not peaking until the 2050s.

Admittedly, to chalk up all this damage exclusively to the 9-11 attack could be unfair.  We are where we are because George W. Bush and his cadre of pseudo-messianic neo-imperialists made some of the most catastrophic decisions in the history of the American Republic - and because his young, inexperienced successor, overawed by the security responsibilities suddenly heaped upon his untested and not-so-broad shoulders, turned out to be not smart enough to stop digging the already too deep hole that Bush got the US into in Afghanistan.

But it ought to be clear that, in at least this very significant outcome, OBL got exactly what he wanted.

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