Thanks to the Navy Seals and our intel community, Osama Bin Laden is part of the food chain for ocean floor bottom feeders. We are collectively taking a deep breath and wondering how soon we can finally close the book on the War on Terror we have been waging for almost ten years. Not surprisingly, this has led to a good deal of reflection on the ultimate costs we have paid thus far.
We have lost much. There can be no replacement for the thousands of American lives lost, nor the civil liberties we have sacrificed at the altar of national security. It has scarred our collective psyche and immured an entire generation in the ravages of war.
In addition there is the cost in actual dollars and cents, the one currency both sides of this war must spend. Jihad costs money. Protecting against terror attacks costs money, too. A lot of money.
Let’s review the books. Easily obtainable online estimates suggest well over one trillion dollars has been spent on the military operations waged subsequent to Bin Laden’s successful attack on September 11, 2001. Added to that are the security enhancements to our travel system, equipment personnel and incarceration costs for our federal law enforcement efforts, and small but costly covert operations, which all have price tags in the billions. In short, we have spent a staggering amount of money–easily equivalent to the entire national debt circa 1984–on defeating a few thousand, loosely banded, dangerous fanatics.How are we doing so far? Checking in with our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can see that we are still hard at work, still taking losses, and still wondering what the final outcome will look like.
Meanwhile, back in the account ledger, we also note that we are experiencing a federal budget deficit of approximately 1.6 trillion, a price tag shockingly close to our current expenditures on the entire anti-terror program. This comes at a time in our nation’s financial history that has sunk to a level of misery unsurpassed in almost 80 years.
Now let’s take a look at the accounts payable on the terrorists’ books. A quick sketch of the operations that put these wackos on the map include the first World Trade Center bombing (1993), Kenya and Tanzania Embassy bombings (1998), U.S.S. Cole attack (2000), Riyadh compound bombing (2003), and the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers (2001).
According to one intelligence source, the FBI’s best approximattion of the cost of mounting the attack on the Twin Towers was in the neighborhood of $400,000. The estimated cost of each of the other operations did not exceed $50,000, while a few required less than five thousand dollars. Rounding up this sum to the nearest million is quite simple: one million, to be precise.
By the sketchy math of an English major, our country has spent $1,500,000 for every dollar spent by the terrorists. By acknowledging this fact, and taking into account the human cost of this current financial mess, we are left with yet another awful truth. All of the money spent towards protecting ourselves has actually placed our country in a very unstable position in the global economy. The terrorists know this better than we do.
When it comes to a lengthy, protracted and exhorbitantly expensive campaign, we need to acknowledge that there may only be one way to win the war on terror–but there’s lots of ways to lose.