Public Debt And America’s Wars
Public Debt And America’s Wars

Public Debt And America’s Wars

One would never know when they listen to President Obama pleading with the Congress to support him in his efforts to attack Syria that the United States has a debt problem.  This National Debt is money borrowed by the federal government that currently is fast approaching $17 trillion dollars.  The United States of America has had a public debt since January of 1835.  We ended the Civil War with a debt of $2.7 billion dollars and our debt reached $25.5 billion dollars at the conclusion of World War I.

The largest increase in our National debt occurred during the 1930s and 1940s where it went from $16 billion dollars in 1930 to $260 billion in 1950 – the majority of the debt being incurred as a result of World War II.  Since the federal government does not operate on a balanced budget, we continue to accumulate debt.  From 1981 to 1989, the debt tripled as President Reagan increased military spending and lowered taxes. Our debt continued to grow during the Vietnam war, when during 1965 to 1975, we added roughly $320 billion dollars in debt.

For the budget year of 2011, the current defense budget was $680 billion dollars mostly to cover “overseas contingency operations.”  The recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were largely funded through “supplementary spending bills” outside of the federal budget.  By the end of 2008, the United States had spent $900 billion dollars in direct costs for both wars.  By June of 2011, the total cost of the wars had reached approximately $3.7 trillion dollars.  You do not need to be a professional accountant to see that the impact on federal spending is catastrophic as we are funding our military through the budget process as well as through supplemental spending authorizations – all money that the federal government does not have.

No one is happy about the conditions in Syria.  The gassing of innocent people is tragic, especially by their own government.  The question that we have to ask is “what will the attack on Syria accomplish?”  I am afraid that no one knows the answer but is it worth the risk of a wider more devastating war in the Middle East?  The United States Navy has just sent another guided missile to the Middle East.  The cost to the United States taxpayers just in missiles alone could be in the neighborhood of $234,900,000.  The cost of feeding the sailors deployed, fuel oil for the ships and the thousands of others that keep any military machine in working order could cost easily $1 billion for even a limited strike.  Each cruise missile costs in the area of $1,450,000.

Now I hate to put dollars on the lives of the Syrian people but we have to consider what we are getting ourselves into.  If the Syrian government had submarines off the coast of New Jersey and invasion was a real consideration, we would not even debate the mobilization of our military.

I guess the wider consideration is where do we draw the line as we evaluate our foreign policy?  Can the United States afford to be the policeman of the world?  Do we really understand the issues at stake in Syria?  What about Egypt?  Are their unintended consequences to the United States if we attack Syria?  What if the attack is successful but infuriates the current Assad regime and he releases more chemicals.  Are we prepared for the next steps?  We had better tread lightly and think through what such an attack could accomplish.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer