By Sajjad Shaukat for VT
The former Soviet Union which had subjugated ethnic and religious communities in various provinces and regions through its military disintegrated in 1991. Even, its nuclear weapons could not save its collapse. One of the major causes of the disintegration of the former Russian Empire was that its greater defense expenditures exceeded the maximum, resulting in economic crises inside the country. In this regard, about a prolonged war in Afghanistan, former President Gorbachev had declared it as the “bleeding wound.” While learning no lesson, in one way or the other, the US has been acting upon similar policies which led to the demise of the Soviet Union.
The post-Napoleonic era in Europe proves that it is not possible to suppress the wars of liberation through military terrorism. In that context, Prince Metternich, emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire did what he could by subjugating the alien peoples by employing every possible technique of state terrorism. According to Indian historian, Mahahin, Metternich had to admit that he was fighting for a useless cause, and the empire disintegrated, resulting in the independence of Italy, Bulgaria and other states whose secret societies had been waging wars of liberation. In the recent past, despite the employment of unlimited atrocities by President Milosevic, the collapse of the former Yugoslavia could not be stopped.
However, a recent report points out, that approximately $1.7 trillion has been spent by the United States on the global war on terror from 2001 to start of 2016. These are supplemental funds that are in addition to the base budget for the Department of Defense. This different war further added to the $18 trillion US debt. It does not include the expenses incurred by other departments, such as the FBI or State Department, or the cost to run Homeland Security.
Various sources such as the Congressional Research Service and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (May 2015) state, “In the last 13 years, the United States has spent a total of $1.6 trillion financing military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of the global war on terror. The U.S. government’s massive spending sum includes the cost of military operations, the training of security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, reconstruction, weapons maintenance, base support, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care…the decade-long wars in the Middle East would eventually cost American taxpayers as much as $6 trillion…training and equipment for Iraqi and Syrian opposition forces” will further increase the US cost of war…the true cost of the War on Terror also added to the lost jobs that could have been created with those funds. Every $1 billion spent on defense creates 8,555 jobs and adds $565 million to the economy…another major share of the long-term costs of the wars comes from paying off trillions of dollars in debt incurred as the U.S. government failed to include their cost in annual budgets and simultaneously implemented sweeping tax cuts for the rich.”
In fact, learned no lesson from the flawed policies of Bush, such as the failure of the project of globalization, failure of power factor or force in coping with terrorists, more terror attacks by Al-Qaeda in various regions of the world, and demoralization of the US troops in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama continued state terrorism and extrajudicial killings of the innocent persons through illegitimate drone attacks—assisting undemocratic forces, the return of a military strongman in Egypt by toppling the elected government, and like Iraq, creation of more failed states such as Libya, Syria, Yemen etc. which opened the door for Al-Qaeda and ISIL activists. In these terms, after 14 years of the protracted war, a perennial wave of attacks on the US and NATO installations and ambush assaults on their military personnel by the Taliban in Afghanistan, terror attacks on Christians in Nigeria and other African countries including Iraq—sectarian violence and some terror-attacks inside America, France and UK deteriorated the global war on terror. Thus, besides reduction of the US bargaining leverage on small countries like North Korea, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Cuba etc. who have rejected American undue pressure on a number of issues and matters, and leakage of Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), (An agreement to suppress sovereign democratic rights in favour of multinational corporations), President Obama caused political and economic instability in the world, jeopardizing the American regional and global interests.
President Barack Obama campaigned on defense reduction, but his spending on war on terror since 2010 is $719.3 billion, as compare to President Bush’s expenditure of $921.4 billion. Deficit spending intensified. It was more than $100 billion a year until 2012, and greater than $50 billion annually through 2016. Reducing deficit resulted into to conflict within Congress, and in 2013, tea party Republicans shut down the government.
A study conducted by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies has indicated America’s “wastage of billions of dollars on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, private contractors like Blackwater in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan…linked to bribery, questionable contract awards, and outright theft…those costs have been hidden from public view.”
Besides, support to the rebels, Kurds, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS (Islamic State group) terrorists in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere in the world, including covert operations of the CIA worsened the US financial crisis.
The Department of Defense has spent more than $2.7 billion—some $9 million per day—since the US began operations against ISIS in 2013 which reached $14 million per day to combat ISIS in the fiscal year 2015.
As the military campaign against the Islamic State expands into Syria, its cost will increase as well. According to one defense spending expert, “The United States’ war on the militant group could now be costing taxpayers up to $1.5 billion a month. The training and equipping the Kurdish ground forces and moderate militants of Syria and those in Saudi Arabia to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will cost more than $ 5 billion.”
Some recent developments have clearly exposed the double game of the US-led West. The Russia-led coalition which have successfully been achieving its objectives have broken the backbone of the ISIS terrorists, Al-Qaeda’s Al-Nusra Front and the rebels who have vacated most of the areas of Syria and Iraq. On February 3, this year, Syrian troops backed by Russian warplanes cut the last supply route, linking rebels and ISIS militants in Aleppo city. Aleppo is near the Turkish border from where with the assistance of the US-led west (Especially, UK and France), Turkey has also been supporting the rebels and ISIS terrorists, while Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf countries like are funding them to oust Assad.
Meanwhile, rift has also been created between the US and its close NATO ally Turkey, when on February 10, 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the US over its support for Syria’s main Kurdish group, saying, “The failure to recognise the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a terrorist group is creating a “sea of blood” in Syria. He explained, “The PYD, on which the US relies to battle so-called Islamic State in Syria, is an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”
Notably, by concealing their clandestine aims, the US and its European allies were blaming Russia to sabotage Geneva the talks on Syria. Meanwhile, big power agreed on February 12, this year at Munich to seek a ceasefire and a nationwide “cessation of hostilities” in Syria. But, Turkey continues its massive shelling against Kurdish targets in northwest Syria. Now, Washington and Paris have called on Ankara to stop bombardment and vacate the Syrian air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels, pointing out that it will disrupt the Munich settlement. At the same time, with the covert backing of the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are planning to start a ground offensive in Syria. In other words, escalation of the conflict will further increase the cost of the US different war.
Besides, in the post-Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, in wake of the anti-Muslim developments like the propaganda of the so-called threat of Islamophobia, persecution of the Muslims in the US, Europe, and some other western countries, exaggeration of the threat of ISIS terrorists etc., America and its western allies (NATO) have united against Russia. Now, as part of their ambivalent approach, American jet fighters and those of its western coalition are targeting the ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. However, coupled with the double game towards Al-Qaeda and ISIS, such an irresponsible approach of the US-led western politicians will expand the course of the different war—will invite more terror attacks in the US and Europe, giving a larger setback to the economy of their countries, and being the largest economy, the US which have already been facing fiscal crisis will be badly affected.
Taking cognizance of the grievances of the international community, and the sole superpower’s injustices, Russian President Vladimir Putin is rapidly restoring the balance of power in the world. In this context, a new cold war between America and Russia has started in the world. In this connection, Russia which also has China’s support, though Beijing does not openly show it, is in a better position than the US and its western (NATO) allies who are also entangled in Afghanistan and the Middle East. This cold war will enhance American expenditures by deepening the US momentary problems, while it is already been becoming difficult for the sole superpower to maintain its military bases abroad.
It is noteworthy that on August 16, 2007, during the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), their leaders displayed strength against the rising dominance of the US in the region, and called for a multi-polar system in the world. President Putin had even proposed defense cooperation among the member states. Participating in the Summit in 2015, Pakistan and Iran got permanent membership of the SCO which is seen as an anti-American club.
While, in the case of Afghanistan, there are several groups of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban like the Afghan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Some of them are being used by secret agencies like the CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW to obtain the collective and individual designs of their countries against Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries. India and Israel which want to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan which have become the center of covert activities are manipulating their dual policy, particularly of America against Pakistan, China, and Iran. Terrorists of ISIS and TTP which are strategic assets of the CIA have claimed responsibility for several terror attacks inside Pakistan, including at the Charsadda’s university of Pakistan and recent ones in Afghanistan. In these adverse circumstances, especially, American strategy to boost up the defence of India to counterbalance China will fail, as instability in the region will give a blow to the US interests.
On February 2, 2016, US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter announced the US plans to increase significantly its military presence in Europe to (Eastern Europe), saying that it would lead to a quadrupling of funding to 3.4 billion US dollars in 2017 for the US force posture in Europe, and would be a timely and significant contribution to NATO’s collective defence, and security of Europe.
On the other side, while describing financial problems like the sharp decline in stock prices, less available credit, etc., the US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made this clear in congressional testimony on February 10, 2016, by stating, “The United States has recently become less supportive of growth…she sees an economy that faces increased risk.”
It is of particular attention that there is a co-relationship of US internal and external policies. In this respect, on January 12, 2016, John W. Whitehead wrote in The Huffington Post, “Only 1 in 5 Americans trust the government…the majority of the people are not quite ready to ditch the American experiment in liberty. Indeed, Americans may not approve of the jobs being done by their elected leaders, they are working themselves into a frenzy over the upcoming presidential election, with contributions to the various candidates nearing $ 500 million…the government has shown itself to be corrupt, abusive, hostile to citizens who disagree, as Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House shows…no matter how much hope and change were promised, what we’ve ended up with something worse: an invasive, authoritarian surveillance state armed and ready to eliminate any opposition. The state of our nation has become more bureaucratic, more debt-ridden, more violent, more militarized, more fascist, more lawless, more invasive, more corrupt, more untrustworthy, more mired in war, and more unresponsive to the wishes and needs of the electorate…the government’s arsenal is growing. While the Obama administration is working to limit the public’s access to guns by pushing for greater gun control, it’s doing little to scale back on the federal government’s growing of firepower and militarized equipment. The national debt is growing. In fact, it’s almost doubled during Obama’s time in office to nearly $20 trillion.”
He elaborated, “Meanwhile, almost half of Americans are struggling to save for emergencies and retirement, 43% can’t afford to go more than one month without a paycheck, and 24% have less than $250 in their bank accounts preceding payday…over half a million in the U.S. are homeless and half of them are elderly, the American police state’s payroll is expanding. The prison population is growing at an alarming rate…the nation’s infrastructure…railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports, and roads…is rapidly deteriorating…the expense of those endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers$ 4 trillion to $ 6 trillion.”
Nevertheless, the cost of these long-term military engagements purely in terms of dollars will accelerate multiple problems for Americans, including casualties and frustration in troops and their families, which will further add to the internal problems of America, especially backfiring on the ordinary Americans.
It is notable that the US is the homeland of various communities, divided into ethnic, religious, and linguistic lines, having affiliations with their own groups. In this regard, in his book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” Samuel Huntington opines, America was founded by British settlers who brought with them a distinct culture…the English language, Protestant values, individualism, religious commitment…the waves of immigrants later came to the United States gradually accepted these values and assimilated into America’s Anglo-Protestant culture. More recently, however, our national identity has been eroded by the problems of assimilating massive immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico might lead to the bifurcation of the United States.”
Returning to our earlier discussion, President Gorbachev had called Afghanistan a “bleeding wound” which culminated in collapse of former Russia. In the same sense, the global war on terror is likely to prove a “bleeding wound” for the US which is moving on the Soviet Union’s tract of disintegration.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is the author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org