Thursday, June 18, 2009
Instead of an eye for an eye...how about a dollar for a dollar...
So last night I was at a friend's place where we watched the movie, "Charlie Wilson's War". If you're not familiar with the story, it's all about the war in Afghanistan between the Afghans and the Soviets. Well, long story short, the Soviets were rolling over the Afghans pretty easily before Charlie Wilson was coerced into helping and basically pushed for all the funding for this war. In the end the Afghans beat back the Soviets due to the ample amounts of money that was given by the US that was used to buy weapons and training for the Afghan troops.
Now you may be thinking, "So what?" Well here's what. At the end of the war, after the Soviets leave Afghanistan, Charlie Wilson urges his subcommittee to continue financial aid to Afghanistan in which he is roundly denied. The US stops aid to Afghanistan and turned reconstruction efforts over to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which in turn strike up deals with Warlords and later Taliban to rule Afghanistan. One of these warlords was a young Osama bin Laden.
So you may be asking, "What's your point Kyle, what are you getting at? Are you blaming the US for putting Osama in charge?" NO, NOT AT ALL! What happened, happened. We cannot change the history books, we can only learn from them. Charlie Wilson said after the war, "These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world, and then we [screwed] up the end game." Now I'm not going to say that Charlie Wilson had the mental capacity to see where and how Afghanistan would influence the world 12 years later, but you have to think that he believed we let the people down because we did NOT stay and support the reconstruction.
Ok, now to my point. I was thinking through this and how it relates to our current wars that we're in (and possible future war with North Korea?). Currently the financial cost is projected to be $1.6 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since they began. That trillion with a TRI not a BI. Now thinking to the Soviet-Afghan war in the 80's, Charlie Wilson pushed for more and more money and finally got the annual budget for the war up to $1 Billion...so the Iraq and Afghan wars are costing over a hundred times more. The money that was in the budget was used to train troops and buy weapons to fight the Soviets, war costs that you would see with any war. But there was no money for reconstruction...again, costs that you will see with ANY war. When there is a war, there is always collateral damage (i.e. buildings, economic infrastructure, INNOCENT PEOPLE) so there is ALWAYS a need for reconstruction. My question is, why, when proposing a war budget/plan don't the people in charge plan into their budget the costs of reconstruction? If in the Soviet-Afghan War we were spending $1 Billion to fight the Soviets, why wouldn't we think that $1 Billion is an ample amount of money needed to rebuild what's getting destroyed? I know it takes decades to rebuild after a war, but why don't we plan for that? AND if we do, why don't we ever HEAR about it? I think the American people may be a little more supportive of a war if they are told when it's proposed, "We are planning to invade (Country) and it will costs X amount of dollars to fight the war, and we are willing to spend X amount of dollars to rebuild the country after the war." I think if we were more geared towards liberation and reconstruction instead of liberation and abandonment the common view of Americans wouldn't be so negative. If our goals are Freedom and Justice for ALL, it does NOT end after we kill the bad guys, it ends after we have restored what was lost or being abused.
What I'm saying is that for every dollar we spend to eliminate evil, we HAVE to be spending a dollar to restore justice...and they CANNOT be the same dollar. Think of it this way, there are numerous organizations that are set up to sponsor children in impoverished countries. We as Christians LOVE these organizations (no sarcasm implied). The various ministries in my church alone sponsor four children. With Compassion International you spend roughly $500 a year which gives that child food, clothing, education, and medicine so they can grow up healthy. 27% of the world's population is estimated to be youth, under the age of 15. In July of 2008 there were an estimated 6.7 billion people in the world. Which means that there are an estimated 1.81 Billion people under the age of 15 in the world. Now, if they were all to be sponsored by Compassion International (I know they're not ALL in third world countries, but stick with me here), that means that sponsoring 1.81 billion kids would cost $905 Billion. Now think of it this way, we're spending $1.6 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we would match that cost of war with a cost of charity/social justice we could support EVERY child in the world and still have $700 Billion left to help everyone else!
We can also look at it this way, according to Charity:Water, 80% of all sickness and disease can be cured by clean water. Also, 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean water. It costs between $4,000-$12,000 to dig a freshwater well. They have funded 1247 wells that serve and estimated 650,000 people. So, by simple math we can assume that each well serves 520 people. And in order to have freshwater wells that serve every person that doesn't have access to one, we'd need 2.12 million wells, which would cost between 8.46 and 25.38 billion dollars. So even after sponsoring each child in the world ($905B) and eliminating 80% of ALL sickness in the world ($26B, which would in turn minimize the health care costs of the children which would shrink that $905 billion, but I don't know what those numbers would be), we would still have $674 Billion to play with. We could do outrageous and crazy things like build, maintain, and operate schools throughout the world ($12,500 per school). We could end hunger and malnutrition (which can be done for the low low cost of $19 Billion). We could even fully fund (and over-fund) the World Health Organization ($3 Billion). Think of that, for the cost of what the US is going to spend on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2009 we could provide water, food, health care, education, AND sponsor EVERY child in the world...and still have money left over.
BUT will we ever do this? No. Why not? Because we never plan that far ahead. If we plan reconstruction into the mix, the funds set aside are DRASTICALLY reduced. So far since 2003, the US has only spent $49 billion to help rebuild Iraq. That translates into the US spending just over 3% of the costs of the war on reconstruction. Hmmmm...to me that tells me that the powers that be aren't committed to rebuilding anything. They're committed to protecting our troops (which is a good thing, don't get me wrong), they're committed to eliminating opposing forces (again, good), but when it comes to sweeping up and gluing the pieces back together...naw, we'll let someone else do it.
Now I'm sorry if this turned into a long drawn out rant about financial policy during wartime, but when you run the numbers, it seems that a lot more could be done WORLDWIDE instead of concentrated in the Middle East. Yes, I support bringing the troops home...but only if we're committed to sending people/organizations over to clean up the mess. We cannot allow the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to fend for themselves, and we cannot allow neighboring countries (which tend to hate us, but love our oil money) to set up governments. If we do that we'll end up with more dictators in charge that hate us and we'll be back there by 2030.