Friday, August 3, 2007

Until Now, The Hidden Costs of War



One of the factors hastening the decline of the former Soviet Union was the seemingly unending war in Afghanistan. America’s war on terror is like the former Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan.

If the bridge falling into the Mississippi in Minnesota is any indication, the United States is rotting from the inside as we spend every dime and resource on a quagmire and civil war of our own creation. The war on terror threatens the very fabric of our country and has already profoundly damaged the way the rest of the world views Americans. If we are not careful, we may face a fate similar to our Soviet counterparts of yester-year.

Until that bridge fell this week, the most commonly known costs of the war on terror were: 3662 dead soldiers in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; 25,000 wounded; costs expected to reach at least one trillion dollars at a rate of two billion dollars per week; currently, the total cost is close to 500 billion dollars; untold numbers of Iraqi dead.

Then there are the costs of rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq and Afghanistan. We also know that our reputation in the world has been irreversibly damaged, and that many more people hate us now than when the towers fell on September 11th. Back then, many countries stood with us and deplored the terrorists’ actions. Even our enemies, like Cuba and Venezuela expressed sympathy and a desire to send aid. We have squandered whatever goodwill and support the world offered us after 9-11. America is now viewed as an imperialistic bully after one thing in the Middle East: oil.

We can now add some additional costs revealed in our crumbling infrastructure:

· As reports now indicate, the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis is only one of 70,000 bridges across America that were deemed deficient. CBS News reported that one such bridge is the Brooklyn Bridge which failed its recent inspection report.

· In July, a steam pipe exploded under the street of Manhattan causing panic in the streets and a massive response from city agencies.

· In addition, we have problems with flight delays in the airline industry, often tied to airport facility construction and lack of an adequate number of gates and ground facilities to accommodate arriving aircraft.

· America has struggled to recover from natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in the gulf region. Much of the city of New Orleans was flooded due to failure of the dike and drainage system. Government agencies were slow to respond, and the rebuilding of housing and infrastructure has taken longer than expected, severely impacting the city’s economic future.

· Across the country, the rail system is in desperate need of maintenance and upgrading in order to continue the transportation of goods around the nation.

The amount of money it will take to repair all the bridges is not clear. The Associated Press reports it will take $55 billion, but gives no time table. The American Society of Civil Engineers puts the cost at $9.4 billion a year for twenty years to remedy the problem.

The tragedy that occurred Wednesday might be a symptom of what is coming in this country as our infrastructure begins to fail. Like the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the war on terror is bankrupting the country, depleting military resources, and destroying our credibility as a nation; now we are seeing the war’s effect on infrastructure.

We must put more money and effort into securing our lives here at home. This means health care, Social Security, and basic necessities of food and clean water for all Americans. This means investing in our infrastructure, to restore roadways and highways, to reinforce bridges and waterways, and to fund projects that keep our cities and people safe.

To extricate ourselves from this war and restore our reputation in the world will take a leader with more intelligence and vision than George W. Bush.

To restore and upgrade our sagging infrastructure will take time and money.

As we saw on the evening news Wednesday, the imperative to do all of this has reached a crisis of necessity.