As a 2009 Cato Institute report put it, “Although Afghanistan has endured successive waves of Persian, Greek, Arab, Turk, Mongol, British, and Soviet invaders, no occupying power has ever successfully conquered it.” That is why it is called The Graveyard of Empires.
It’s worth noting how much the longest U.S. war in the country’s history has already cost Americans financially. The most current estimate placed the number at $841 billion, but 16 years, thousands of dead and no clear end in sight, other estimates place the cost in the trillions of dollars because they measure a broader range of factors.
And yet, even these estimates leave out expenses such as the future costs of interest we’ll owe for the money borrowed to finance this war — which will add trillions of dollars more to the total tab. And, of course, none of these estimates can account for the loss of human life on all sides as well as the physical and psychological disabilities suffered by those who survive — both military or civilian.
So, where am I going with all of this? It is significant to me that we have been able to justify borrowing and spending trillions to fight an endless, arguably unwinnable war, but when the discussion turns to access to affordable Health Care and Education or a modern infrastructure that safeguards our future and provides good jobs with fair pay for millions of hardworking Americans today, these things are somehow “a bridge too far.” Well, I don’t think so.
There is a saying that goes, “what you value, you measure.” And the cost of a thing — financially and in human tolls — is certainly a good indicator of how we measure and thus value this. It’s time we have a more robust debate about what we value.