According to Army General George Casey, the United States will likely be engaged in extended conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq for the next decade or so. He also stated that American military efforts must combine economic, educational, and other nation building measures to ensure long-term success against global extremism.
While Casey’s position seems to reflect the consensus position, both in the military and in the Bush-Obama administrations, a number of concerns should be more closely examined.
First, the United States is mired in $13 trillion of debt, which is projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to hit $20 trillion by 2020.
Second, the United States is nearly three years into the Great Recession, and some economists and trends analysts are growing increasingly worried by the prospect of another significant downturn in the near future.
Third, as I’ve previously documented, the United States military is experiencing a PTSD dilemma and record suicide rate due to repeated, extended deployments. Even General Casey, in his discussion, mentioned the necessity of better providing for the long-term health of soldiers.
Fourth, over 5,000 soldiers have already been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, with well over 30,000 maimed for life. These numbers continue to spike as the Afghanistan War escalates.
Simply put, without major cuts in other areas of the federal budget, protracted military conflicts and nation building efforts will prove fiscally unsustainable. Yet, neither party appears to possess the will to make these drastic cuts while prosecuting open-ended overseas wars.
In addition, ten more years of Afghanistan and Iraq-like operations will also place further psychological and physical strain on a military that is already stretched to the limit. In order to avoid repeated deployments to multiple war theaters, civilian leadership would need to consider calling for a draft, employing more mercenaries (private contractors), shifting soldiers from our other 700+ bases around the world, or somehow boosting current recruitment levels.
As America is nearly nine years into the Afghanistan War, over seven years into the Iraq War, and continuing to suffer from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it would do well to think long and hard about the potential economic, social, and strategic ramifications of another ten years of global war.