Can the U.S. Afford Syria?
During World War II, unprecedented federal spending resulted in a never-before seen level of government debt. Naturally, as soon as the war ended, America's debt-to-GDP ratio began to decline. As government spending began to consume less and less of GDP, the economy boomed.
Yet today, even as we leave Iraq and Afghanistan, which according to one long-term projection are the nation's most expensive wars in history, the economy is still mired in anemic growth and the national debt continues to skyrocket.
And now, the president is banging the drums for military intervention in Syria.
As Congress discusses and debates potential action in Syria, it is incumbent upon our national leaders to recognize the fiscal realities of war in the 21st Century. Simply put, we cannot afford any more wars that use the traditional manner of funding that we have used in the past.
In previous wars, the American people would accept that incurring more debt was a cost offset by the necessity of making the nation -- and sometimes, the world -- a safer place in response to an existential threat. In those times, citizens understood that the sacrifice of our nation's service members and the burden of more debt were necessary in order to protect our way of life from irreparable harm.
The realities of America's national debt make the cost of military intervention for any lesser reason completely unjustified. Therefore, if the pPresident makes the unwise decision to engage militarily in the Syrian conflict, Congress should require spending offsets to match whatever costs are incurred.
There is no agreed-upon cost of Syrian intervention. However, we can get a generally good idea based upon a few factors:
• Per PolicyMic, Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (which would be implemental in this conflict) cost approximately $1.4 million each.
• The cost of Air Force tankers in the first weeks of the Libyan conflict alone were over $9 million -- never mind the cost of missiles, ships, and the like.
• The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that intervention could cost $1 billion or more per month, depending on the depth of America's intended mission in Syria.
Of course, it's easy enough to say we should offset spending on another military conflict. The difficulty come with identifying areas to cut that are acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans. And with sequestration taking effect, establishment elements in both parties say not much more can be eliminated from the budget. However, they are mistaken. At $1 billion per month, this means a grand total of about 1/300th of the one-year equivalent of the federal budget would be spent -- a budget chock full of fraud, duplication, improper payments, and simply inefficient programs.
So where could the costs be offset? Here are a few examples:
1. Energy subsidies cost about $10 billion per year.
2. Duplication costs at least $200 billion per year -- over $16 billion per month.
3. Medicare fraud alone totals at least $5 billion per month.
4. Farm subsidies add up to at least $20 billion per year, or almost $2 billion per month.
5. Many billions are spent annually on unused federal properties -- selling them would decrease costs and give a temporary boost to deficit reduction efforts. A two-for-one deal.
It's simple: The fiscal realities of 21st-century American warfare dictate the costs of any new conflicts must be offset with spending reductions elsewhere in the budget. To do anything less would be a dereliction of our current generation's duty to the next, not to mention bringing a different kind of existential crisis upon our country.