There are lots of different ways to assess the cost of the ‘War on Terror’ over the last ten years.
One of the cost to people’s security and way of life; i.e., numerous terrorism acts in the UK, Patriot Act in the US, increased security measures at airports, suspicion at fellow citizens, terrorist scares etc.
Another is the loss of life; not just the Britons and the Americans who died on 9/11 and 7/7 but the thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghanis who died as a result of bombs and raids. The innocent dead in Spain, in Bali and terrorist attacks in other Middle Eastern countries such as Syria.
Then there is the financial cost of the WoT. Ezra Klein at the WashPo says this is what Bin Laden really wanted to see escalated:
“We, alongside the mujaheddin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt,” he later explained. The campaign taught bin Laden a lot. For one thing, superpowers fall because their economies crumble, not because they’re beaten on the battlefield. For another, superpowers are so allergic to losing that they’ll bankrupt themselves trying to conquer a mass of rocks and sand. This was bin Laden’s plan for the United States, too.
And how much did this cost the US alone?
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the price tag on the Iraq War alone will surpass $3 trillion. Afghanistan likely amounts to another trillion or two. Add in the build-up in homeland security spending since 9/11 and you’re looking at another trillion. And don’t forget the indirect costs of all this turmoil: The Federal Reserve, worried about a fear-induced recession, slashed interest rates after the attack on the World Trade Center, and then kept them low to combat skyrocketing oil prices, a byproduct of the war in Iraq. That decade of loose monetary policy may well have contributed to the credit bubble that crashed the economy in 2007 and 2008.
Then there’s the post-9/11 slowdown in the economy, the time wasted in airports, the foregone returns on investments we didn’t make, the rise in oil prices as a result of the Iraq War, the cost of rebuilding Ground Zero, health care for the first responders and much, much more.
Different people will of course focus on different aspects to this war. All are important costs. And in each case its arguable that the cost incurred in order to “defeat Bin Laden” was exactly what Bin Laden would have wanted and was way in excess of what anyone anticipated.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Terrorism