Sunday, December 28, 2014

Time to drop false expectations about Obama's upcoming speech

Anyone who expects savings from the Afghan war to be used to build bridges in Baltimore and Kansas City, not Baghdad and Kandahar (as per the plea from the U.S. Conference of Mayors this week) is dreaming.

Time to drop false expectations about Obama’s upcoming speech

Anyone who expects savings from the Afghan war to be used to build bridges in Baltimore and Kansas City, not Baghdad and Kandahar  (as per the plea from the U.S. Conference of Mayors this week) is dreaming.

For one thing, the big bucks being spent in Afghanistan are mainly going for war-fighting  expenses, not economic aid to Afghans.   We reportedly spend about $10 billion a month there for military expenditures and around $3-4 billion per year on economic aid. On my recent trip to Kandahar, I didn’t notice any U.S.-built bridges. Most of the USAID money spent there is on efforts to dissuade local farmers from planting poppy. Those efforts aren’t very successful, to be sure, but the tens of millions dispersed wouldn’t make a dent in renewing U.S. infrastructure.

Furthermore, even if all the US troops came home tomorrow (impossible, of course), the reduction in Pentagon spending wouldn’t transfer into a surge of American bridge-building.  The obstacles to renewing U.S. infrastructure (and thus creating jobs) are more ideological than financial.

Today’s Congress, with a Republican-led house, would regard a transfer of military funds to rebuilding failing U.S. infrastructure as – perish the thought – stimulus spending.

More coverage
 
Polman: GOP begins to question Afghan war
Video: Trudy Rubin on Obama's troop withdrawal plan

Moreover, the same congressional voices that backed the Iraq war (which has cost 2-3 times  our Afghan outlay), endorsed tax cuts for the rich, rather than asking Americans to pay for our wars as we fought them.  Were those tax cuts rescinded, there might be some money in the till for infrastructure. But it’s illusionary to expect that any savings from Afghanistan will save bridges in Baltimore from collapse.

Trudy Rubin Inquirer Opinion Columnist
About this blog

Trudy Rubin’s Worldview column runs on Thursdays and Sundays. In 2009-2011 she has made four lengthy trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the past seven years, she visited Iraq eleven times, and also wrote from Iran, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, China, and South Korea.

She is the author of Willful Blindness: the Bush Administration and Iraq, a book of her columns from 2002-2004. In 2001 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary and in 2008 she was awarded the Edward Weintal prize for international reporting. In 2010 she won the Arthur Ross award for international commentary from the Academy of American Diplomacy.

Reach Trudy at trubin@phillynews.com.

Trudy Rubin Inquirer Opinion Columnist
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