President Obama's decision to participate in the strikes in Libya has already cost U.S. taxpayers "well over $100 million," according to the National Journal. The Journal also relayed that, "the initial stages of taking out Libya's air defenses could ultimately cost...coalition forces between $400 million and $800 million." The administration launched this new war (and yes, it is a war) with no official congressional authorization, little public debate and with a vague, possibly even non-existent, endgame in mind. It's as if the lessons of the last decade are completely lost on policymakers in the United States.
Congress and the president should be ending the wars we were already in, not starting new ones in new Arab countries where even the hint of civilian casualties could quickly set fire to a bonfire of anti-U.S. sentiment. For example:
"A day after a summit meeting in Paris set the military operation in motion, a vital Arab participant in the agreement expressed unhappiness with the way the strikes were unfolding. The former chairman of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, told Egyptian state media that he was calling for an emergency league meeting to discuss the situation in the Arab world, and particularly Libya.
"'What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,' he said, referring to Libyan government claims that allied bombardment had killed dozens of civilians. "
This is what happens even when there's no definitive proof of civilian casualties. And don't kid yourself for a second: there will be civilian casualties. Just remember the opening days of the Iraq War, where none of the first 50 "precision" airstrikes hit their intended targets.
One would think that two horrendously expensive military disasters would be enough for the president and his advisers. After all, over in Afghanistan, we're already spending $1 million per soldier, per year, and spending approved by Congress will bring the total price tag just for direct Afghanistan War costs to half-a-trillion dollars this year. And that war is a caustic catastrophe that severely undermines U.S. national interests. Is a war where more troops have died this year than any other year of the conflict, where more civilians have died than any other year of the conflict, where more U.S. resources have been wasted than any other year of the conflict, not enough to hold the administration's attention?
The Obama Administration shouldn't think for a second that the fact that this expensive new military assault is taking place while policymakers are slashing basic services and public-sector jobs will be lost on the American people. This unwise military spending splurge has even caught the attention of leading Senate Republicans:
"Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Richard Lugar, R-Ind., says Congress should have had the opportunity to weigh in on what he said will be 'a very expensive operation, even in a limited way.'
"'It's a strange time in which almost all of our congressional days are spent talking about budget, deficits, outrageous problems,' Lugar said Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation. 'And yet [at the] same time, all of this passes.'"
The American people want Congress and the administration to be ending the wars which we were already fighting before this weekend, not starting new ones. We couldn't afford the other two wars we were already fighting before the cruise missiles started flying over Libya. This new war makes us less safe and spends precious resources on a war with an alarmingly vague end-game.
But hey, just remember the silver lining: Every time a Tomahawk cruise missile blows up a building in Libya (and everyone inside it), war-profiteer Raytheon makes $1.5 million.
If you're fed up with wars that don't make us safer and that aren't worth the cost, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and meet others who share your views at your local Rethink Afghanistan Meetup.