I thought that I should address the elephant in the room in regards to defense spending: the War on Terror. I located a convenient article from The Balance to provide a quick rundown of the general timeline and finances. George W. Bush initiated the WoT in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks. He specified that the WoT would continue until the world was rid of terrorist groups. That year the U.S. initiated the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, also targeting the Taliban for abetting him. And, in 2003, we invaded Iraq and dismantled Saddam Hussein’s regime. The efforts continued through Obama’s presidency and evolved into a fight against ISIS and affiliates. Now, after a slight die-down of spending and action in the late years of Obama, Trump has added fuel (troop commitments & spending) to the proverbial fire with Operations Freedom Sentinel (Afghanistan) and Inherent Resolve (Iraq and Syria). Until now, the WoT has cost the U.S. more than $2,100,000,000,000.

Of course the Iraq War and Afghan War have been litigated countless times and probably will be litigated many more. But, it seems we have come to accept the War on Terror without much question. Even in concept, the WoT is problematic. How can we declare war on a broad category of ideology-based actions? It is good to know about imminent threats and to act defensively to mitigate them. But, declaring war on ideological categories is akin to declaring war on physics. How can one destroy gravity or inertia? It would be useful to ask oneself, are we safer in the world now than we were before we spent $2.1 trillion? And besides the monetary cost, what else have we and the rest of the world paid in this quest? Is this quest worth relinquishing due process (warrantless wiretapping and drone strikes against American citizens without trials)? How many people could have lived had we not invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan? Would we be safer and more prosperous had we dedicated funds and efforts to addressing the root causes, the conditions in which terrorism breeds? The country would benefit greatly if we began evaluating our policies and policymakers beforehand instead of following them unquestionably. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but if we accept policies without skepticism of their intent and efficacy, we stand to lose a lot of life, liberty, and money.