The biggest waste of wars lies in the loss of human lives, not to mention the trauma that war inflicts on those who have to live through it. But in addition, wars also waste immense amounts of money that could have been so much better used to improve the lives of the people in those countries made their lives so much better. Instead, wars destroy what infrastructure they have so the people in war-torn countries are harmed in multiple ways.
Jonathan Turley writes that even winding down a war involves a massive waster of equipment. He points to the case of Afghanistan where the US military is deliberately destroying valuable equipment because it would cost more to bring it all back to America.
Some 20 percent of our equipment in Afghanistan will be destroyed or abandoned rather than ship it home. Much of the equipment will be shredded to make pennies for Afghans.
By the way, some of the trashed equipment will be the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles that were built at huge expensive starting in 2007. Now a few year later, the Pentagon says that it really does not see the use for about 12,300 of its 25,500 MRAPs. These vehicles cost $1 million each and will now be turned into pennies or scrap.
So if you are keeping score that is over $12 billion worth of expensive, sophisticated vehicles deliberately destroyed.
The Washington Post reports on yet more waste such as a massive 64,000 square foot, $34 million military headquarters that was constructed in the Helmand region of Afghanistan despite the commanders there saying they did not want or need it. It seems like no expense was spared in building it.
The building’s amenities also have prompted alarm among senior officers. A two-star Marine general who has toured the facility called it “better appointed than any Marine headquarters anywhere in the world.” A two-star Army general said the operations center is as large as those at the U.S. Central Command or the supreme allied headquarters in Europe.
“What the hell were they thinking?” the Army general said. “There was never any justification to build something this fancy.”
It is now facing the prospect of being torn down without having ever been used. So why not give it to the Afghans when the US leaves, since at least they might benefit from it?
Although the handoff sounds appealing, U.S. officials doubt the Afghans will be able to sustain the structure. It has complex heating and air-conditioning systems that demand significant amounts of electricity, which, in turn, require costly fuel purchases for generators. The building is wired for 110-volt appliances, not the 220-volt equipment used by Afghans. And, the officials note, the U.S. military recently built a new headquarters building on the Afghan base that adjoins Leatherneck. [My italics-MS]
It is the mismatched electrical system that really gets me, suggesting that the builders knew from the start that this had of no long-term value and yet they made it fancy anyway. And all this to what end? As Turley says:
Even accepting this cost-benefit analysis, we are still left with the insane cost of these wars. Few people in government are willing to admit how little we have accomplished in these wars. China is moving into Iraq and taking oil rights and other benefits. Iraq has moved under the sphere of influence of Iran. The Taliban is on the rise in Afghanistan and we continue to be hated in many areas.
There is of course a reason for this colossal waste for no apparent return. Wars do not serve just political or military purposes. They are also a means by which governments can give public money to private companies to provide equipment and services with o questions asked. It would be hard for the government to make the case that the public should simply give giant corporations like General Electric huge sums of money. But say that GE is building a massive system to ‘protect us from terrorist attacks’ and the public happily accepts handing out huge checks.
Wars should really be seen as a welfare program for the high-tech and construction industries.