The United States since the beginning of the so-called War on Terrorism has been embroiled in endless war.
So after President Donald Trump last week echoed the same phrase—“mission accomplished”—declared by former President George W. Bush shortly after the Iraq invasion of 2003, the pundits didn’t seem too hopeful.
The U.S. has a habit in modern history of intervening internationally and sticking around for a while.
The question is why. To perpetuate conflict, you need a perpetual enemy. That’s entirely different than saying terrorists aren’t a threat at any level. But at some point, we need to stop and examine our role in creating enemies around the globe.
And how do we create enemies?
We first create casualties.
A rise in terrorism coincided with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a 2014 report by the peace education group, Vision of Humanity.
Drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 424 and 969 civilians. Civilian casualties under the Obama administration fell to an average of two civilians per three strikes, down from three civilian deaths per strike under the Bush administration, according to the non-profit journalism project, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
To put this in perspective, roughly 370,000 people have died because of the war violence in the Middle East, a 2017 report by Brown University found. Roughly 200,000 civilians have died because of violence in the conflicts. More than 10 million Afghanis, Iraqis and Pakistanis are war refugees.
The report also found the U.S. Military is conducting counterterror activities in 76 countries. Federal funding of reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan has topped $170 billion. The cost of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria is roughly $5.6 trillion.
By contrast, the Department of Defense reported last year that the cost of the conflicts totaled $1.5 trillion.
And why do we create enemies? I’m forced to believe either officials think they’re responsibly defusing the threat of terrorism at home and abroad, a paradigm history doesn’t support, or there’s some benefit to creating perpetual instability globally.
A 2014 piece for National Public Radio examined several global conflicts involving U.S. troops over the past several decades.
“U.S. support has consistently given rebels a boost in the short term, sometimes leading to outright victory. But battlefield success is never the end of the story. Unanticipated consequences often play out years later, casting the mission in a very different light,” wrote the author.
So while we fund conflicts in the Middle East—the State Department funneled $300 million into Qatar and $1.3 billion into Saudi Arabia just in April—and build infrastructure for our military there, I hope Trump’s mission (air strike) in Damascus, Syria is indeed finished. But I’m skeptical.