Posted by: Tony Carson | 12 November, 2009

Obama: deciding to invest in America?

Oh, say it is so.

President Obama appears to have accepted his ambassador to Afghanistan’s advice to not increase the American troop commitment until the Karzai government has proven its competence. One man who’s not happy about it? General Stanley McChrystal. The BBC reports that McChrystal is “fuming” about Ambassador Karl Eikenberry’s intervention. Previously, Eikenberry served as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan for two years. — Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet.

It wasn’t just his ambassador’s advice, it was, by all accounts, the advise of a vast majority of the people who voted for him.

Beyond the obviously questionable morality of the Afghanistan occupation, there is hard logic for declining to escalate the war at a time when the US has a series of hard economic choices to be made at home. NY Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof in America’s Defining Choice explains:

President Obama and Congress will soon make defining choices about health care and troops for Afghanistan.

These two choices have something in common — each has a bill of around $100 billion per year. So one question is whether we’re better off spending that money blowing up things in Helmand Province or building up things in America.

The total bill in Afghanistan has been running around $1 million per year per soldier deployed there. That doesn’t include the long-term costs that will be incurred in coming decades — such as disability benefits, or up to $5 million to provide round-the-clock nursing care indefinitely for a single soldier who suffers brain injuries.

So if President Obama dispatches another 30,000 or 40,000 troops, on top of the 68,000 already there, that would bring the total annual bill for our military presence there to perhaps $100 billion — or more. And we haven’t even come to the human costs.

As for health care reforms, the 10-year cost suggests an average of $80 billion to $110 billion per year, depending on what the final bill looks like.

If it’s true and Obama really is going to decide not to escalate the war but invest at home, it will feel like a victory for the little guy over the out-of-control military industrial complex. It will mean there is some hope for common sense.
Could this be the start of a paradigm shift?

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