War versus domestic programs. You decide.
We found the numbers in this Bloomberg report on the war costs in Afghanistan stunning.
Let’s grab just a few to make a point.
Since we invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, the U.S. has spent $468.5 billion or $3.4 billion per month on the war there, excluding reconstruction projects, State Department funding and intelligence.
That number has risen to $5.9 billion per month for the current fiscal year. Not sure why, since we’re supposed to be winding that mess down. But that’s a discussion for another day.
But think about what we might have spent those Afghanistan war dollars on rather than an occupation that has done nothing more than 1) shoo al-Qaeda into neighboring Pakistan because we failed to complete the search for them in Afghanistan; 2) put a corrupt, but fairly western-hegemony-complicit, regime in Kabul; 3) kill at least 16,725 innocent civilians caught up in the violence; and 4) kill 2,227 U.S. servicemen and women, as of this posting.
On the other hand, we did add untold billions to defense contractor coffers. And that was good for the economy, right? The U.S. economy, not the Afghan’s, for which we care naught.
We took at look at some figures from the amazing site of the National Priorities Project and found that for a month’s worth of fighting in Afghanistan ($3.4B), we could have provided a full year of federal funding to these programs in our home state of Oregon:
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); Pell Grants; Head Start; U.S. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); school lunch program; section 8 housing vouchers; special education grants; renewable energy research and development; adult education; College Work Study Program; Food Stamps; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; WIC;
… and still had over a billion dollars left over.
Without the Afghanistan invasion, maybe we could have actually boosted funding to some of the critically underfunded programs and those that now appear on the sky-is-falling-deficit-problem chopping block. In poll after poll, the public says it would prefer higher education and health care funding in place of Pentagon bloat.
But instead we have Afghanistan…like an albatross hanging around our collective necks for the next who knows how many years.
The next time we’re about to launch a war of choice, demand your legislators respect your priorities. If you still think we have a democracy, use it.
Final note: Don’t get us wrong. We love the people of Afghanistan and feel we should do our best now to make their lives whole where possible. So reconstruction and public safety programs have some merit. We should continue funding those as we depart as quickly as possible.
 Figures based on 2011 data.