Richard W. Vague
is cofounder of Energy Plus, a Philadelphia-based energy company, and is a founding member of the Afghanistan Study Group.
My fellow fiscal conservatives are letting me down. At a time when we desperately need to cut the deficit, they are standing by while the Obama administration spends $119 billion per year in Afghanistan, which is a country with a gross national product of only $14 billion a year.
Conservatives fought tooth and nail against the health-care program, which costs far less than our occupation of Afghanistan. Yet when our military plans for a multiyear commitment in Afghanistan - a trillion-dollar commitment even with a gradual drawdown - fiscal conservatives barely raise an eyebrow.
In 2000, the U.S. military budget was $370 billion. For 2011, it is $707 billion. And that's before any unforeseen emergency supplements. And much of this is for a war where even a cursory review reveals that al-Qaeda is largely gone from Afghanistan - and where the underlying conflict is a civil war in which negotiation among all the relevant parties will get us further, faster, and at a much lower cost.
Defining Afghanistan as a military problem rather than a political one has led us to mistakenly conclude that it requires a military solution. A negotiated political solution is a much more effective and much less expensive approach.
I had mistakenly hoped that President Obama and the Democrats would be able to reverse the runaway increases in military spending - and lent them my support in that hope. Instead, Obama - acquiescing to the generals - has dramatically escalated troop levels in Afghanistan to a point where it can now rightly be called an occupation, Obama's Occupation.
A purely economic calculus does not take into account the tragedy of the deaths and disablements that happen there every day - but have largely disappeared from media coverage. Nor does it take into account the debilitation to our military apparatus and the distraction to our other foreign-policy priorities.
I only want to speak of this war with the proper respect and gravity, but the cost and benefit are egregiously out of balance, and the solution being pursued won't work. I respectfully submit that if Obama and Gen. David Petraeus can't successfully handle a largely political problem in a country with a GNP of $14 billion for far less than $119 billion a year, let's find someone who can.
Conservatives got us out of Vietnam and Korea. My hope now is that they can do the same in Afghanistan.
Oops, he forget to mention that conservatives got us INTO Iraq and Afghanistan. Simple oversight, I'm sure...