As US military planes left the airport in Afghanistan, the longest war in US history came to an end. Now begins the hard recognition of the true costs of the last 20 years. Sadness of this episode in US history was accented last Sunday as the remains of 13 soldiers returned to Dover Air Force base in Delaware. The Costs of War Project at Brown has been detailing as best they can the true costs of these efforts post-9/11. As they summarize in their report:
<> Over 801,000 people have died in the post-9/11 wars due to direct war violence, and several times as many due to the reverberating effects of war
<> Over 335,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting
<> 38 million — the number of war refugees and displaced persons
<> The US federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $6.4 trillion
<> The US government is conducting counterterror activities in 85 countries
<> The wars have been accompanied by violations of human rights and civil liberties, in the US and abroad
Chris Coyne began working in the field of defense and peace economics in the early 2000s, and in particular examining US military led efforts to nation build in conflict ridden countries and regions in late 19th and throughout the 20th century. The track record is dismal. His political economy framework is critical for understanding and contextualizing each of these outcomes reported above (and more), as well as the horrendous historical record. These efforts are expensive in terms of lives, in terms of $$$, and in terms of deterioration of the foundational institutions of freedom and responsibility. War is indeed the health of the state, and its perpetuation undermines the liberal plan for liberty, equality and justice.
Readers must also see Coyne's Doing Bad By Doing Good and Tyranny Comes Home (with Abigail Hall) to understanding how that political economy framework enables us to get a better grasp the reverberating effects of this 20 years of war and failed effort to bring true humanitarian relief to those who suffered so much. As Frederic Douglass once argued -- injustice and hypocrisy should make wise men mad. Douglass was talking about the persistence of slavery in a land that declared universal human rights. Coyne is discussing war and military occupations in the name of liberal democracy and free market capitalism. But precisely because we can learn from a wise man like Coyne, we can turn our madness and anger in a genuine direction rather than merely the gratuitous one we see play out in the media and mediated through partisan politics. Politics produces nonsense, political economy eschews the nonsense and disciplines our thinking and focuses our analysis on what is wrong, why it is wrong, and what we must do to stop the madness.
Read Coyne, listen to Coyne, learn from Coyne and lets never repeat these egregious errors of the last 20 years ever again.