A reminder that we pay for our wars in money and blood

Summary: We ignore our wars (hardly mentioned in the campaigns). We pay for our wars, hot and cold, in two ways — in money and blood. Let’s look at the toll in both. This will be an unpopular post. Neither Left nor Right cares to look at the toll of our wars. Both prefer their poo-throwing fights.

US Military cemetery


The first way we pay for our wars.

As Andrew Bacevich explains, our wars have almost disappeared from the news (“How We Learned Not To Care About America’s Wars“). But the bills come due anyway. The formal US military budget is aprox. $611 billion, more than that of that of the next eight nations combined. That’s more than twice the budget of all our possible enemies combined (see the graph from CNBC). But that total reflects DoD’s skill at burying military spending in other departments. More comprehensive totals by outside experts (e.g., by POGO) calculate the total at over a trillion dollars.

National military budgets - CNBC-SIPRI

Our military spending is grossly disproportionate to our actual military threats. Still, conservatives want more (they always want more). Like this from the Heritage Foundation. Military spending is a political joyride for politicians and a profits pipeline from taxpayers to defense contractors.

The second way we pay for our wars

Our men (and some women) pay for our wars in blood. Temporary injuries. Permanent injuries. Crippling injuries. Deaths. Each of with leaves a hole in their family and community.  When reading about our wars, remember this page from the Blue Star Mothers newsletter. Although most Americans have forgotten our War on Terror, our post-9/11 Long War, they publish one of these every month.  These Americans died in our service. Our job is to send them out only to defend America. Click to enlarge.

Gold Star Mothers - August 2017

See the 7,149 names of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. See the In Remembrance website.

American Gold Star Mothers

What is a Gold Star Mother?

From website of the American Gold Star Mothers.

“During the early days of World War I, a Blue Star was used to represent each person, man or woman in the Military Service of the United States. As the war progressed and men were killed in combat, others wounded and died of their wounds or disease, there came about the accepted usage of the Gold Star. This Gold Star was substituted and superimposed upon the blue Star in such a manner as to entirely cover it.

“The idea of the Gold Star was that the honor and glory accorded the person for his supreme sacrifice in offering for his country, the last full measure of devotion and pride of the family in this sacrifice, rather than the sense of personal loss which would be represented by the mourning symbols.”

Flag of a Blue Star Mother

The Blue Star Mothers of America.

See their website to learn about this valuable organization.

“We are mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans. We support each other and our children while promoting patriotism. Our organization focuses on our mission every single day and will never, ever, forsake our troops, our veterans or the families of our Fallen Heroes.

“We have over 6,000 members from over 200 Chapters throughout the nation. Our members are extremely active and have accomplished the following in …2012. 74,123 care packages sent to members of the Armed Forces, giving more than 250,000 military personnel a little bit of love from home. 137,654 letters sent to members of the Armed Forces. 9,439 veterans events throughout the year. 287 events honoring Gold Star Mothers. 2,800 cards honoring Gold Star families.”

Plus many other forms of help, such as making quits for military casualties and their families. They do this every year. Locate a chapter here. Or just go here to join!

For More Information

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see all posts about Afghanistan and Iraqabout COIN, and especially these…

  1. The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy.
  2. Return of the COINistas (the zombies of military theory).
  3. Stratfor sees Afghanistan war fatigue in America. Only our rulers remain eager.
  4. Two generals chat about Afghanistan (a funny, sad, horrifying look at our war).
  5. Why Trump’s plan for Afghanistan will fail.
  6. Stratfor pans Trump’s new Afghanistan War plan.

Two enlightening books about the Afghanistan War.

Afghanistan: How the West Lost Its Way by Tim Bird and Alex Marshall (2011).

The Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan by Jack Fairweather (2014).

Afghanistan: How the West Lost Its Way
Available at Amazon.
The Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan
Available at Amazon.


11 thoughts on “A reminder that we pay for our wars in money and blood”

  1. This is the epitome of an unpopular article. One which Americans will not just ignore, but avoid reading.

    Both Left and Right don’t want to think about the cost of our wars. Both are complicent in them. Both prefer to get back to their poo-throwing fights.

  2. Take your figure of a trillion dollars in military spending, take out 20% for profit, and run that 800 million in salaries through the economy a few times and you begin to see one of the sources of our addiction for military spending. I can’t think of a cure for it because “existential” threats to the United States seem to grow on trees.

    p.s. – See article on overuse of existential on NY Times Magazine for October 8, 2017.

  3. Larry, I’m ashamed of my former support of the Afghanistan and Iraq efforts. It was due to my ignorance and thinking I was smarter than I was.

    15 years of reading, beginning with my introduction to Bill Lind has changed me immensely. When I began to read you on DNI and FM I was a hard skeptic but I couldn’t stay away. Something you wrote would cause me to think and I would return.

    I’m currently reading If We Can Keep It by COL/Professor Chet Richards. It reinforces everything I have learned in the past 15 years. The book was published in 2007 and 10 years later nothing has changed.

    Now I’m angry at the “racketeering” of those in our Congress and Pentagon. They must be racketeers, either that or they are doddering fearful fools. A lot of incumbents need replacement. A lot of Generals need to be retired.

    Now my understanding of how America is weakening is alarming. My recourse is to spread the word and build alliances. My mission is helping the FM/4GW community spread The Truth. Not only do I contact my own Representative and Senator, I contact those in other states. It has only just begun.

    Like you I’m no longer GOP. Now I’m NPA.

    I Apologize for my former foolishness.

    Very Respectfully

    1. Same here, though I came from the opposite camp, and came to this point in a very different manner (I’ve always had the most interest in Transport/Infrastructure and Urban Issues), through realizing how awful local government is in the US.

      That blood money could really be put to far better use.

    2. @FDW: I think the reason that we are told that local and state government is so virtuous, so close to our needs, so much more responsive, is solely and entirely because it is much cheaper to buy.

  4. Another thought: More Americans need to wise up as well. Otherwise no change will happen no matter what happens on FM.

    This simpleton hopefully can distill the message.

  5. Sun Tzu had a good point:

    “Those angry will be happy again, and those wrathful will be cheerful again, but a destroyed nation cannot exist again, the dead cannot be brought back to life. Therefore, the enlightened ruler is prudent, the good general is cautious. This is the Way of securing the nation, and preserving the army.”

  6. Dear Fabius, I regularly read and enjoy your thought provoking articles. You just might become the top opinion blog for the future USA.

    If we are to make the future better, we need to somehow ensure a positive change in the US government.

    I thought Donald Trump might become a rebel, a messiah President and fight the risky political battles needed to make the positive changes in the US government. I am not sure he can succeed, as the media is working hard to trash his credibility and sabotage his efforts, like the media has done to past Presidents before him.

    The Government has been hijacked by an Elite few. Past presidents like Eisenhower, John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon explicitly warned of the dangers.

    It saddens me that the media can talk about Wars and the Economy but rarely discuss the source of the problems.

    We cry when we lose our sons and daughters in Middle East wars. If truly care, we the American people need to act.

    Who in the US government created and directed the policy for the US to spend over $15 Trillion to fund over two decades of war in the Middle East? The answers are obvious.

    The media talks about our $20 Trillion government debt problem. The debt was largely incurred to fight wars in the Middle East ($15 Trillion spent in the Middle East to protect who?) at the expense of the common US people, including the homeowners who have lost homes and livelihood due to financial crisis and job losses. Who in the Federal Reserve is making such policies? The answer is obvious.

    I lament what is happening to the US. It is easy to prove that the USA is a “captured state”. The few elites who have significant influence and largely control the US policymaking, the media and the Banking system will fight tooth and nail to ensure they maintain control.

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