The crisis in Ukraine was high on many people’s list of concerns when the Pentagon released its Fiscal Year 2023 budget request on March 31. But while Pentagon briefers of course mentioned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they quickly pivoted to discussing China as the “pacing threat” that should be the primary focus of U.S. military strategy and spending in the years to come.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin went so far as to call the challenge from China the “now and forever problem.” His choice of phrasing was unfortunate given what happened with regard to America’s other alleged “forever problems” in the so-called global war on terror — decades of war that ended badly, to put it mildly. While hopefully it won’t come to a hot war between the United States and China, a permanent adversarial stance will come at high risk — and high costs.
As the Costs of War Project at Brown University has documented, America’s post-9/11 wars have cost over $8 trillion, with over 380,000 civilian deaths and tens of millions of people driven from their homes. Thousands of U.S. troops have died in the conflicts, with hundreds of thousands more suffering physical and psychological injuries.
The main rationale given for this immense sacrifice of blood and treasure was what was initially called the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which many of its supporters described as a generational struggle – a war that might never end. With the Afghan war lasting twenty years and the war in Iraq liable to hit the same mark next year, this may be the only thing that the supporters of these wars got right – their near endless duration.
Read the full article in Forbes.