$3 trillion in 15 years makes Osama the most expensive manhunt
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-05-19
Posted on the National Journal last May 6, Tim Fernholz and Jim Tankersley had tracked how much Osama bin Laden had cost the US. They wrote: “By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.”

Questioning what the US government had to show for all that, Fernholz and Tankersley added: “Two wars that continue to occupy 150,000 troops and tie up a quarter of our defense budget; a bloated homeland-security apparatus that has at times pushed the bounds of civil liberty; soaring oil prices partially attributable to the global war on bin Laden’s terrorist network; and a chunk of our mounting national debt, which threatens to hobble the economy unless lawmakers compromise on an unprecedented deficit-reduction deal.”

Further driving their point: “All of that has not given us, at least not yet, anything close to the social or economic advancements produced by the battles against America’s costliest past enemies. Defeating the Confederate army brought the end of slavery and a wave of standardization in railroad gauges and shoe sizes.” They cited how that had paved the way for a truly national economy.  

They added: “Vanquishing Adolf Hitler ended the Great Depression and ushered in a period of booming prosperity and hegemony. Even the massive military escalation that marked the Cold War standoff against Joseph Stalin and his Russian successors produced landmark technological breakthroughs that revolutionized the economy.” 

One of the positive outputs that the hunt for Osama bin Laden produced per Fernholz and Tankersley was the development of unmanned aircraft — the Predator Drones. Linda Bilmes, a lecturer at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and co-author of a book on the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, was quoted by the National Journal authors: “We have spent a huge amount of money which has not had much effect on the strengthening of our military, and has had a very weak impact on our economy.” 

Compared to the American Civil War, the hunt for bin Laden had incurred less US casualties. The Civil War, per the National Journal writers, disrupted capital flows and trade and an estimated 3 to 4 percent of the population in the 1860s were killed. Citing John Majewsky, chair of the History Department of the University of California in Santa Barbara, as source, Fernholz and Tankersley wrote that the US Civil War cost double the US GDP in 1860.

Per the two writers, “World War II defense spending cost $4.4 trillion. At its peak, it sucked up nearly 40 percent of GDP, according to the Congressional Research Service. It was an unprecedented national mobilization, says Chris Hellman, a defense budget analyst at the National Priorities Project.”

They added: “But the payoff was immense. The war machine that revved up to defeat Germany and Japan powered the US out of the Great Depression and into an unparalleled stretch of postwar growth. Jet engines and nuclear power spread into everyday lives. A new global economic order forged at Bretton Woods, N.H., by the Allies in the waning days of the war, opened a floodgate of benefits through international trade. Returning soldiers dramatically improved the nation’s skills and education level, thanks to the GI Bill, and they produced a baby boom that would vastly expand the workforce.”

Indeed, you’d wonder if the US had really panicked or over magnified the terror threat to have spent so much resource on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Spending over $3 trillion in 15 years just to hunt a terrorist would appear grossly disproportionate, if not sheer madness, to one who would accept it at face value. With much less cost, the US could have hired the best mercenaries to hunt bin Laden. With just a $100 million bounty, there will be a likely traitor or disgruntled member of al Qaeda to do the job of firing the fatal headshot.

However, there could be method to the seeming madness.

What if Osama bin Laden — just like Saddam Hussein and his fictional Weapons of Mass Destruction — conveniently provided the US with the perfect cover for their attempt to corner the last remaining oil reserves in the world? This jibes with the International Energy Agency’s findings that the world consumes 6 percent of the total global supply of oil annually. That means NO MORE OIL in 20 years.

From that perspective, it would make sense to allocate such an enormous resource to the War on Terror. On the surface, it appears to be a hunt for Osama bin Laden but in reality – it is just a desperate quest for oil.

The greater tragedy of this unfolding chapter of world history is man’s folly of prioritizing the requirements of war over the requirements of peace and social harmony. When will man finally see the point that a weapons race and exclusive privileges merely heighten the risks of war? The equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities are the best promoters of a lasting peace.

Why must man be mankind’s greatest enemy?

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