Memorial Day – A Day To Reflect On Those Who Died Serving This Country (But Should We Also Reflect On Our Current Troop Deployments?)

Posted: May 28, 2011 in Current Events
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Memorial Day is Monday.  While most Americans (and I include myself in this group) will mostly use the day as an excuse to enjoy a long weekend, whether traveling or just enjoying some good ol’ barbecue or hamburgers at home, we really should remember why the holiday was actually was actually created (no, it’s not about the barbecue or hamburgers!).  It is a time to reflect upon and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of this nation.  But I think it is also a great excuse for we, as a nation, to reflect on our current policies regarding the troops that we have deployed all over the world.

The House of Representatives had a vote this past Thursday that would have required the Defense Department to develop an accelerated plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and transition military operations to the Afghans.  I was really hoping it would pass, but of course it failed (probably didn’t matter, it would have never got through the Senate anyway).  But there at least was some cause for optimism, because the vote was actually close (204 to 215).  Twenty-six Republicans….gasp…..actually voted for the measure (I didn’t know Republicans were even allowed to vote for anything that might be construed as being for ‘less war’ without getting their party membership revoked!).

Polls show that most Americans want the Afghanistan operation to end earlier rather than later.  So why are politicians going against popular opinion?  Their convictions?  Maybe for some, but I think that’s doubtful for most.  I think the issue here is just because you have an opinion about something doesn’t mean that it’s a strong one.  I think the political math at play here is not what someone might say in a poll, but what they will do about it at the ballot box.  And I think for the most part, people really just don’t care, at least not enough for it to impact their vote.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Then add to that the fact that war is big business (our government doesn’t often oppose big business), and you get the result we got in the Afghan vote.

But what benefit are we getting here?  The Afghan government that we support is clearly not even close to a “Western-style” democratic government. Osama Bin Laden, the guy we were after in the first place, is dead.  The number of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is less than hundred, and may be even fifty or lower.   Is the military an effective tool in establishing a democracy?  Is our goal to kill or capture every last Al Qaeda member?  Even if that is a realistic goal, is using 100,000 troops to capture or kill 50 to 100 men a good return on the resources deployed?

Even beyond Afghanistan, what are we getting for our continued deployment of 50,000 troops in Iraq?  Or whatever the number we have to do whatever the heck we are trying to do in Libya?  Or for that matter, the 28,500 in South Korea (didn’t the “red scare” end?)?  I mean, for goodness sake, we still have over 50,000 troops in Germany and over 30,000 troops in Japan as a result of a war that ended over 65 years ago!  Why do we still have troops in these two countries???  I’m pretty sure those two countries are back on their feet now, and the chances of a return of the Axis powers approximate somewhere in between jack and squat (and I work in actuarial services, I evaluate risk for a living, so I’m quite sure my jack and squat estimate is professionally accurate!).

So this Memorial Day, please remember those that have given everything (and their families) in serving in our military.  But also, let’s think about how we are using our military, and the cost of those services.  Here are some statistics.  Ask yourself, is it worth it?

  • $685,100,000,000 – amount of money budgeted to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2010
  • $781,000,000,000+ – estimated amount of money spent on the Iraq War since 2003
  • $417,000,000,000+ – estimated amount of money spent on the Afghanistan War since 2001
  • $750,000,000+ – estimated cost of money spent on Libya War since March (I wonder about people who are so opposed to foreign aid because we “can’t afford” it, but support the foreign war efforts that cost so much more.)
  • 4,454 – number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq
  • 100,000+ – estimated number of U.S. military wounded in Iraq
  • 150,000 – 1,500,000 – estimated number of war-related Iraqi civilian deaths
  • 1,595 –number of U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan
  • 10,000+ – estimated number of war-related Afghan civilian deaths


  1. […] Memorial Day – A Day To Reflect On Those Who Died Serving This Country (But Should We Also Ref… ( […]

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