The war on terror has been a $6.4 trillion mistake

To put that in perspective, the Marshall Plan, which provided aid to rebuild Europe after World War II (the deadliest conflict in history), cost roughly $135 billion in 2017 dollars, and the current gross domestic product of the U.S. is just north of $20 trillion. This means the “war on terror” has cost more than a quarter of the United States’ annual economic output and around 50 times the price of the Marshall Plan. And even if the U.S. withdrew completely from major war zones and ceased all other related war on terror activities today, the total cost will still continue to rise due to both the costs of veteran care and interest on the debt.

Was it worth it? Are we safer because of these investments? The answer to both questions is clearly a resounding “no.” After almost two decades, it’s time to move past the war on terror…

The Middle East is more unstable than it has been at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Even after more than 18 years of American investment in Afghanistan, the Afghan government remains a corrupt rentier state that would likely collapse without the support of the international community. The U.S. was able to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq — but it was U.S. intervention that helped spawn ISIS in the first place.