The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has already cost the United States upward of $700 billion – but we can’t afford the war in more ways than just monetary value.
A recent report issued by the congressionally-mandated Commission on the National Guard and Reserves concluded that there is an “appalling gap” in our readiness to defend ourselves against a catastrophic event within our borders. The Washington Post reports that:
“The situation is rooted in severe readiness problems in National Guard and reserve forces, which would otherwise be well-suited to respond to domestic crises but lack sufficient personnel and training, as well as $48 billion in equipment because of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The New York Times reported in 2005 that the Department of Homeland Security was focusing its training on terrorist attacks it deemed “most plausible” in the United States, which included “detonation of a nuclear device in a major city [or] release of sarin nerve agent in office buildings.” These are the exact type of attacks that the latest report said the U.S. defense infrastructure was ill-equipped to deal with – chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks on U.S. soil.
It’s disheartening that the type of attacks the Department of Homeland Security thinks are most plausible is the exact type of attacks the United States is least ready to deal with. “Because the nation has not adequately resourced its forces designated for response to weapons of mass destruction, it does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available. This is an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risks,” said the Commission’s report.
Some in the current administration, and some presidential candidates, have repeated the mantra that we are fighting the terrorists abroad so that we don’t have to fight them on our own turf. But America’s lack of border security and the fact that a dirty bomb is easier to assemble than a Fisher Price toy makes it increasingly likely that some terrorist element may make it through the gates or over the fence, bringing catastrophic results. If only the United States weren’t using most of its resources in Iraq, it might have enough equipment, enough funds, and enough manpower to better defend its own soil.