Guest Opinions

The cost of war endgames? Who knows, we’re still counting.

Tom Yount
Tom Yount

Endgame is defined as the final stage of an extended process or course of events.

For example, the endgame in the Vietnam War after the 1968 Tet offensive was a Vietnamization of the conflict with a systematic withdrawal of American troops, a Paris roundtable talk-fest featuring the belligerents, and concurrent with the ongoing military adventurism, inflated enemy body counts, pointless slaughter, and a creeping suspicion the war had become an end in itself.

However, the end result was a cosmetic peace agreement that didn’t last, the eventual takeover of South Vietnam by the Communists, the capture of millions of dollars worth of American made ordnance, abandoned mega-military bases, and Cam Ranh Bay (for the Russians to park their ships and submarines). And not so much as a thank you card from Hanoi or Moscow.

The American invasion of Afghanistan had the objective of inflicting deadly reprisals for the 9/11 attacks on America, destroying al-Qaida and its terrorists’ bases, and to remove the Taliban government. The endgame in Afghanistan was to install a pro-American quasi-democratic government, to train and equip an Afghan defense force, to eradicate any remaining terrorists and anti-government militias, and to withdraw all but a token of American forces once the objectives were achieved.

However, the end result is a military stalemate, boundless governmental and military corruption, a stronger, more focused and better-equipped Taliban and al-Qaida, and a futile effort at nation building. And we don’t even get a share of the burgeoning heroin trade.

The Iraq War was launched to pre-empt alleged imminent Iraqi attacks on America, dismantle their WMD, destroy any terrorist training camps, and to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The endgame was to establish a people-elected democracy, restore stability to the region, unify the warring religious factions and minimize tribal warfare, and create a buffer zone between Iran and the rest of the Middle East.

However, the end result is increased tribal and religious hostilities, an ineffectual corrupt government, a fractured country, and seemingly endless inconclusive battles replete with hideous tales of civilian abuse, torture and grisly executions. And we’re not even siphoning off their oil as compensation.

According to Neta Crawford of Brown University Cost of War Project and the Congressional Research Service, the price tags:

▪ Vietnam (adjusted to 2016): $789 billion

▪ Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya: $4.8 trillion

▪ Cost to date and counting: $5.6 trillion

Hmmm ... I wonder where all that money went?

Tom Yount, of Boise, is a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and a retired federal government employee.