September 13, 2021

Looking back

 There's been a lot of ink (and pixels?) spilled during the last few days on the anniversary of 9/11. It's hard to believe that 20 years have gone by, although in some ways it seems even longer.

When I first heard the news I looked out from the little house we were renting (less than two weeks into our marriage) and saw donkeys playing and rolling on the ground. The contrast between that bucolic scene and the horror elsewhere was stark.

I was not among those who believed that the US would make no response. To me, that would have been naïve in the extreme. But I certainly didn't anticipate a 20 year Afghan war. Or that a group of neocon ideologues would use the fear and anger the attacks aroused to successfully push for an invasion of Iraq, a regime which, however repressive, had nothing to do with the attacks. 

I did know that we were in for a world of trouble when then-defense secretary talked about "leaning forward." To be forward leaning is to be aggressive and off balanced, a situation that often sets up disaster. 

(In judo, ju jitsu, aikido and other martial arts, you always want your opponent to be leaning forward. That makes it easier to throw them.)

According to the Associated Press, the war in Afghanistan alone killed 2,448 American service members, 3,846 US contractors, 66,000 Afghan national military and policy, 1,144 allied service members, 47,245 Afghan civilians, 444 aid workers, 72 journalists, and 52,292 Taliban and other fighters.

Brown University's Costs of War project estimates that the " global war on terror" cost the lives of at least 897,000 people, displaced at least 38 million, and cost the US at least $5.8 trillion, not including an additional $2 trillion in health care and disability coverage for veterans in the future.

And after all that, the world isn't exactly full of REM's shiny happy people.

Economists often talk about "opportunity costs," which are defined as the loss of potential gains from other alternatives when one is chosen. It boggles my mind to think of the possibilities, alternatives and lives that were lost among the many roads not taken.

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