Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can say no to escalation in Afghanistan by signing our CREDO petition at For each signature, CREDO will donate a dollar to support Crowe’s work.

I loathe the use of my tax dollars for any violence, but you know what I loathe even more? The use of debt taken out in my name to fund violence.

The latter includes the anti-Christian choice of using violence in conflict and it adds extreme, immoral irresponsibility to the original sin. Not only did the deficit-fueled war spending of the Bush years lead to massive human suffering, but it also contributed mightily to the economic crisis. Here’s Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes writing in The Three Trillion Dollar War just before the economic crisis fully materialized (p. 115, 125-126):

The question is not whether the economy has been weakened by the [Iraq] war. The question is only by how much. Where you can put a figure on them, the costs are immense. In our realistic-moderate scenario…they total moe than a trillion dollars.

The Federal Reserve sought…to offset the adverse effects of the war, including those discussed earlier in this chapter. It kept interest rates lower than they otherwise might have been and looked the other way as lending standards were lowered–thereby encouraging households to borrow more–and spend more. Even as interest rates were reaching record lows, Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, in effect invited households to pile on the risk as he encouraged them to take on variable rate mortgages. The low initial interest rates allowed households to borrow more against their houses, enabling America to consume well beyond its means.

Household savings rates soon went negative for the first time since the Great Depression. But it was only a matter of time before interest rates rose. When they did so, hundreds of thousands of Americans who had taken on variable interest mortgages saw their mortgage payments rise–beyond their ability to pay–and they lost their homes. This was all predictable–and predicted: after all, interest rates could not stay at these historically unprecidented low rates forever. As this book goes to press, the full ramifications of the "subprime" mortgage crisis are still unfolding. Growth is slowing, and the economy is again performing markedly below its potential.

As an aside: Once I was derided for attacking the president’s willful disregard of the Sermon on the Mount’s unequivocal call for nonviolence because I was not also jumping up and down about deficits (you know who you are). Not only was that not true, but that jab assumed that the war in Afghanistan was not, in fact, a budget-busting mortgaging of the common good. Oops.

Some Democrats in Congress seem to understand this, at least:

Top Democrats have made it clear to Obama that he will not receive a friendly reception should he announce what is considered the leading option: sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The legislators have indicated that a request for more money to finance a beefed-up war effort will be met with frustration and, perhaps, a demand to raise taxes.

If the president wants to spend $1 million per troop, per year, he should have to justify it to the people who will bear the brunt of the ensuing economic damage.

Good for you, Pelosi, Obey, Rangel, et. al. Keep it up.

Watch Rethink Afghanistan to learn more about the costs of war.

Derrick Crowe

Derrick Crowe

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