BANG FOR THE BUCK

Posted in Rants on March 21st, 2011 by Ed

On Friday and Saturday the United States engaged in yet another round of essentially the only thing we're good at anymore in international affairs: pulverizing a hot, sandy, minimally developed country with a barrage of high-tech firepower launched from hundreds of miles away. It comes from over the horizon and by the time you know it's there, it's already too late. Since Gulf War I, American foreign policy has been built around the ability to launch precision airstrikes and missile attacks at a moment's notice, combining the two characteristics so politically desirable these days: maximum destruction and minimum losses. Air strikes and distant missile launches expose American servicepeople to very little risk, so anything that can be accomplished with no (American) body count…well, if you were President, why wouldn't you do it?

The cruise missile is what really makes this possible, and none are more advanced than the Tomahawk. With a 1,250+ mile range, the missile goes from the decks of a U.S. Navy ship to a faraway target in about an hour. Just fire it and forget about it. Neat toy, if you're into that sort of thing. And boy are we into it.

Over the weekend the U.S. contributed to the U.N. declared suppression of Libyan air power with, among other things, 124 Tomahawk missiles. In 2011 dollars the unit replacement cost is about $750,000. Apiece. So in the span of a few hours and for reasons that very few non-AEI employed Americans would find compelling, Uncle Sam just spent $93 million dollars.

That doesn't count the thousands of gallons of aviation fuel and other ordnance dropped on Libya, the cost of repositioning assets, the $1.02 billion B-2 bombers used for daytime strikes, and so on. Even if American involvement in the conflict is brief, there is little doubt that the total monetary cost of our military action will approach or even exceed a quarter of a billion dollars. As usual, this money gets spent without thirty seconds of debate in Congress and with nothing but glee from the voting public. Hoo boy, can't wait until the Wings Over Libya on the Military Channel brings us the nose camera footage.

But teachers sure do make a lot of money, amirite? Maybe we should spend another week on that $60 million NPR got last year.