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The Price Tag for the Libyan War


So, how is that violent liberation working out for ‘ya?

How much did the US spend trying to topple dictators Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt? Oh, that’s right, like Filipino strongman Ferdinand Marcos, those brutal, corrupt, murdering leaders were essentially installed and supported by the US. We spent zero helping the nonviolent revolutions in those countries.

OK, so how about other nonviolent liberations, especially those who overthrew enemies of the US? Well, almost nothing. $25 million to bring down Milosevic in Serbia. Just about nothing on the entire Velvet Revolution, which finally succeeded after decades of $ trillions spent on superhyperApocalyptic weaponry all pointed at the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Can we pick out a pattern here?

On the other hand, when we tally up the pricetags for Iraq ($1 trillion and counting, as we leave 5,000 highly paid contractors behind), Afghanistan ($500 billion and counting), and, lately, Libya ($1.1 billion just on DoD armaments, not counting State Department security expenses nor unknown but substantial intelligence operations), we see some barebones beginnings of the explanation for our national financial meltdown.

Remember in the early days of justifying the invasion of Iraq, when we were told again and again that this would eventually cost the taxpayers nothing because the grateful people of Iraq would gladly pay us back with the massive oil revenues that would obviously start flowing their way once liberated? Similarly, I recall Libyan dissidents in diaspora confidently assure us on National Public Radio interviews that Libyans would obviously repay NATO for all expenses once Gadhaffi was removed and Libyans controlled their own oil money.

The lies don’t get much more transparent and egregious than these, yet they continue to be told and, amazingly, believed, apparently. At least it’s working out for China. They are snapping up that Iraqi oil. At last it’s being used for a government that really supports human rights…

The facts are that liberation using nonviolence is not only far less bloody, far less expensive, far less destructive to infrastructure and the environment, but it has no blowback (well, unless you count the Occupy movement as blowback from Arab Spring, but the US didn’t fund any part of the Arab Spring anyhow). The blowback from supporting or launching violent liberation is tremendous, as we saw on September 11, 2001. We will likely see much more, sadly, from all the violence we since unleashed or in the Central Asia, Middle East, North African region. Six thousand US mortalities and more than $1.5 trillion so far, all to do what nonviolence could have done for a tiny fraction. And the costs will go on and on.

The news today is just one example. Now, after wasting that $1.1 billion+ on violently getting rid of Gadhaffi, the US is going to pay untold $ millions to buy up weapons from the insurgents. You can’t make up stuff like this. Cosmic karmic account registers are ringing all over the place. The US piece of the Arab Spring is a costly, bloody, ongoing farce.

We are so radically in need of a rapid evolution in our methods of conflict management. Hello? Earth to Obama! Earth to the military! Come in! Humanity here–can we talk? Nonviolence can do all the good things you say you want done without any of the bad things that only violence can trigger. Can we make 2012 the Year of the US Nonviolence Conversion? It is overdue.

Tom H. Hastings  is Director of PeaceVoice in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at:

Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

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