Beyond the numbers, the strategy and justification for the increase is vitally important. That will be addressed on Tuesday, the official announcement date, and I look forward to the speech Obama will give. He's set the bar pretty high for himself with campaign and inauguration orations, I expect him to rise to this level again. Until then, here are a few issues I've found this week.
Via Spencer Ackerman, two money issues. The Pentagon says that it costs $500,000 per service member per year to deploy to a war zone. The administration says it's closer to $1 million. A Los Angeles Times article, "Pricing an Afghanistan troop buildup is no simple calculation," addresses this gap. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has introduced the Share the Sacrifice Act, which would start a surtax on income in 2011 to pay for the full cost of the Afghanistan war. Co-sponsored by my Representative, Betty McCollum (D-MN), I'm proud to say.
Both our allies and our enemies in Afghanistan look like the men in this picture. In fact, the same person could be both at any given time. For instance, 10 to 20 percent of supply contracts are diverted to insurgents for protection. Read Aram Roston's article in the The Nation, "How the US Funds the Taliban" to find out how and why this happens.
Finally, for a look at the opportunity cost of spending money in Afghanistan, read a post by David Rothkopf, who blogs at ForeignPolicy.com, "The Choice."
Today's Washington Post carries a story saying that 34.5 percent of young African American men are unemployed. That number, like all such numbers, almost certainly understates the problem. That is not an economic challenge. That is a failure of our system and a wound to our society that makes anything that terrorists could do to us pale by comparison. It is time we started to understand and address the real threats we face.