Sachs: US Foreign Policy Is A Scam Built On Corruption
On the surface, US foreign policy seems to be utterly irrational. The US gets into one disastrous war after another — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and Gaza. In recent days, the US stands globally isolated in its support of Israel’s genocidal actions against the Palestinians, voting against a UN General Assembly resolution for a Gaza ceasefire backed by 153 countries with 89% of the world population, and opposed by just the US and 9 small countries with less than 1% of the world population.
In the past 20 years, every major US foreign policy objective has failed. The Taliban returned to power after 20 years of US occupation of Afghanistan. Post-Saddam Iraq became dependent on Iran. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad stayed in power despite a CIA effort to overthrow him. Libya fell into a protracted civil war after a US-led NATO mission overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. Ukraine was bludgeoned on the battlefield by Russia in 2023 after the US secretly scuttled a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine in 2022.
Despite these remarkable and costly debacles, one following the other, the same cast of characters has remained at the helm of US foreign policy for decades, including Joe Biden, Victoria Nuland, Jake Sullivan, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, and Hillary Clinton.
The puzzle is solved by recognizing that American foreign policy is not at all about the interests of the American people. It is about the interests of the Washington insiders, as they chase campaign contributions and lucrative jobs for themselves, staff, and family members. In short, US foreign policy has been hacked by big money.
As a result, the American people are losing big. The failed wars since 2000 have cost them around $5 trillion in direct outlays, or around $40,000 per household. Another $2 trillion or so will be spent in the coming decades on veterans’ care. Beyond the costs directly incurred by Americans, we should also recognize the horrendously high costs suffered abroad, in millions of lives lost and trillions of dollars of destruction to property and nature in the war zones.
The costs continue to mount. US Military-linked outlays in 2024 will come to around $1.5 trillion, or roughly $12,000 per household, if we add the direct Pentagon spending, the budgets of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the budget of the Veteran’s Administration, the Department of Energy nuclear weapons program, the State Department’s military-linked “foreign aid” (such as to Israel), and other security-related budget lines. Hundreds of billions of dollars are money down the drain, squandered in useless wars, overseas military bases, and a wholly unnecessary arms build-up that brings the world closer to WWIII.
Yet to describe these gargantuan costs is also to explain the twisted “rationality” of US foreign policy. The $1.5 trillion in military outlays is the scam that keeps on giving—to the military-industrial complex and the Washington insiders—even as it impoverishes and endangers America and the world.
To understand the foreign-policy scam, think of today’s federal government as a multi-division racket controlled by the highest bidders. The Wall Street division is run out of the Treasury. The Health Industry division is run out of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Big Oil and Coal division is run out of the Departments of Energy and Interior. And the Foreign Policy division is run out of the White House, Pentagon and CIA.
Each division uses public power for private gain through insider dealing, greased by corporate campaign contributions and lobbying outlays. Interestingly, the Health Industry division rivals the Foreign Policy division as a remarkable financial scam. America’s health outlays totaled an astounding $4.5 trillion in 2022, or roughly $36,000 per household, by far the highest health costs in the world, while America ranked roughly 40th in the world among nations in life expectancy. A failed health policy translates into very big bucks for the health industry, just as a failed foreign policy translates into mega-revenues of the military-industrial complex.
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