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斯蒂格利茨: 911的代价

斯蒂格利茨: 911的代价

联合早报2011.9.5
3年前计算美国战争的花费时,得出的保守估计是3-5万亿美元。此后,战争成本持续增加。我们目前估计,未来残疾补助和医疗成本总数将高达6000-9000亿美元。但社会成本--体现在老兵自杀(近几年平均每天有18起)和家庭破裂上--根本无法计算。

基地组织于2001年9月11日发动的恐怖袭击,目的是伤害美国。他们成功了,但他们所造成的伤害的形式恐怕连本拉登都预料不到。前总统布什对911袭击的反应有违美国基本原则,破坏了美国经济,也削弱了美国的安全。

战争代价高不可估

在911事件后对阿富汗发动攻击还不难理解,但之后入侵伊拉克则完全与基地组织无关--尽管布什竭力要将两者扯上关系。结果,这场美国自己选择的战争很快就变得非常昂贵--远超出一开始宣称的600亿美元。这是无能加上歪曲事实的结果。

我和哈佛大学政治学教授琳达·比尔梅斯(Linda Bilmes)3年前计算美国战争的花费时,得出的保守估计是3-5万亿美元。此后,战争成本持续增加。大约50%的归国军人符合获得残疾补助的条件。另外,到目前为止,有超过60万人在荣军医疗机构接受了治疗。因此,我们目前估计,未来残疾补助和医疗成本总数将高达6000-9000亿美元。但社会成本--体现在老兵自杀(近几年平均每天有18起)和家庭破裂上--根本无法计算。

即使我们可以原谅布什将美国及世界大部分国家拖入了以虚假理由发动的战争;原谅他在战争成本上的不诚实,他为战争筹集资金的方法却完全没有开脱的借口。布什的战争是历史上第一次完全靠借债支持的战争。随着美国卷入战争,布什不顾赤字已因2001年的减税政策而飙升,决定为富人推行另一轮减税措施。

失业和赤字威胁美国的未来

如今,美国人关注的焦点是失业和赤字。这两个对美国未来的威胁,在很大程度上都可以追本溯源到阿富汗战争和伊拉克战争。美国财政从布什当选时的2%GDP盈余,恶化到如今赤字和债务水平岌岌可危,这个剧变的关键因素,是飙升的防务开支加上布什的减税政策。这两次战争的直接政府开支到目前为止共约2万亿美元--相当于每户美国家庭支付1万7000美元--还没有收到的账单将使这个数额增加超过50%。

此外,比尔梅斯和我在我们合著的《三万亿美元战争》(The Three Trillion Dollar War)一书中也指出,战争削弱了美国的宏观经济,从而加剧了赤字和债务负担。那时,正如目前的情况一样,中东乱局造成油价上涨,迫使美国人为原油进口付出更多的钱,而这些钱原本可以用来购买美国制造的商品。

然而,美联储当时却通过吹起房地产泡沫来激发消费,隐瞒了美国经济的疲软真相。由此产生的过度负债和房地产供给过剩的问题需要多年才能解决。

讽刺的是,这两场战争也让美国(以及全世界)的安全局势恶化了,而且又是以奥萨马不可能想象得到的方式造成的。一场不得民心的战争在任何情况下都将使招募新兵的工作难以进行。但是,由于布什一心想隐瞒美国打这两场战争的代价,于是他不得不削减给予军队的资助,甚至拒绝基本的开销--比如保护美军生命所需的裝甲車和防地雷车,和为归国老兵提供充分的医疗服务。最近,一个美国法院判决美国老兵的权利被侵犯了。(令人关注的是,奥巴马政府表示老兵向法院上诉的权利应该被限制!)

美国安全局势恶化 软实力削弱

不难预料,穷兵黩武导致人们对使用武力的担心,而其他人有这样的认识将进一步对美国的安全构成威胁。但美国超越军事和经济实力的真正力量是其"软实力",即其道德权威。但这实力也被削弱了:由于美国违反了人身保护法、人身不受虐待等基本人权,其恪守国际法的长期承诺也已受到质疑。

美国及其盟友知道,需要赢得民心才能在阿富汗和伊拉克取得长期的胜利。但这两场战争早期所犯的错误已使本已困难的战局进一步复杂化了。这两场战争的附带伤害不可谓不严重:有人估计,超过100万伊拉克人直接或间接因战争丧命。一些研究显示,过去10年中,有至少13万7000平民在阿富汗和伊拉克被暴力杀害;光是伊拉克就有180万难民,另有170万流离失所。

并非所有后果都是灾难性的。由债务资助的战争使得美国赤字飙升,如今正迫使它面对预算约束的现实。冷战结束20年后,美国的军费依然几乎相当于世界其他国家军费的总和。增加的军费一些被用在成本高昂的伊拉克和阿富汗战争,和更广泛的全球反恐战争上,但大部分却浪费在对付子虚乌有之敌的没有用的武器上。如今,至少这些资源大概将获得重新分配,美国可能会因军费减少而变得更安全。

基地组织仍然未被征服,但已经不再是911袭击后看来如此巨大的威胁了。然而,美国和世界其他地区为走到这个阶段所付出的代价不可谓不巨--而且它们大都是可以避免的。我们将长期承受这样做的后果。三思而后行不是没有道理的。

2011-09-01

The Price of 9/11

NEW YORK - The September 11, 2001, terror attacks by Al Qaeda were meant to harm the United States, and they did, but in ways that Osama bin Laden probably never imagined. President George W. Bush's response to the attacks compromised America's basic principles, undermined its economy, and weakened its security.

The attack on Afghanistan that followed the 9/11 attacks was understandable, but the subsequent invasion of Iraq was entirely unconnected to Al Qaeda - as much as Bush tried to establish a link. That war of choice quickly became very expensive - orders of magnitude beyond the $60 billion claimed at the beginning - as colossal incompetence met dishonest misrepresentation.

Indeed, when Linda Bilmes and I calculated America's war costs three years ago, the conservative tally was $3-5 trillion. Since then, the costs have mounted further. With almost 50% of returning troops eligible to receive some level of disability payment, and more than 600,000 treated so far in veterans' medical facilities, we now estimate that future disability payments and health-care costs will total $600-900 billion. But the social costs, reflected in veteran suicides (which have topped 18 per day in recent years) and family breakups, are incalculable.

Even if Bush could be forgiven for taking America, and much of the rest of the world, to war on false pretenses, and for misrepresenting the cost of the venture, there is no excuse for how he chose to finance it. His was the first war in history paid for entirely on credit. As America went into battle, with deficits already soaring from his 2001 tax cut, Bush decided to plunge ahead with yet another round of tax "relief" for the wealthy.

Today, America is focused on unemployment and the deficit. Both threats to America's future can, in no small measure, be traced to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Increased defense spending, together with the Bush tax cuts, is a key reason why America went from a fiscal surplus of 2% of GDP when Bush was elected to its parlous deficit and debt position today. Direct government spending on those wars so far amounts to roughly $2 trillion - $17,000 for every US household - with bills yet to be received increasing this amount by more than 50%.

Moreover, as Bilmes and I argued in our book The Three Trillion Dollar War, the wars contributed to America's macroeconomic weaknesses, which exacerbated its deficits and debt burden. Then, as now, disruption in the Middle East led to higher oil prices, forcing Americans to spend money on oil imports that they otherwise could have spent buying goods produced in the US.

But then the US Federal Reserve hid these weaknesses by engineering a housing bubble that led to a consumption boom. It will take years to overcome the excessive indebtedness and real-estate overhang that resulted.

Ironically, the wars have undermined America's (and the world's) security, again in ways that Bin Laden could not have imagined. An unpopular war would have made military recruitment difficult in any circumstances. But, as Bush tried to deceive America about the wars' costs, he underfunded the troops, refusing even basic expenditures - say, for armored and mine-resistant vehicles needed to protect American lives, or for adequate health care for returning veterans. A US court recently ruled that veterans' rights have been violated. (Remarkably, the Obama administration claims that veterans' right to appeal to the courts should be restricted!)

Military overreach has predictably led to nervousness about using military power, and others' knowledge of this threatens to weaken America's security as well. But America's real strength, more than its military and economic power, is its "soft power," its moral authority. And this, too, was weakened: as the US violated basic human rights like habeas corpus and the right not to be tortured, its longstanding commitment to international law was called into question.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and its allies knew that long-term victory required winning hearts and minds. But mistakes in the early years of those wars complicated that already-difficult battle. The wars' collateral damage has been massive: by some accounts, more than a million Iraqis have died, directly or indirectly, because of the war. According to some studies, at least 137,000 civilians have died violently in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last ten years; among Iraqis alone, there are 1.8 million refugees and 1.7 million internally displaced people.

Not all of the consequences were disastrous. The deficits to which America's debt-funded wars contributed so mightily are now forcing the US to face the reality of budget constraints. America's military spending still nearly equals that of the rest of the world combined, two decades after the end of the Cold War. Some of the increased expenditures went to the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the broader Global War on Terrorism, but much of it was wasted on weapons that don't work against enemies that don't exist. Now, at last, those resources are likely to be redeployed, and the US will likely get more security by paying less.

Al Qaeda, while not conquered, no longer appears to be the threat that loomed so large in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But the price paid in getting to this point, in the US and elsewhere, has been enormous - and mostly avoidable. The legacy will be with us for a long time. It pays to think before acting.

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/stiglitz142/English

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