Washington Witness: The costs, and profits, of war

Jun 18, 2018 by

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On a recent visit to the Middle East, I heard firsthand about the awful costs of the Syria war.

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

Lyndaker Schlabach

A Syrian Orthodox bishop, Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, told of the “irreversible damage” that had been done to his city of Homs.

Homes, schools and hospitals had been destroyed, and much of the city still has not been rebuilt.

The numbers are hard to comprehend: at least 400,000 Syrians have died, with countless more injured.

One out of every two Syrians has been displaced from their homes. The violence and trauma people have suffered will affect generations to come.

The war has had a steep financial cost as well. Last year the World Bank estimated that the Syria war has caused $226 billion in losses for the Syrian economy. Thus far the U.S. military has spent about $41 billion on the war in Syria, with another $15 billion proposed for the coming year.

If the costs are so high, why does the war in Syria continue?

Every country and armed group involved in the war has its own interests, including vying for regional dominance.

But war is also a lucrative enterprise. The Pentagon and the U.S. defense industry are profiting handsomely from this war and various other conflicts around the globe.

The Pentagon’s budget is now a staggering $660 billion, more than the next seven countries — China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom and Japan — combined spend on their militaries.

Arms manufacturers are also enjoying the largesse.

In April the Trump administration announced it would be ease restrictions on arms sales. The new policy makes clear that profits for U.S. corporations — not human rights or other concerns — are the top priority when assessing potential arms deals.

These sales are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, at a rate of $6 billion in foreign military financing this year alone.

Sadly, too many corporations, armed groups and nations are benefiting from the Syria conflict for there to be enough political will to bring it to an end.

There is one more cost of war: the moral cost. When we as a nation value profits more than human lives, we are losing our soul.

As Christians, we cannot remain silent in the face of this immorality. We must urge policymakers to consider the true costs of war and the benefits of peace.

When people in Syria can return to their jobs, when families can rebuild their homes, and when children can return to school, everyone will be better off.

The U.S. and others in the international community must invest in actions that lay the groundwork for peace. This will require difficult negotiations to finally bring the war to an end and create a future in which all Syrians can thrive.

The Syrians I spoke with on my trip made clear that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria.

Rather than trusting in chariots and swords, let us seek to be “the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” (Isaiah 58:12). Learn more at washington.mcc.org/syria-iraq.

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach directs the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office.


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