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GOP Cannot Separate Foreign Policy from the Economy

| November 22, 2011

GLOBAL Public Square

There is a lot of enthusiasm for the GOP presidential debate tonight. It's on CNN at 8pm. The topic: National security and foreign policy.

What do the presidential candidates think about U.S. relations with countries like Iran, Syria and  "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan"?  That last "stan", of course, became famous when Herman Cain wondered aloud how a president knowing about the world is "going to create one job?"

Cain implied that those who think about foreign policy and national security don't understand real America's problems.  But the idea that national security can be separated from domestic economic policy is a fallacy that got us into this financial mess in the first place.

The economy and our national security are inextricably linked. What we pay for and how we pay for it are decisions that are not simply about domestic economic policy. Likewise, the choices we make about our commitment to two wars and our willingness to engage in future wars have dramatic economic consequences.

Here’s an example. In 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey estimated the Iraq War would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, the head of President Bush's budget office, dismissed Lindsey's estimates, saying the number was closer to $50 billion. Lindsey was shown the door.  His only error turned out to be guessing so low.

Today, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard's Linda Bilmes argue that the total costs of the Iraq War alone, including disability and veterans' support costs, may pass $2 trillion. Brown University's Costs of War project estimates that the United States has spent between $3.2 trillion and $4 trillion on the "war on terror."

New proposals, tougher actions and increased spending for new weaponry will all be part of the discussion tonight.  We cannot afford, literally, to focus exclusively on foreign affairs alone, as if the choices we make in relations to other nations don't have an impact on our "domestic affairs" or our economy.

Indeed, it could very well be that one day we have a conflict with "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan." That war could cost anywhere from $50 billion to $4 trillion.  Doesn't that make a difference?

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“GOP Cannot Separate Foreign Policy from the Economy.” CNN, November 22, 2011.

The Author

Juliette Kayyem