The price of waging America's wars has gone up dramatically this week.
First, we heard Republican presidential candidates in the debates Wednesday night saying they would send thousands of U.S. ground troops into Syria and Iraq to battle the Islamic State. Earlier that day, we heard Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of the U.S. Central Command, tell Congress that only “four or five” Syrian trainees — from a $500 million American plan to prepare as many as 5,400 fighters this year — have ended up “in the fight” inside Syria.
Now consider this statistic: There were more U.S.-coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq in the past year than during more than five years of the Afghan war. From January 2010 to Aug. 31, 2015, there have been 20,237 weapons released over Afghanistan, according to U.S. military data. From August 2014 to August 2015, there have been 22,478 weapons released over Syria and Iraq, mostly by U.S. aircraft.
Every month this year, the airstrikes have far exceeded that of any month of the Afghan war since January 2010. According to the U.S. military, as of mid-August, fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has cost U.S. taxpayers $3.7 billion, an average of $9.9 million a day, since the air war began last year.
Of course, the U.S. war in Afghanistan has been winding down, which explains the decrease in airstrikes.
The sums spent so far against the Islamic State, while far less than what has been spent in years of conflict in Afghanistan or in post-Saddam Iraq, is sobering when you consider another recent statistic: The majority of Syrians interviewed in a recent poll said they believe that the situation is worsening — and nearly half said they opposed U.S.-coalition airstrikes.