1,346 Days (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Officially V-J day is Aug 15, 1945 – 1,347 Days or Friday May 20, 2005. The August 24th date was a typo – now corrected. According to a reader, the official docs were signed on Sept 2, 1945 – 1,365 days. 1,365 days after 9/11 will be June 7, 2005. Best to all.

This coming Thursday, May 19, 2005, will be the 1,346th day since the attacks of 9/11. That is the same length of time from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the end of WWII on V-J Day. (Dec 7, 1941 to Aug 14, 1945) (***CORRECTED FROM Aug 24, 1945***)

Most comparisons between WWII and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have been preposterous: Saddam Hussein was no Adlof Hitler; the “Axis of Evil” was no WWII Axis Powers; the far right even went so far as to compare Colin Powell to Neville Chamberlain.

But this milestone does provide the opportunity to compare the effectiveness of America’s responses to both crises. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, America came together, and with determination, shared sacrifice, and the effective and focused leadership of FDR, George C. Marshall, and many others, America and her allies were victorious.

After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, America once again came together. However, within months of 9/11, the Bush Administration lost focus and never clearly defined a winnable GWOT. Monty Python comedian Terry Jones quipped: “With most wars, you can say you’ve won when the other side is either all dead or surrenders. But how is terrorism going to surrender? It’s hard for abstract nouns to surrender.”

A more serious critique came from Dr. Jeffrey Record, of the U.S. Army’s War College who wrote: ” … most of the GWOT’s declared objectives … are unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security. As such, the GWOT’s goals are also politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable … The GWOT as it has so far been defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate scarce U.S. military and other means over too many ends. It violates the fundamental strategic principles of discrimination and concentration.”

It should not be surprising that a poorly defined mission has led to poor results. Iraq is a mess and many Americans have concluded that the invasion of Iraq was unrelated to the GWOT. The situtation in Afghanistan is not much better. Worldwide terrorism is still on the rise and America is now deeply divided.

The economic consequences of this “war” have been significant and are growing. The most obvious are the war expenditures: over $250 Billion already spent and Congress has just passed another spending bill for an additional $82 Billion. Even before the ink dried, Congress is discussing the need for another $50 Billion later this year. All of these expenditures are “off-budget” and are not included in the Bush Administration’s reported budget deficits. CORRECTION: The GWOT expenditures are excluded from the “on-budget” projections, but they are included in prior year on-budget deficits. Sorry for any confusion, CR.

Additionally, according to the Financial Times, America “is losing billions of dollars as international tourists are deterred from visiting the US because of a tarnished image overseas and more bureaucratic visa policies.” This weakness in the tourist trade is occurring even with a favorable dollar exchange rate. And there are concerns that “the long-term impact for American brands Coca-Cola, General Motors, McDonald’s could be very damaging”.

And the most deleterious impact may come from the growing lack of confidence in America’s leadership. In the event of an international or economic crisis, I have no confidence that the Bush Administration will respond appropriately.

It took 1,346 days to win WWII. 1,346 days after 9/11, what have we accomplished?

CR Calculated Risk