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jca's avatar

If the US Government is so broke, how can we afford a military action in Libya?

Asked by jca (35976points) March 21st, 2011

The US Government is broke, the states are broke, the local governments are broke (supposedly). If so, how can we afford a military action in Libya?

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42 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

Wars are free, silly. Have you ever heard a deficit hawk complain about the Pentagon budget?

thorninmud's avatar

Don’t know if it will be applied to this purpose, but some $30 billion of Gaddafi’s assets have been seized in the US, and there was some talk before the strikes of funneling this money to the rebels. Maybe it will go to help pay for military support instead. Just guessing.

tedd's avatar

Well on one hand I would wager we probably already had all the missiles used in stock, and the boats were likely already in the area…. so we’d have been paying for/had paid for it already.

On the other hand, you’re right to question how we afford it…. but the same goes for…. well everything in our budget.

janbb's avatar

Oh – military spending is sort of like dessert in reverse – it comes from a different stomach.

marinelife's avatar

It will add to the deficit.

Cruiser's avatar

We can’t afford not to. Obama has lost far too much street cred and waffling any more than he already has would deep six us as the go to military leader of the free world. Plus defense contractors do pay taxes on all this military hardware they sell us and also means US jobs.

CaptainHarley's avatar

EXCELLENT question, and one to which only the Obama-In-Chief has the answer!

mrlaconic's avatar

We are not “Broke” – To say that we are Broke means that we are out of money that is actually based on something solid. Our Money in the USA is invented out of thin air..Yes we are over budget, Yes our deficit is HUGE.. but we are not broke because we just keep creating more money… we can’t afford to do that but we do it anyways and thats how we pay for stuff.

CaptainHarley's avatar


And when the currency is worthless because it’s backed by nothing but political hot air, what then??

WasCy's avatar

There’s always room for one war. More. One more war. Whatever.

tedd's avatar

@CaptainHarley Do you know how long it has been since the dollar, or any other money on the planet for that matter, was actually physically “backed” by anything?

bolwerk's avatar

The United States government is not “broke.” It has deep pockets, a huge tax base to draw from, and a line of credit so huge that this military action barely blips as a rounding error.

Hobbes's avatar


The National Debt is now around $14 Trillion, I believe.


Does the fact that everyone’s doing it make it less insane?

stump's avatar

The US military is not broke. The US military is rich. Do we ever hear about cuts in military spending? No, because waging war is more important than our children.

kevbo's avatar

Your question gives one cause to wonder what really is the name of the game.

bolwerk's avatar

@Hobbes: yep. And it could go much higher! (And with the Republikans in charge, probably will.)

stump's avatar

I personally think this is the right thing to do. It is the Iraq and Afganistan wars that were/are morally objectionable. And there is a huge difference between what we are doing now and in Lybia and what we have done in Iraq and Afganistan.

Qingu's avatar

@stump, how is removing the cruel dictator of Libya “the right thing to do” while removing the cruel dictator of Iraq and the cruel Taliban theocracy were “morally objectionable”?

I agree there is a difference in the way which we are waging these wars (notably this one has international support), but certainly not in the justification.

tedd's avatar

@Hobbes No it doesn’t make it less insane… but it does put it into prospective…. Why is 14 trillion non-physically-backed-dollars any worse than 1 trillion non-physically-backed-dollars.

If we’re printing them out based entirely on magic in the first place, who cares how many we print? As long as people keep accepting them as 1 dollar, they’ll still be worth 1 dollar. I mean what happens when the world as a whole realizes this money isn’t pegged to anything???? We suddenly all decide its useless and we should just collapse society instead?

Jaxk's avatar

And Gaddafi makes three (Wars that is). For a guy that won election by railing against the wars, this is an interesting turn of events. I wonder how they will spin it into Bush’s war. The big problem here is that we know who we’re fighting against but we don’t know who we’re fighting for. Who are these rebels? How much money do we want to spend to bring in a new government when we have no idea who’s leading it. Seems a bit risky.

Now the Arab league is waffling. And if we won’t stand for killing their own, how about Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia (not to mention, where were we in Iran)?. Seems like a difficult position to take. Who would have guessed just a few short years ago that we would be taking our lead from France?

And this is the worst part. When we went into Iraq, the cries were that we destroyed it, we have to rebuild it. Will the task be the same. Are we now on the hook for rebuilding Libya?

stump's avatar

@Qingu Firstly, the Arab League asked for the international community to intervene in Lybia. Secondly, the US administration has not invented a connection to Al Qaeda or non-existant weapons of mass distruction in order to justify intervention in Lybia.
Thirdly, the objective of the Lybian action is clear and limited.
Fourthly, the instigation for the Lybian intervention is the action of a government, not a criminal ring like the instigation for the Afghanistan war. The US retaliated against the Taliban for the actions of Al Qaeda. The clear legitimate course of action after 9/11 should have been legal action, not a war.

kevbo's avatar

When are we going to invade Sybia and liberate the Sybians?

Qingu's avatar

@stump, but removing a cruel dictator from power was always one (and later, the only remaining) justification for invading Iraq.

So it sounds like your differing opinions on these wars has much more to do with the manner in which they are waged, and less to do with justifications involved for using of force.

I actually feel the same way, though I think our justifications need to be consistent and I worry the double standards are going to come back to bite us.

WasCy's avatar


If you read the Doonesbury comic strip, you’ll be able to predict that we’ll be liberating Berzerkistan any day now.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Because there might be a chance we could score some oil for cheaper. I think that is the reason we are involved. The U.S. doesn’t get involved usually unless we have something to gain.

wundayatta's avatar

Our national debt is only the size of one years worth of gross domestic product. Many economists think this is dangerous, but there is no evidence that it would be dangerous for the U.S. Japan’s debt has been running at two times GDP for decades, and it hasn’t been catastrophic. If fact, it hasn’t even been terrible.

There is no reason to think that the U.S. couldn’t handle even more debt. Everyone is sold on the myth that we have borrowed too much money, but I think we’d have to be leveraging resources at rate the close to that of many traders during the internet boom to really be living on the edge of catastrophe.

kevbo's avatar

@wundayatta (and similarly @bolwerk), that may be true but then why are there so many gaps in and proposed reductions to services for citizens? I’m not saying that you’re missing the point; I’m reiterating part of the intent of @jca‘s question. Why then is lack of money used as justification to cut citizen benefits? Why did we have money to bail out lenders but not mortgagors?

El_Cadejo's avatar

On the note of making money, watch the first minute :P

bolwerk's avatar

@kevbo: Obviously, lenders have money to buy politicians, and lendees do not – and lendees aren’t smart enough to vote for their own interests (obviously, given the results of the 2010 midterm elections sweeping into power the people who caused the mess to begin with). Similarly, Libya is sitting on a rather handsome oil supply, and certain interest groups no doubt prefer to keep their hands in that cookie jar – and oil is hard to pump when it’s on fire.

wundayatta's avatar

@kevbo I’m sorry. I thought the implication was obvious. The reason is that the people who fear this amount of debt are in control. It is a matter of psychology and belief and hidden agenda. The hidden agenda is that some people want to keep more money (reduced taxes) and don’t want to see money being spent to help wasted on shiftless poor people.

Afos22's avatar

Simple answer. We can’t afford to.

jellyfish3232's avatar

Because we’re not just broke; we’re also stupid.

WasCy's avatar


If all debt were created equal, then I think you might be right. But we’re in debt on our grocery bills. If we were in debt due to actual “investment” (as everyone except politicians and their apologists knows that term), then it might not be such a bad thing.

High debt for a mortgage (on a stable value home, at least) or other appreciating asset “investment” = good investment.
High debt to pay for the groceries, and having to borrow money to pay next week’s grocery bill = pending disaster.

bolwerk's avatar

@WasCy: I generally agree with you, except that buying a house a lot of the time doesn’t let you come out ahead. Buying an income-producing property is a smart investment if done right. The shoddy mass produced “homes” in the Amerikan suburbia have little monetary value beyond their resale value.

WasCy's avatar

Agree, @bolwerk. You defined “investment” better than I did, though we had the same idea.

john65pennington's avatar

Looking at the whole picture, our government probably had a stockpile of missiles that needed to be used. Outdated, like a carton of milk, right? So, up go the missliles and now for their replacement. This gives someone a callback job for more missiles. President Obama will not send ground troops into Libya. His re-election is coming up and this is not a good time to send more troops into a country we have no business in. I think you just about covered all the bases in your question.

WasCy's avatar

Damn, @john65pennington, you’ve been reading too much of the stuff I write.

wundayatta's avatar

@WasCy What if, instead ofborrowing for food, the appropriate metaphor was borrowing for college? In other words, it’s an investment in human capital.

WasCy's avatar

@wundayatta I’d say that on an individual basis, and depending on the individual and the college, it’s a bang-up idea. On a national level, as a policy of “Let’s Send Everyone to College!” I think it’s pretty stupid. It inflates the cost of college and doesn’t make us Lake Woebegone, where the children are all above average.

wundayatta's avatar

Um, @WasCy when you said we were borrowing for groceries, you meant that literally? Even if you did mean it literally, didn’t you get that I was using a metaphor? And if you believe you were extending that metaphor, then you totally missed the point.

Human capital—as in health care, education, housing, environmental protection and on and on. The things that government does are investments in the future. They are not borrowing to pay for groceries. In other words, borrowing to pay for those things has a big return, because it enables people to do better work, instead of say, begging in the streets. That kind of spending makes people more productive. Borrowing to pay for human capital investments is well worth the cost, especially when you consider the consequences of not investing in human capital.

WasCy's avatar

I respectfully disagree, @wundayatta. “Human capital” has an inestimable value, that’s true. But borrowing on a national scale to fund what should be day-to-day expenses, and I include housing, health care, basic education and other human-related personal type expenses, is going to crash the system. Who will fund our orgy of “human capital development” ad infinitum, and what do we do when the lenders decide that the return on investment just isn’t there?

The system has to support itself or it is… what’s the word I’m looking for here? ... the green-type word that’s an anti-mantra for so many these days? ... oh, yeah… “unsustainable”. We have to have a sustainable system, and right now we don’t.

If we don’t get back to that, then the system will drown us when it crashes. I don’t suppose it’ll happen this year or next, but it’s inevitable that it will. I wonder how long the Romans and the Egyptians before them had discussions like this.

mattbrowne's avatar

The Arab League asked for a no-fly zone. Americans are among the nations who are offering help. We should not underestimate the positive effects. Helping a new generation of Libyans who want freedom like the Tunisians and Egyptians did, will counter anti-American and anti-Western sentiment. It will make it much harder for Al-Qaeda to find new recruits. A more peaceful world will save us a lot of money. Fighting more terrorists in the future will cost more money. Though the effort in Libya isn’t cheap, I’d say the ROI is huge.

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