The fact that the Department of Defense spends billions of dollars training foreign armies to fight “proxy wars” and carry out US policy is not exactly news – and it has been going on for decades. What many people don’t realize is that all of this money is going right down the toilet. It neither advances US interests (nor corporate interests, for that matter), and it hasn’t made us one bit safer here at home.

That is the considered opinion of Lt. General Karl Eikenberry, US Army (Ret.), former US ambassador to Afghanistan. He says, “Our track record at building security forces over the past 15 years is miserable.” Here are some statistics that bear out Eikenberry’s statement:

  • org reports that the US spent a total of $11.42 billion training, equipping and building facilities for the Iraqi military for the purpose of fighting insurgents. Instead, when ISIS arrived, the Iraqis caved and ran.
  • Last month, the New York Times reported that the $500 million spent in Syria to train 5,000 combat troops for the war against ISIS produced “four or five Syrian individuals” capable of carrying out the mission.
  • In 2011, the Defense Department announced a $75 million program to train a Yemeni counter-terrorism unit as a bulwark against Al-Qaeda’s increasing presence in Arabian peninsula. Last year, the Iranian-backed Houthis (“Supporters of Allah”) wound up taking over the capital city of Sana’a, forcing the Yemeni president into exile in order to set up a provisional government in the seaport of Aden. Today, Saudi Arabia has largely taken over combat operations. The US-trained Yemeni force has virtually disappeared.
  • Since 2001, the US has spent approximately $55 billion training Afghan forces, according to Al-Jazeera. What has the US taxpayer gotten for that? Perpetual warfare – no end in sight. Despite President Obama’s statements of ending US involvement in Afghanistan, delays of planned withdrawals continue – and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has indicated that she would continue to maintain the US presence indefinitely.

So far, the figures mentioned here add up to $77.17 billion – and that doesn’t include the cost of operations, reconstruction, maintenance and support, and health care costs for veterans. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, the total cost of the global “War on Terrorism” between September 2001 and the end of 2014 has cost the taxpayers of the United States $1.6 trillion.

We are told that we cannot afford to provide health care for our citizens. We cannot afford to educate our youth. We cannot afford to repair our crumbling bridges and roads. We cannot afford to feed everyone and provide them with decent housing. Yet, we can easily afford to spend virtually unlimited funds on death and destruction in the form of military actions that do nothing to make us more secure – and in fact, makes enemies around the world.

Those are our government’s values. Remember this next year when you go to the polls.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.