Rich Tucker

 The war against terrorism will be long and expensive. And President Bush has put an exact price tag on at least one aspect of it. He says it will cost $87 billion over the next year to stabilize and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Some were shocked at that amount. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., told CNN, “There’s no possible way that we can pay those costs in Iraq.”  Well, $87 billion is a lot. But if the president’s plan works, this is an investment that will be well worth the cost.

As Bush put it, his goal is “helping the Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild their own nations, after decades of oppression and mismanagement. We will provide funds to help them improve security. And we will help them to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build new schools, roads and medical clinics.”

Accomplishing those tasks is critical to maintaining our homeland security.

Afghanistan served as the base of operations for the Sept. 11 terrorists. Iraq was a safe haven for many terrorists, including Abu Nidal, and Saddam Hussein encouraged violence by paying off the families of Palestinian homicide bombers.

We’ve already deposed two evil governments that supported terrorism. Now, if we can rebuild those countries and create peaceful, democratic governments, we’ll have given the rest of the world a model to follow.

Plus, we’ll have shown other governments what happens when they support terrorism: They get deposed and replaced. That means Iran, Libya, Syria and others will be less likely to allow terrorists to operate freely.

Those advances will come at a price, though. The $87 billion investment Bush wants will be spent in a time of growing budget deficits and an uncertain economy. This is probably the first big sacrifice the president has called for in the two years since Sept. 11. But the call for shared sacrifice wasn’t enough to satisfy Bush’s critics.

As Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times on Sept. 10, “the money … provides a clear test case. If Bush had admitted from the start that the postwar occupation might cost this much, he would never have gotten that last tax cut. Now he says, ‘We will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary.’ What does he mean, ‘we’? Is he prepared to roll back some of those tax cuts, now that the costs of war loom so large? Is he even willing to stop urging Congress to make the 2001 tax cut permanent? Of course not.”

But it’s not: “Either a tax cut or $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan.” We can have both.

Consider some of the other spending measures passed since Sept. 11:

· $180 billion for an unnecessary farm bill.


Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for Townhall.com.