The New Rules: The Bottom Line on Nation-Building

The New Rules: The Bottom Line on Nation-Building

"Rebalancing" has been the watchword of President Barack Obama's foreign policy to date: rebalancing the global economy between East and West, rebalancing domestic needs and foreign responsibilities, and -- soon enough -- rebalancing the international security burden among the world's great powers. One number explains why that last rebalancing is necessary: It costs the United States $1 million a year to keep a soldier inside a theater of operations such as Afghanistan. The math is easy enough: For every thousand troops, the price comes out to $1 billion a year.

So when the president announces, as he's expected to do tomorrow at West Point Academy, that he's sending upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan while asking our NATO allies for 10,000 of their own, we're talking a combined $40 billion a year commitment -- one that could very well extend, according to the president, another decade. That makes for a bottom line of $400 billion.

At first glance, the burden-sharing here is more than fair: $30 billion a year would represent about 5 percent of annual U.S. defense spending (which is hovering around $600 billion), while our NATO allies would be committing a bit over 3 percent of their annual collective expenditure (roughly $10 billion out of $300 billion).

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