Oct 1, 2010

Reparations and borrowed wars

This weekend, 92 years after World War I ended, Germany will finally pay off the reparations it owed for that war. These reparation payments were notoriously high, designed to punish the country that started the most destructive war Europe had ever seen. They succeeded at that - and led Germany into a hyperinflation economy in the 1920s, worsened the worldwide Great Depression, and helped the Nazis rise to power.

So I'm wondering whether 92 years from now - or longer - journalists will report that the United States has finally paid off the trillions of dollars in debt we incurred from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Americans overwhelmingly supported the invasion of Afghanistan and most Americans supported the invasion of Iraq, we have never been willing to pay for these wars through higher taxes. Instead, we've borrowed the money and we will be making payments on those debts for generations to come. Already some have asked whether these debts helped contribute to the Great Recession we're now experiencing. What will the historians say 92 years from now about the long-term effects of these debts?

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