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How We Squandered the Peace Dividend

Article by Patrick Foy.
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When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and effectively ended the Cold War, there was tremendous relief and a sense of hope for the future. One writer even boldly declared that it marked “The End of History” and, as a natural result, the end of war.

Since global communism—perceived as the main, if not sole, threat to global peace—had been vanquished, President George H. W. Bush promised that Americans would soon enjoy a “peace dividend.” Taxpayers commonly understood this to mean that military spending would be downgraded and the billions that had been siphoned from them to fight communism would be shunted back into their pockets.

“That’s not a peacetime dividend. That’s a huge wartime debt.”

But the promised peace dividend never came. With communism defeated, Arabs and Islam were presented as the new threat for the world’s lone surviving superpower. In response to this “threat” that didn’t seem to exist until the Soviet Union fell, the US is now spending more on defense than it was during the Cold War. By 2004 the US defense budget was almost twice that of the next 15 military powers combined. More than twenty years after Bush promised a peace dividend, Washington is still stretched all over the greater Middle East, which is ablaze.

Country by country, here’s what went wrong:

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