March 21, 2022
In the two decades since 9/11, the US government has spent an astounding $8 trillion on the resulting Global War on Terror, which included invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and more limited involvement in other conflicts around the Middle East and Asia. The human costs in affected countries are staggering: almost a million dead, and 38 million refugees or internally displaced people. Meanwhile, a select group of US-based arms companies benefited immensely — if you'd invested in them in 2001, you'd have seen a return twice as large as the average for blue-chip firms during that time frame. Here we take a look at US military spending, top US defense contractors' stock prices, death toll, and displaced people in the US-led Global War on Terror.
Editorial note: An earlier version of this graphic incorrectly listed the amount spent on US veterans' care and the breakdown of deaths in the Global War on Terror. We apologize for the errors.
The exodus of Venezuelan nationals is currently the world's second largest refugee crisis, exceeded only by the one in Syria. Of the over five million Venezuelans currently living outside their country, more than 80 percent are located throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with the lion's share hosted by neighboring Colombia. We take a look at which other Latin American countries have sizable populations of Venezuelans at the moment.
Immigration has been a major challenge for the nascent Biden administration, testing the new US president's ability to placate moderates on both sides of the aisle, as well as the progressive wing of his own party. Biden initially pledged to keep the US' annual refugee cap at 15,000 — a "ceiling" set by the Trump administration, the lowest in US history. But after that move sparked swift backlash, Biden this week reversed course: 62,500 refugees will now be allowed to enter the US over the next six months. How does this compare to policies set by previous US administrations? We take a look at refugee admittance numbers since 1980.
Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:
Number one, why did Colombia's president grant legal status to 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants?
Well, because they have them, first of all. Because given the extraordinary economic collapse and the human rights abuses of Venezuelans under the Maduro presidency, not to mention the coronavirus crisis making their lives even worse, they've been fleeing, and most of them have ended up in Colombia. Not providing legal status means they can't work, means they have no path for a future. Some of them have even fled back to Venezuela or returned to Venezuela, and again just shows just how critically difficult their life has been. It's a humanitarian gesture of pretty staggering degree. It makes an enormous difference in the lives of these people. Think about how the United States under Biden now preparing to accept 125,000 refugees per year, up 10 times from what it was just a year ago, the world's most powerful country. The wealthy countries never get overwhelmed with refugees the way the poorest countries do. It's states in Sub-Saharan Africa and it's South and Southeast Asia and it's Latin America, and in the Western hemisphere, it's been Colombia.
Venezuela has been the biggest humanitarian crisis and catastrophe and the Colombian government has had to deal with millions of Venezuelan refugees and now they're taking responsibility. And the United States should be fully supportive and should provide humanitarian aid to help the Colombian government deal with this very significant lift, and also to try to reduce the level of anti-Venezuelan sentiment. Because, of course, when you have that many refugees, they're not doing very well. There's going to be domestic criticism, that it's an eyesore, that they're criminals, that they're bringing, they're spreading disease. And the more capable the Colombian government is to actually economically integrate these people and to get them into positions where they can take care of themselves. They can provide for themselves, their family, the better it'll for everybody. So quite some good news in an environment that desperately needs it.
Okay, number two. What are the political ramifications of Netanyahu's corruption trial?
Here, we're talking about a sitting prime minister in Israel who has been indicted for corruption charges and is now facing a trial. And just yesterday, he sat in the docks and left after about half hour and he says, "It's a witch hunt." He says, "The judicial system is rigged." It's actually very analogous to the way that former President Donald Trump has treated his own two now impeachment cases in the United States. Some would say that the Israeli legal system works well because even a sitting prime minister can be forced to stand trial. Lots of other people think that the level of Netanyahu refusing to take seriously the claims and the cases undermining it in public and social media, the fact that most of Netanyahu's supporters agree that it's rigged, just as kind of most of Trump's supporters believe that the last election was stolen, it's actually undermining rule of law in the one government across the Middle East that has been the strongest consolidated democracy in terms of legitimacy of political institutions and unrest. And yes, I know we're not talking about the Palestinians in the occupied territory, but we are talking about everybody, including Palestinians and Arabs and the rest that are living inside Israel proper under Israeli law. And what's happening right now in Israel, I think is creating more polarization and is starting to delegitimize the institutions in that country. Netanyahu's trying to get another delay in the case and the calling witnesses until after elections at the end of March. Of course, elections are happening now in Israel every few months. So, extend and pretend, that's what Netanyahu's strategy is and he has proven to be quite a survivor on the Israeli political stage.
Finally, what is going on with Elon Musk and Bitcoin?
Well, damned if I know, because Elon Musk, in addition to being the most wealthy person in the world, also has a fairly insane social media feed and frequently writes about and tweets about anything imaginable on his mind, which given how many followers he has and given how much money he has puts him in a position of pretty extraordinary power. Now, look, I personally think that when the world's wealthiest man decided to tweet out in favor of GameStop with his tens of millions of followers, a stock that had virtually no underlying value, and therefore individually did more to pump up that stock and as a consequence put enormous numbers of rank-and-file retail investors at risk because they believe Elon. I think that's irresponsible. It's not illegal. There's nothing illegal about it, but it's incredibly irresponsible. I tell you, it bothers me that the wealthiest man in the world, and therefore one of the most powerful men in the world, has so limited regard for civil society, has so limited regard for the wellbeing of his fellow citizens, both in the United States and globally. And we can say he's doing fantastic things as an entrepreneur. And by the way, I do think that Elon Musk as an entrepreneur, as a technologist has been staggeringly successful, and I am thankful for that. In terms of not just electric vehicles, but also his willingness to invest in space and his willingness to set up prizes to get better development and advanced technologies and the Hyperloop and all of these things. Some of which will work, many of which will not, but we need people taking risks like that.
But that is very different than his public presence on issues of policy, on issues that affect the average human being, where I think he has been one of the most irresponsible forces in the country and that deeply bothers me and it's why the fact that he's putting an enormous amount of money into Bitcoin, his company has, Tesla, where he's a 20% owner and he is also putting Bitcoin symbol in his bio on social media. Oh, see this is what's going on, Dogecoin, everyone should invest in Dogecoin going to the moon. It doesn't mean anything. It's completely speculative. It moves a lot of money. And maybe it's just a game to him and maybe it's just a game to Dave Portnoy over at Barstool Sports. But these people are hurting people and they're hurting people just as much as the folks that are promoting fake news on the left and on the right in the mainstream media and the trolls on social media. And I think that with that kind of money and that kind of influence, you should take some responsibility. There's a reason why I personally don't buy stocks and currencies, and frankly it's because as someone who is a public figure with nowhere close to the level of reach and influence that someone like Elon has, I don't want the conflicts of interest. I want people to view my perspective as having authenticity and I think that there's some responsibility behind that and you can't be, if you're talking your book or if people think that you're talking your book, it undermines it.