Al Qaeda spent roughly half a million dollars to destroy the World Trade Center and cripple the Pentagon. What has been the cost to the United States? In a survey of estimates by The New York Times, the answer is $3.3 trillion, or about $7 million for every dollar Al Qaeda spent planning and executing the attacks. While not all of the costs have been borne by the government — and some are still to come — this total equals one-fifth of the current national debt. All figures are shown in today’s dollars.
The chart is sobering, but it perhaps serves to illustrate that the best response to a terrorist attack is not to launch a campaign of global imperialism. As well as the diversion of $3.3 trillion away from private, productive investment to public destruction, American interventionism has served to alienate and radicalize groups of young Muslims around the globe, who rightly believe that bombing groups of innocent civilians is wrong. They may be misguided, but no one could dispute they have a point.
It is also worth noting that in the end, Osama bin-Laden was killed by two dozen Navy SEALs and four helicopters.