Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

Social & Political Costs

The post-9/11 wars have intensified police militarization in the U.S.

The post-9/11 wars have led to encroachments on basic social and political rights in the U.S. and the war zones. In the U.S., legislation and intelligence practices have eroded Americans’ constitutional freedoms from surveillance and their rights to privacy.

Though the militarization of U.S. policing is as old as the institution itself and rooted in anti-Black oppression, it has exploded since September 11, 2001 and its intensification must be counted among the costs of this country’s post-9/11 wars. Law enforcement officials’ profiling of people of Arab and South Asian descent remains common.

At home, in the war zones, and in many other countries, U.S. and allied officials continue to indefinitely detain terror suspects without fair trial or access to legal counsel. Torture and mistreatment in custody remain major problems.

The U.S. government has borrowed trillions of dollars to pay for the post-9/11 wars at the same time that it has instituted tax cuts, a pattern which seen in historical perspective is predicted to lead to even higher levels of social inequality in the U.S. 

In Afghanistan, the return to power of discredited warlords, the marginalization of other groups, and the concentration of power in the presidency have contributed to a government that does not represent the interests of large numbers of Afghans. Afghan women remain cut out of political decisions, and many suffer violations of basic human rights such as health care, food, housing, and security. The Iraqi government lacks political and economic inclusion, does not provide basic security for its citizens, and has regressed towards authoritarianism in recent years.

(Page updated as of July 2021)