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 war zones and in the United States. The U.S. has conducted counterterrorism operations in at least 85 countries, and these activities have often intensified local conflicts and contributed to authoritarianism and illicit profiteering.

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. In the U.S., Muslims and people of Arab and South Asian descent have been targets of racial profiling by law enforcement and suffered other forms of discrimination.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has focused on "foreign terrorist organizations" despite the fact that what DHS calls "domestic terrorism," a broad category that generally refers to violent attacks that take place primarily within the U.S. and encompasses white supremacist attacks, has been responsible for many more attempted attacks than have "foreign terrorist organizations" since 9/11.

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.

In the U.S., legislation and intelligence practices have eroded Americans’ constitutional freedoms from surveillance and their rights to privacy.

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. 

(Page updated as of November 2021)