Why the Marshall Plan Worked — and Why It Won’t in Today’s Warzones

The common underlying belief in all these cases is that financial aid can bring harmony, political stability, and prosperity. But this is to misunderstand the Marshall Plan and the circumstances that made it work.
The United States has spent more than $200 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq—or over 50 percent more than the totality of Marshall aid, in current dollars. Yet it has precious little to show for it, economically or politically. The most important reason is a lack of security. Neither country has ever achieved full control of its territory. Instead, both have been under constant siege from armed domestic and foreign opponents, such as the Taliban and ISIS. Their governments have also not been, unlike Marshall governments, natural allies of the United States, which has in turn been at odds with alternative neighboring benefactors such as Iran.
Same argument I have been making for years, our return on investment from our Marshall plan like efforts in recent years has simply been sunk costs that has weakened our country by expanding our national debt. To add insult to injury, we reformed our military on flawed strategic assumptions and deeply flawed foreign internal defense and counterinsurgency doctrine to wage these operations globally with little consideration on whether we're improving our security or making imperiling it. We expanded our national deficit, and as the national security strategy states, our economy is our national security. Furthermore, we defanged our conventional military to pursue flawed nation building efforts, and turned counterterrorism into a hyper expensive man hunting effort that isn't sustainable. Anytime a reasonable person suggests downsizing this effort, Chicken Littles clamor weak on terror, and downsizing becomes politically unacceptable. Downsizing doesn't mean quitting, we can still find and kill terrorists without supporting major stability efforts in locations they are bound to fail based on the political dynamics, that money won't change.

In the West, no matter what the problem is, we tend to default to throwing more money at it. This normally results in continued funding of bad strategy, whether it is our war on drugs, our global counterinsurgency/counterterrorism efforts, or even education programs. At the tactical / operational level, we see articles where authors lament their counter radicalization efforts didn't get funded, as though it would make any difference. Non-biased research informs us that these programs sponsored by the military are not working, and one of the major problems with the counter radicalization efforts is that there is simply TOO MUCH money available, leading to unqualified NGOs forming to get a piece of this government cheese. At least the free market works, even if the programs don't.

I doubt we're capable of shaking off our myths that bias our perception of the world and lead to flawed strategy because our myth of economic determinism is too prevailing. Empires fall for a variety of reasons, we can see how ours will fall if we only look. We can even prevent or delay its demise if we based strategy on facts instead of myths.