The costs of war for freedom in the Middle East:

$1.15 trillion price tag for the U.S. for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, as of Feb. 22 (Costofwar.com)

$671 billion proposed U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2012

5,885 U.S. service member fatalities, as of Feb. 20, for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

(Faces of the Fallen, The Washington Post)

32,799 U.S. service members wounded in battle in Afghanistan and Iraq (USmilitary.about.com)

More than 100,000 civilian Iraqi deaths, from January 2004 to December 2009 (WikiLeaks classified documents);

Afghanistan civilian causalities estimated around 6,900 (Guardian.co.uk)

10 years engaged in war

The cost of tangible change in the Middle East:

Mohamed Bouaziz, a 26-year-old fruit vendor, set himself on fire in Tunisia in December 2010, leading to civil protests

and hundreds of deaths but resulting in the upheaval of dictatorships within a few weeks throughout Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Iran, Egypt and now Libya

As Republicans and Democrats wrestle over the proposed federal budget in D.C. and the subsequent cuts in spending, it has become abundantly clear that America’s allegedly well-intended mission for freedom and democracy in the Middle East can’t be forced, but rather has to come from within. Despite our best efforts and the huge amount of resources invested in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, local civilians, fed up with oppression and dictatorship strangleholds, hit a literal point of combustion.

With tens of thousands of frustrated protestors taking back their countries, maybe the time has come for America to let them fight their own civil wars and institute the type of government they yearn for. Just as our country was once divided, although through much bloodshed, we came out stronger for having fought our own civil war. We do hope much can be resolved without the loss of as many innocent lives in the Middle East.

With so many fiscal problems in our own country, it is a wonder, though, that many of our legislators would rather sacrifice essential services and programs for America’s neediest by slashing funding, which won’t even make a dent in closing the federal budget deficit, than overhaul defense spending with all that is happening overseas. It is truly perplexing that we continue to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome — waging an “unwinnable” war in the Middle East for a decade with the hopes that we will come out victorious. One would think we learned from our experience in Vietnam, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Despite how polarized our nation has become, according to a recent Gallup poll, more Americans on average would rather see less defense spending — 39 percent of Americans saying we are spending too much on defense, 35 percent saying the current defense budget is the “right amount,” and only 22 percent saying we are spending too little.

It has been said that when budget negotiations go to the House floor, the country can see the morals of our elected officials. As our country struggles through the muck and mire of the economic failures of the last several years, our legislators’ moral compass should be directed toward rebuilding our great nation. We need to beseech our legislators to focus on the needs of our country and rethink our military strategy that has, thus far, failed in its mission in comparison to what the citizens have accomplished there in a couple of months.