Just as they are in the mainstream media, President George W. Bush’s credit card wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were AWOL during last night’s Republican debate. That's a sin.

To his credit, Congressman Ron Paul, a no-shot candidate, did offer a quirky way to fix the mess. He believes removing air conditioners from the troops would result in a speedy conclusion of the conflicts. After all, who wants to enlist for service in the desert? Paul gets an “A” for creativity. The rest of the pack flunks.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts direct government spending for the wars at $2T, or $17K per household. He expects the tab to rise by more than 50 percent as returning troops receive disability payments and medical treatment.

Writing Sept. 1 for the Project Syndicate, Stiglitz says the nation’s unemployment and deficit woes can be traced to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Increased defense spending, together with the Bush tax cuts, is the key reason why America went from a fiscal surplus of two percent of GDP when Bush was elected to its parlous deficit and debt position today.”

The wars have undermined America’s security in ways that Osama bin Laden could not have imagined, according to Stiglitz. “America’s real strength, more than its military and economic power, is its ‘soft power.’ Its moral authority. And this too, was weakened: as the U.S. violated basic rights like habeas corpus and the right not to be tortured. Its longstanding commitment to international law was called into question.”

With bold proposals to put America back to work, President Obama gets a golden opportunity to re-launch his Presidency tonight. If Obama fails to hit his stride, his re-election hopes take a big wallop. That’s why it’s so important that Afghanistan and Iraq get some play during the next Republican debate.

One of those guys could be the next president.

(White House Photo)