The Marshall Plan
You have to have a positive strategy to make more partners and fewer terrorists. Harry Truman and George Marshall took a little bit of our money to build a world that had more friends and better enemies. Foreign assistance is national security--not charity. the Marshall Plan saw it that way and we have to do the same today.
After considerable thought, I find there is no clear explanation for the expenditure of U.S. dollars flowing endlessly into the bottomless pit called Iraq. Strangely, there isn't even a name for this program.
Marshall and the U.S. were proud to implement the economic recovery program for Europe. The father gave the baby his name, while Iraq remains a bastard child though the father is clearly known. Why hasn't it been dubbed the "Bush Plan"?
The answer is, because it is not a plan so much as an ad hoc throwing of money at a nebulous problem. The Marshall Plan was carefully planned, crafted and applied to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals. The Plan was an investment in America, as well as in Europe. There is no one this side of an insane asylum that would call the $8 billion squandered monthly in Iraq an investment. This money will never bear dividends to the average American taxpayer or U.S. policy.
An alternate view of the Marshall Plan is that the success was achieved by the recipient nations. The U.S. bankrolled the program, but the successes were indigenous national expressions of growth and hope in a better future. The pen (or typepad) will not allow any comparisons of this phenomenon to the current Afghan and Iraq scenarios.
The U.S. Marshall Plan was a barrier to Soviet economic expansion  and a loan/grant program that was to be repaid by the recipient European neighbors. The Plan rebuilt friends and enemies alike.
It must be stressed that the plan was not initiated until the fighting stopped, and after the Germans reintegrated back into the European community. Trying to rebuild a country while active combat is taking place is equivalent to spitting in the wind.
Another point is that the Marshall Plan had strings attached . Simple things like requiring recipient nations to end colonialism and protectionist import quotas. In effect, the U.S. was financing its foreign markets, a role simlilar to that now played by China with the U.S., as their funds are financing our purchases of their export commodities.
The only difference between these programs is that China's developed without the antecedent of a military victory. In today's world, the economic victory is more desireable than success in a military fray. Unfortunately the U.S. leadership is all but ignorant of this evolution, save on the personal level.
So the question remains: What are the hundreds of billions of dollars buying for the U.S. taxpayers? If anything, this expenditure is more detrimental to the U.S. future than the terrorist threat could ever be (and on the latter point, it will only serve to aggravate the problem to an unknown degree.) We are burying ourselves in untenable debt, which is ultimately what destroyed the Roman, British, French and Soviet empires.
U.S. foreign and fiscal policy must become based in reality before it's too late to recover.
[page references are to the book PostWar--A History of Europe Since 1945, Tony Judt (Penguin 2005).]