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Costs Of War

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Boingboing provides a nifty counter for the Cost Of war in Iraq – startling numbers if you compare it to what it could have purchased in a saner world – it is hard to comment on the justifiability of this expenditure – the region was stable and secular earlier, although governed by a murderous dictator.

From the parent site,

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953

This is not the only war – and not the least of the costs of war, particularly on children.

UNICEF estimates that between 1985 and 1995 two million children were killed in wars, 65 million disabled, 12 million made homeless, 1 million orphaned and 10 million left psychologically traumatized. As ethnic wars have become more prevalent, children have increasingly been viewed as “legitimate” targets of ethnic strife. In addition, an alarming number of children are being enlisted in the military. In 1988 as many as 200,000 children under the age of 16 served as combatants in war. Many children have been brought up knowing nothing other than war: taking up arms seems a completely natural way of life, and children orphaned by war often look to the military to serve as a surrogate family.

The cost of war can also be measured in terms of lost opportunity for children: money spent on armaments is not money spent on education, healthcare or nutrition. Futhermore, the poverty and lack of development resulting from war frequently fuels hostility that leads to further conflict. It has been estimated that redirecting just one-quarter of developing countries’ military expenditure will make it possible by the year 2000 to achieve such goals as primary healthcare for all, immunization of all children, elimination of severe malnutrition, provision of safe drinking water for all, universal primary education, reduction of illiteracy and family planning.

The parent site, the National Priorities Project has been in existence since 1983 – bios of members

Currently, the Cost of War calculator is set to reach $152 billion at the end of 2004. This amount is based on the National Priorities Project analysis of the three requests made by the Bush Administration for funding for the war on Iraq, and what Congress actually allocated.

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  • Here’s an interesting speech on our current economic situation by Peter Peterson, a fiscal conservative who was Nixon’s fmr. Sec. of Commerce, and who was recently head of the NY Federal Reserve.

    Peterson’s new book is titled “Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It.”

    An excerpt from the speech:

    “Some seem to have forgotten that while our military is stunningly effective, it is also stunningly expensive. It’s very different from the good old days, World War II for example, which was a bit like organizing a federal jobs program: quick training of inexpensive troops with inexpensive equipment. In today’s high-tech, high-cost military, the brute fact is that these fats have ballooned. For example, it costs us a billion dollars a week for just two divisions in Iraq conducting, quote, stability operations.

    Some quick factoids. The Congressional Budget Office under Republican control tells us the following: They say realistic defense budget estimates for the next decade should be 18 percent or higher, or a trillion dollars more than the official estimates. And they remind us that the official budgets include no provision for wars; also no provision for additional troops, even our 54 out of 61 members of the House Armed Services Committee oppose that; and were we to meet the criticism of having a 10-division Army to meet our 12-division priorities, the personnel-related expenses alone would come to about $40 billion annually.”

  • Stuart Karaffa

    You speak about the Iraq war and reconstruction in terms of marginal cost and marginal benefit. This is a very interesting approach to the situation. However, one thing that most liberals fail to ever open their eyes to, is that, economically, the war on terror will never have any marginal benefit. Economically, we will never be able to measure the terrorist attacks that don’t happen as a benefit or social “profit.” It is impossible to measure something that doesn’t exist, so your argument is a severely flawwed tautology of economic philosophy.

    Had Iraq been left alone though, they could have easily used their out-of-range Al-saud missles to attack any of their neighbors, including Isreal. Saddam could have issued that the biological poisons contained in the 11 empty warheads found be launched on his own people, or against another nation. How could you honestly argue that the Middle East was more stable before his termination as dictator? He was a madman, with a gun in his hand and hist hand on the trigger. Every dollar we spent on removing him, and the subsequent reconstruction, has been worth it.


  • Stuart Karaffa

    PS. UN resolutions had orded him to disarm completely, and he blatantly refused. The UN did nothing.

  • Stuart,

    I do not intend a flawed economic analysis. Using your approach, however, I would suggest a binomial Black-Scholes model, wherein we assign a cost and probability to the above mentioned, and create a model that would show valid economic justification of the war. Hmmm – PhD thesis, anyone?

    I respect your views and agree with them as a citizen of a country threatened by one unstable nuclear power and another encroaching nuclear power. I am however, afflicted by the plight of a wounded child. I also see a madman propped up by the West and then dethroned. In the long run, what the United States did is good, and future generations will value the cost of war differently. Ref my post on Harry Turtledove’s book, who can tell whether the alternate realities might have been better or worse. We will have to make the best of what we have.