The War in Iraq: A Waste of Precious Resources

March 3, 2008 at 9:37 am | Posted in Iraq | 6 Comments

I’ve talked before about how the war in Iraq is a waste, completely unnecessary, and a tragic loss of precious, valuable resources, both human and other. One writer has estimated that the war will cost $3 trillion dollars. Over at Crooked Timber, Daniel puts it in perspective:

* The cost of the Iraq War could have underwritten Social Security for fifty years. This brings home one of the points Max Sawicky always made in the SS debate (in general to a brick wall). Although the headline amounts associated with these problems are scary, they are actually not all that much as a percentage of GDP. The Iraq War is a horrific waste of money, but I don’t think anyone would actually try and claim that it literally can’t be afforded. Similarly with the Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security nexus of funding costs; it’s absolutely clear that the productive capacity of the US economy can pay for these things, it’s just a question of whether there is political will to do so, or whether the government would rather spend the money on killing hundreds of thousands of people overseas for no very obvious benefit.

* It’s not often that one gets to correct a Nobel Prize winner, so I will take the opportunity. Stiglitz is qutoed as saying that “Money spent on armaments is money poured down the drain”. This is actually the best case for armaments spending from an economic point of view. Most of the time, when armaments are used, they damage something valuable. If all the bullets fired in Iraq had been poured down the drain instead, the world economy would be massively better off, even allowing for the cost of cleaning up the pollution caused in the drain.

* Three trillion dollars really could have solved a lot of world problems. For example, it would have funded a once-and-for-all offer to the entire population of Gaza, the West Bank and the UNRWA refugee camps of half a million dollars each to slope off and stop bothering the Israelis. That’s the sort of money we’re talking about here.

Others have written about the cost of the war in perspective, but I just thought those were good points.

At some point Americans are going to have to decide to stop listening to the warmongers like Bill Kristol and the rest of his ilk. It is time to end this travesty.


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  1. An additionally frustrating part about the cost of the war is that it is all borrowed money, with 40% coming from foreign countries, primarily China and Middle Eastern oil countries. In the end we will likely owe these countries combined more than $1 trillion. This situation worsens our national and economic security much more than Iran having nuclear power.

  2. Two links: not only tracks the actual cost of the war but also the opportunity cost; and a biting article by Arianna Huffington on the subject.

  3. The cost is overwhelming and the long-term impact to our budget is mind blowing!

    While I think we need to finish the job in Iraq, I think the Iraqi people should step-up and start funding our troops and the rebuilding efforts themselves.

  4. Mike and Dave thank you for sharing that. You guys make good points.


    We cannot finish the job in Iraq because the goals are not clear because war supporters refuse to make the goals clear. Because if they make the goals clear, it would appear as a “timetable” and our dastardly enemy would see it and counter it. And the Iraqis will not be funding our troops, ever. They will rebuild themselves, but only once we are gone.

  5. The administration will not adopt a timetable for withdrawal because there is no plan to withdraw. McCain’s statement of being in Iraq for 100 years wasn’t rhetorical hyperbole–it was the real intention of the neo-cons. The U.S. is building its largest embassy in the world inside the Green Zone in Iraq, along with 14 other military installations throughout the country. It appears that the plan is to have our forces as entrenched in Iraq as they are in Germany and Okinawa.

  6. It’s nice to try and imagine what else we could have done with the money that we couldn’t afford to spend (but did anyway) on the war in Iraq.

    Unfortunately, if we really can’t afford to have spent it on Iraq, we really wouldn’t have been able to afford spending it on Social Security, either.

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