A little over ten years ago, George W. Bush fired his economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey, for saying that the total cost of invading Iraq might come to as much as $200 billion. Bush instead stood by such advisors as Paul Wolfowitz, who said that the invasion would be largely "self-financing" via Iraq's oil, and Andrew Natsios, who told an incredulous Ted Koppel that the war's total cost to the American taxpayer would be no more than $1.7 billion.The really tragic part is that the real costs can never be calculated in dollars. And if they could, you would hear something like quintrillion. All for a few cowards to appear tough.
As it turns out, Lawrence Lindsey's estimate was indeed off -- by a factor of ten or more, on the low side. A new research paper by Linda Bilmes, of the Kennedy School at Harvard, begins this way:The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history - totaling somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion.The most powerful and disturbing part of Bilmes's analysis is the explanation of why, even though American combat deaths and military exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming to their ends, covering the costs has just begun. In the introduction she says:One of the most significant challenges to future US national security policy will not originate from any external threat. Rather it is simply coping with the legacy of the conflicts we have already fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.As the paper lays out, a surprisingly large fraction of the long-term costs comes from the disability payments and medical obligations to people who served. People who were 18 or 20 years old when the war began, and who were injured or disabled (but survived), may need public help until very late in this century.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
The Real Costs of a Total Fuckup