Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't Oversimplify the "Cost" of War

James Pethokoukis:

The Democratic study on the "real costs" of the wars in Iraq ($1.3 trillion) and Afghanistan ($300 billion) from 2002 through 2008 will almost assuredly lead to a common perceptual pitfall. An explanation: Let's assume that the numbers on Iraq are more or less accurate. And let's stipulate for a moment that when you take into account "hidden costs" such as interest payments on new debt to pay for the war, the expense of long-term healthcare for our injured warriors, and the impact of higher oil prices, the total cost of Iraq is indeed twice what the White House has requested from Congress.

Should we then assume that by not waging the war, Uncle Sam would be a trillion dollars to the better? That would be a questionable assumption, a product of a sort of "static analysis" that assumes if you change one critical factor, all the rest stay pretty much the same.
But if we didn't go to war, then we probably would have kept up the containment policy.
... a containment policy would cost anywhere from $350 billion to $700 billon. Now when you further factor in that 1) a containment policy might also have led to a higher risk premium in the oil markets if Iraq was seen to be gaining in military power despite our efforts to box it in, and 2) money not borrowed and spent on Iraq might well have been spent on something else given the White House's free-spending ways...

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