2006 December 20 Wednesday
Fiscal Year War Costs Could Hit $170 Billion

The rate of waste and folly is going up. Asymmetrical warfare with a hostile tribal Muslim population is very expensive.

The Pentagon wants the White House to seek an additional $99.7 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information provided to The Associated Press.

The military's request, if embraced by President Bush and approved by Congress, would boost this year's budget for those wars to about $170 billion.

When they speak of this year's budget keep in mind that the US government's fiscal year starts in October.

The money spent during the war is just the tip of the iceberg of total costs. Lots of worn out equipment is piling up.

At the Red River Army Depot in Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in October that at least 6,200 Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, trucks and ambulances were awaiting repair because of insufficient funds.

There's a virtual graveyard of tanks and fighting vehicles at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. Depot spokeswoman Joan Gustafson said that the depot expects to repair 1,885 tanks and other armored vehicles during the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. That's up from the 1,169 and 1,035 vehicles repaired in the prior two fiscal years

For the soldiers coming back from Iraq there are the medical costs and costs in decreased ability to work and make a living.

More than 73,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and with problems such as drug abuse and depression. That's enough people to fill a typical NFL stadium.

The ones coming back without limbs, with brain damage, with severed spinal cords, and other missing and damaged parts add a whole lot of other costs that will show up in future years as goods and services not produced, taxes not paid off of income not earned (due to less ability to work), and costs paid out by the government to take care of the veterans.

Iraq will be more expensive than Vietnam by spring.

The length of the Iraq war surpassed that of World War II last month. The costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global fight against terrorism are expected to surpass the $536 billion in inflation-adjusted costs of the Vietnam War by spring. That's more than 10 times the Bush administration's $50 billion prewar estimate.

What a tremendous waste. Economist Joseph Stiglitz has previously estimated a total cost of $2 trillion for the Iraq war. But the accelerated tempos of spending and US casualites and likely future increases in the number of troops in Iraq suggest that his figure might be too low.

All this money is not buying us victory.

As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."

We can not win without a huge increase in the number of troops employed. But even a victory would be fleeting. If we put in a few hundred thousand more troops we could get control of a number of cities. But then what? As soon as we left the various factions would start fighing again.

Bush is going to support an increase in the authorized and funded size of the military. But can youths be enticed to sign up in sufficient numbers?

U.S. officials said the administration is preparing plans to bolster the nation's permanent active-duty military with as many as 70,000 additional troops.


Every additional 10,000 soldiers would cost about $1.2 billion a year, according to the Army. Because recruitment and training take time, officials cautioned that any boost would not be felt in a significant way until at least 2008.

The people recruited by the military will get pulled away from more productive work in the private sector. Since soldiers are smarter than the average American citizen their deaths and injuries in the battlefield will be especially costly to the economy and dysgenic as well.

The Iraqis will fight each other much more cheaply and with more decisive results if US forces withdrew from Iraq. For a small fraction of what we are spending now we could influence which factions come out on top by funding factions and by bribing powerful Iraqi figures. But it is not clear to me that we should care how the Iraq civil war comes out.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 December 20 08:56 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs

Wolf-Dog said at December 21, 2006 5:25 AM:

The accumulating defense spending is a natural consequence of the dis-industrialization of the United States, and the lack of manufacturing jobs here. Although the official defense budget is approximately 5 % of the GDP, it is very likely that at least 10 % (possibly much more) of the jobs in the United States, is one way or another connected with defense. Thus the Defense component of the Annual Government Deficit Spending, is in fact a for of Government Subsidy for the average American worker. The subsidy given to the ordinary citizen, is, of course, immediately spent to buy food, clothing, cars, shoes, etc, which exactly equal corporate profits. This convoluted scheme of subsidy (both for the citizens and corporations in this case), is a consequence of the outsourcing of all industries, which causes the foreign trade imbalance. For this reason, it logically follows that defense industry will grow in the future, it will not shrink, and the nation will approve the growth of the defense sector, for it is the only stable job environment inside the United States.

Gary Glaucon said at December 21, 2006 5:45 AM:

What a waste and what a brain numb group of citizens who allow this to happen. Rome II?

Never does government depend on a cost-benefit analysis to spend money. Lies and propaganda do the job well.

Stephen said at December 21, 2006 4:10 PM:

As Eisenhower said in 1961:

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Randall Parker said at December 21, 2006 7:00 PM:

Gary Glaucon,

The money spent buys us nothing. Actually, the money spent causes effects that decrease our security. What folly.

diana said at December 23, 2006 10:20 AM:

"We recognize the imperative need for this development."

Thank you Stephen for the entire quotation. I have pulled out the part that is usually neglected, where Eisenhower, in the middle of his lament, admits the phenomenon's inevitability.

Given that dilemma, what is to be done?

gcochran said at December 24, 2006 5:36 PM:

Since the fraction of the economy spent on the military has declined a lot since Eisenhower's time (10.8% of GDP in 1955 , 3.7% in 2003), I'd say that the insatiable maw of the military-industrial complex may not be the main problem. And of course in real life, lobbyists for Lockheed-Msrtin had nothing to do with our invasion of Iraq. For the most part, the officer corps wasn't particularly enthusiastic about it either. Now that number ought to be _lower_ than 3.7%, for sure - the money we spend on Iraq is worse than useless - but what has happened has nothing to do with Eisenhower's warning.

diana said at December 26, 2006 6:26 PM:

Greg, this isn't simply a question of numbers, of dollars & cents. It's about lives, prestige, and yeah, morality. Right and wrong.

gcochran said at December 27, 2006 1:10 AM:

I know all that. I'm saying that the defense establishment, whether companies or generals, is not what pulled or pushed us into Iraq. Look elsewhere.

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