2007 October 23 Tuesday
Iraq War Cost To Exceed Korea And Vietnam

If the Iraq war goes past 2008 then the cost will exceed $1 trillion.

Washington - Whatever the merits of US military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, one thing seems clear: It's very expensive.

If this week's White House request for $196 billion more for Afghanistan and Iraq is included, total costs for these operations will reach about $808 billion by the end of next year, according to figures compiled by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

That's more than the Gulf War ($88 billion in today's dollars), or Korea ($456 billion), or Vietnam ($518 billion). It's within shouting distance of the price of the Korea and Vietnam conflicts combined.

But the US economy is much larger today than it was in, say, 1968 meaning the financial burden on the nation posed by these costs is correspondingly lighter.

Bush has been able to keep the US troops in Iraq for a few reasons. First off, there's no draft and hence the college kids are relatively complacent as compared to the 1960s. Second, the US economy is much bigger and so a couple hundred billion dollars a year in costs don't impact living standards much. Third, some of the people who don't pay really close attention are at least partially convinced by the argument that the fight in Iraq is against terrorists. So the war goes on.

These costs are only for operations. The longer term costs such as taking care of disabled veterans for decades to come do not show up in these numbers. The soldiers who died are losses these dollar figures do not capture. Lots of other costs that will show up in the future aren't captured in the Congressional appropriations - yet.

Just the Iraq war will cost more than Vietnam by the end of 2008.

But according to the CSBA, the war in Iraq alone has now cost the US more than the Gulf War and Korea, and will surpass Vietnam by the end of 2008.

But again, if we include future costs due to the war then total costs are far higher. We borrowed money to fight the war. We'll be paying for the interest for years to come. The military wore out lots of equipment. We'll be paying for replacements for years to come. Some returning soldiers will commit homicide and suicide as a result of how the war has damaged their brains. Other soldiers will find it hard to hold down regular jobs due the effect of post traumatic stress and some will beat their wives and kids.

All these costs do not come with the benefit of making us any more secure in America.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 October 23 09:35 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs

Kenelm Digby said at October 24, 2007 2:28 AM:

For all the good it has done, George Bush might as well had organised mass 'bonfire parties' spread all over the USA in which piles of $100 bills are set ablaze to warm our cold, dark winter nights.
It never ceases to amaze me how one the one hand governments can be so profligate, and on the other so mean spirited and iron-hearted to those really in distress.
I'm not a libertarian, but this is the best case for libertarianism ever made.

Wolf-Dog said at October 24, 2007 3:43 AM:

Randall Parker wrote:"the US economy is much bigger and so a couple hundred billion dollars a year in costs don't impact living standards much."

First of all, the $1 trillion figure for the total cost of the Iraq war (past 2008) is relevant because in comparison the money supply M2 is currently $7.38 trillion. Now if the cost of the Iraq war (150 billion per year, which is "only 1.2 % of the GDP), is not lowering the living standards much, this is partly due to the low-priced Chinese goods that are being imported every year. The $700 billion annual US trade deficit, includes not just oil, but also a lot of cheap goods from poorer countries. For the moment, the US dollar has not yet declined enough to cause too much inflation in the US, thanks to the Chinese policy of keeping their exchange rate low. Thus the Chinese cheap goods (paid for by printing paper money), are compensating for the Iraq war.

Roach said at October 24, 2007 12:50 PM:

We have a ten trillion economy every year. Spread out over 5 years, 2% GDP per year is peanuts.

Angry said at October 24, 2007 12:55 PM:

"We have a ten trillion economy every year. Spread out over 5 years, 2% GDP per year is peanuts."

More money is spent on the parasites that inhabit this nation. Not to mention all the hidden costs. They have done and will do much more damage than this war will do. The war will end some day, but unless drastic action is taken these leeches will always be with us.

Wolf-Dog said at October 24, 2007 2:23 PM:

Note that it costs between $1 to $2 billion to build a 1000 Megawatt nuclear reactor. It would take approximately 200 such 1000 Megawatt reactors to charge 300 million pure electric cars every day. Building 200 new reactors would thus cost at most $400 billion (but probably $300 billion if we assume an average price of $1.5 billion per 1000 Megawatt reactor thanks to large scale production), and if we build only 20 reactors per year then we would have 200 reactors in 10 years (by 2017) and it would cost at most $40 billion per year.

Thus a small fraction of the war costs could have made the US 100 % independent within 10 years, not to mention the benefit of preventing the coming 400 mph winds within 25 years, which can potentially cause firestorms that would make the San Diego fires look like a cigarette.

Stephen said at October 24, 2007 5:18 PM:

Spot on Kenelm.

Dawood Mamedoff said at July 13, 2009 4:06 AM:

This war is the second expensive for U.S. after the World War II. Here I've tried to summarize all costs of the Iraq war for Americans:


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