2008 March 22 Saturday
Chilean Diplomat Describes US Pressure Over Iraq

How not to make friends.

UNITED NATIONS -- In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, wrote Heraldo Muñoz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Muñoz wrote.

The US "spending" on the Iraq war far exceeds the $3 billion budgeted to get burnt in Iraq each week. We also spent influence. We also burned friends. We also sent about 4000 Americans and a few hundred Brits and other coalition ally soldiers to their deaths so far. Plus, we now have tens of thousands of permanently maimed and brain damaged soldiers coming back from the war. They will require care and produce less and cost more for decades to come. The real cost of the Iraq war runs into the trillions of dollars.

Since vital US interests are not at stake in Iraq these costs are all net costs.

Update: Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says our total long term costs of Iraq tally up to $25 billion per month.

Granted, the cost estimates are squishy and controversial, partly because the $12.5 billion a month that we’re now paying for Iraq is only a down payment. We’ll still be making disability payments to Iraq war veterans 50 years from now. Professor Stiglitz calculates in a new book, written with Linda Bilmes of Harvard University, that the total costs, including the long-term bills we’re incurring, amount to about $25 billion a month. That’s $330 a month for a family of four.

But far too many on the Right can't admit the war is a mistake because they do not want to admit that their ideological enemies could ever be right.

Tyler Cowen argues that the US government's poor handling of the war should have been expected.

Henry at Crooked Timber challenges me to provide more background on why the fiasco in Iraq is another instance of government failure.  I do so in the comments to his post and expand somewhat here.

Government founders on problems of incentives and information.  On incentives: Should we be surprised that delays, errors and incompetence are more prevalent at the INS than at bureaucracies which must deal with citizens or which face competition from the private sector?

Of course not - but then what incentives does our government have to prevent abuse of foreign citizens? Democracy in this case provides no checks and balances because of anti-foreign bias, the ease with which the public can ignore the deaths of innocents abroad, and the fact that foreigners lack representation in our legislatures or the courts.  Thus, Abu Ghraib and the routine shooting of innocents is no surprise - this is what happens when government is unconstrained. 

What about the incentives to start wars? Government is bad enough when we all have access to information. What are we going to do when the major source of information is the government itself and they ask us to trust but not verify? 

He goes on from there. All worth a read.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 March 22 01:01 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs

Wolf-Dog said at March 22, 2008 2:07 PM:

The astronomical financial cost of the Iraq war, basically made it impossible to allocate enough funds for a Bronx Project devoted to Energy, Electric Vehicle and Battery R & D. This loss of opportunity is the most critical issue. But it is still not too late to allocate $120 billion per year for energy and battery R & D.

Only 100 nuclear reactors would be enough to charge 300 million pure electric cars every day. It costs less than $2 billion to build a 1000 Megawatt reactor. The electric grid is already in place, and only some minor modifications are needed. ALREADY there are commercial pure electric vehicles with 120 mile range, and it is almost guaranteed that the range will be increased to more than 200 miles within only a few more years. I am pasting below the web site of Phoenix Motorcars. Their Sport Utility Vehicles and Trucks are already being sold this year:


The AltairNano battery that the above sport utility truck uses, can be charged in 10 minutes, and it can be charged every day for more than 20 years, without danger of exploding like the other lithium batteries.


By 2020 the range of pure electric cars would almost certainly be increased to 400 miles per charge. But if the government spends only $120 billion per year, this can save the world from oil addiction within a decade.

mike said at March 22, 2008 10:29 PM:

According to the liberal left, the reason the US invaded Iraq was to gain control of Iraqi oil and crank up production to keep the global oil price from increasing.

The fact that oil production is still below pre-war levels, and 3 trilion dollars have been wasted, shows that the invasion was based on wishing thinking rather than cold rationality.

The reality is that all liberals are deluded dreamers, whether they are world government leftists or neocons who think they've saved the world from another Hitler.

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