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2010 November 23 Tuesday
130,000 Damaged Brains From Iraq And Afghanistan

A research report on improved military helmet design mentions 130,000 cases of brain damage to US soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's a huge war cost that will last for many decades.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — More than half of all combat-related injuries sustained by U.S. troops are the result of explosions, and many of those involve injuries to the head. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 130,000 U.S. service members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have sustained traumatic brain injuries — ranging from concussion to long-term brain damage and death — as a result of an explosion. A recent analysis by a team of researchers led by MIT reveals one possible way to prevent those injuries — adding a face shield to the helmet worn by military personnel.

In a paper to be published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Raul Radovitzky, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and his colleagues report that adding a face shield to the standard-issue helmet worn by the vast majority of U.S. ground troops could significantly reduce traumatic brain injury, or TBI. The extra protection offered by such a shield is critical, the researchers say, because the face is the main pathway through which pressure waves from an explosion are transmitted to the brain.

By Randall Parker    2010 November 23 09:51 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2010 June 07 Monday
Iraq War Veterans Suffer Mental Illness

Iraq, the war that keeps on taking.

Between 8.5 percent and 14 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq report serious functional impairment due to either posttraumatic stress disorder or depression, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"A growing body of literature has demonstrated the association of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with post-deployment mental health problems, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression," the authors write as background information in the article. "However, studies have shown varying prevalence rates of these disorders based on different case definitions and have not assessed functional impairment, alcohol misuse or aggressive behavior as comorbid factors occurring with PTSD and depression."

The mental problems have got to be much worse for the soldiers who realize the pointlessness of what they have gone thru. The war harmed US national interests. The war weakened the country, burdened it with more debt, and burdened it with the future costs of taking care of all the physically and mentally damaged veterans.

Between 2004 and 2007, Jeffrey L. Thomas, Ph.D., of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Md., and colleagues collected anonymous mental health surveys of 18,305 U.S. Army soldiers three and 12 months following deployment. The soldiers were members of four Active Component (non-reserve) and two National Guard (reserve) infantry brigade combat teams. They were screened for PTSD, depression, alcohol misuse and aggressive behaviors, and asked if these problems caused difficulties doing work, taking care of things at home or getting along with other people.

"Using the least stringent definition, we observed PTSD rates across Active Component and National Guard study groups, study time points ranging from 20.7 percent to 30.5 percent, and depression rates ranging from 11.5 percent to 16 percent," the authors write. "Using the strictest definitions with high symptom rates and serious functional impairment, PTSD prevalence ranged from 5.6 percent to 11.3 percent and depression prevalence from 5 percent to 8.5 percent."

The US is going to become increasingly unable to afford foreign adventures. The federal government is accumulating too many debts, too many unfunded liabilities for social programs, and a deskilling of its population due to immigration and demographic changes that flow from that immigration. The US peaked. Look at its greatness in your rear view mirror.

By Randall Parker    2010 June 07 10:37 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2009 December 28 Monday
US Oil Companies Win No Contracts In Iraq Oil Fields

You might think that at least American capitalist oil companies will make massive fortunes off of the trillions of dollars the United States wasted invading and occupying Iraq. But no. US oil companies got no long term oil contracts in the latest round of bidding for oil service contracts in Iraq.

Those who claim that the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 to get control of the country's giant oil reserves will be left scratching their heads by the results of last weekend's auction of Iraqi oil contracts: Not a single U.S. company secured a deal in the auction of contracts that will shape the Iraqi oil industry for the next couple of decades. Two of the most lucrative of the multi-billion-dollar oil contracts went to two countries which bitterly opposed the U.S. invasion — Russia and China — while even Total Oil of France, which led the charge to deny international approval for the war at the U.N. Security Council in 2003, won a bigger stake than the Americans in the most recent auction.

The winners didn't even win much. The companies that did win contracts will get pretty measly fees per barrel of oil they manage to produce.

Russia's Lukoil, CNPC, and RoyalDutchShell accepted fees of between $1.15 and $1.40 for every barrel they produce — that's about 2% of Friday's oil futures price of $73 a barrel.

We were foolish to invade Iraq. Once we invaded we were even more foolish to stay for a long time. US national interests were not advanced by this invasion.

Imagine we had instead spent money to subsidize hybrid vehicle purchase for all new American car buyers for the last 5 years. Even at a $10,000 price premium per car the cost would have been less than a trillion dollars - much less than our total cost for the Iraq war and we would have reduced our oil imports by millions of barrels per day for years to come.

By Randall Parker    2009 December 28 07:19 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2009 February 08 Sunday
Hearing Loss And Tinnitus In Iraq Vets

A good article by Jerome Groopman in The New Yorker includes a section on hearing loss among US veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the hearing loss they experience.

A recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that nearly seventy thousand of the 1.3 million soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are collecting disability for tinnitus, and more than fifty-eight thousand are on disability for hearing loss. In 2006, the V.A. reportedly spent five hundred and thirty-nine million dollars on payments to veterans with tinnitus. A survey of more than a hundred and forty-one thousand Army active-duty, reserve, and Guard members who were examined in audiology clinics from April, 2003, through March, 2004, showed that tinnitus accounted for more than thirty per cent of post-deployment-related diagnoses. The study, from the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, concluded, “There were not adequate supplies of earplugs to fit all deploying soldiers. There was also failure of an Army medical readiness automation system . . . to provide unit commanders with information regarding troops having adequate hearing protection. . . . Finally, there is evidence . . . that soldiers having blast injuries may not have been referred to audiology for adequate evaluation and treatment.”

You gotta figure the number who are collecting disability is a fraction of the total that have suffered hearing losses. Plus, lots more will show hearing loss later in life as a result of their war experiences.

The US military lacks the resources needed to deal with the problem.

In the fall of 2004, in an article for Hearing Health titled “Troops Return with Alarming Rates of Hearing Loss,” Schulz wrote, “Unfortunately, the resources required to accomplish the hearing conservation mission throughout the armed forces are diminishing just as the problem worsens.” Positions for active-duty audiologists, Schulz noted, were quickly being eliminated; since 1990, these positions had dwindled from seventy-three to twenty-five, with six more posts expected to be eliminated in the coming years. Meanwhile, Schulz wrote, “In the Army . . . only forty-six per cent of those soldiers who require an annual hearing evaluation—because they are exposed to hazardous noise as a part of their routine duties—received one last year.”

Most of the article is about tinnitus research and treatment. But the part on the military shows yet another cost of America's wars in the Middle East.

By Randall Parker    2009 February 08 07:28 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2008 July 24 Thursday
Iraq Refugees Coming To United States

A wrong-headed group called Refugees International wants the US government to allow tens of thousands of Iraqis to move to the United States each year. The US government plans to let in only 12,000 this year.

The State Department cannot resettle in the United States about 25,000 Iraqi interpreters and other refugees who worked for the U.S.-led coalition over the next two years because of limits on the number of applications that can be reviewed, according to Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte.

This is yet another of the long list of costs of the Iraq war. It is a cost we could reject. Let the Iraqis stay in Iraq building a Jeffersonian democracy. Don't they love freedom so much that they are willing to work to free all the people in their country? What's wrong with them for wanting to leave? More to the point: why should Iraqis get to leave while American soldiers have to stay?

If Refugees International had its way we'd accept 37,500 Iraqis per year.

Wisner, in a July 3 letter to Negroponte, had called on the Bush administration to resettle 12,500 Iraqis in each of the next two years. Assuming each would bring two family members, the total influx each year would be about 37,500 people.

Note that would be a yearly influx which could continue for years. My take on it is that we've paid enough for Iraq already.

Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan -- 300,000 in all -- report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slight more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

In addition, researchers found about 19 percent of returning service members report that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed, with 7 percent reporting both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.


The RAND study also estimates that about 320,000 service members may have experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment -- the term used to describe a range of injuries from mild concussions to severe penetrating head wounds. Just 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for that injury.

Hundreds of thousands of people with brain damage by themselves add up to far too high a cost for the Iraq war. We should pay no more beyond what we have to pay to take care of our own.

By Randall Parker    2008 July 24 10:48 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2008 July 07 Monday
Iraq Veterans Will Get More Heart Disease

The tens or hundreds of thousands of cases of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coming home from Iraq are going to die sooner than they otherwise would have.

DANVILLE, PA – Vietnam veterans who experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were twice as likely to die from heart disease as veterans without PTSD, a new Geisinger study finds.

In a study published in the July issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, Geisinger Senior Investigator Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH examined the prevalence of heart disease, PTSD and other problems in more than 4,000 Vietnam veterans.

The more severe the PTSD diagnosis, the greater the likelihood of death from heart disease, the study showed.

Vietnam veterans with PTSD--like chronic smokers—are at higher risk of early death from heart disease, Dr. Boscarino concluded. Boscarino equated PTSD to smoking two to three packs of cigarettes per day for more than 20 years.

PTSD causes the body to release stress hormones, which leads to the inflammation and damage to the arteries and cardiovascular system damage. Stress hormones also tend to reduce the amount of inflammation-reducing cortisol in the body—though researchers aren't sure why.

Plus, the concussions from IED blasts cause lasting brain damage. The costs of the war in Iraq far exceed the $3 billion per week that the US government spends on it now. The war does not help to increase US security. It drains us.

By Randall Parker    2008 July 07 11:03 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2008 June 02 Monday
Iraq Oil Revenue Less Than Half War Cost

Remember when neocon former Defense deputy secretary Paul Wolfowitz famously predicted that Iraq's oil revenue would pay for all the rebuilding of Iraq? The United States still spends more than twice as much on the Iraq war as the Iraqis earn from oil exports in spite of a huge increase in oil prices.

In an interview with Reuters, Hussein al-Shahristani said he expects oil revenue to reach $70 billion this year if crude prices stay high and output flows remain stable.

Iraq's oil production barely equals the level before the invasion.

The country's exports reached 2.11 million barrels a day in March while the total output stood at about 2.5 million barrels a day, spokesman Assem Jihad told The Associated Press.


The Energy Information Administration, part of the U.S. Energy Department, estimated Iraqi production at about 2.6 million barrels a day in early 2003.

Iraq's government claims oil production will go up another 300,000 barrels per day this year. Even then American taxpayers will be paying more for the war than the Iraqi government earns from oil sales. Imagine we had instead spent $150 billion per year on hybrid cars, nuclear power plants, and building insulation. We could import far less oil and have the Middle East matter far less to us.

By Randall Parker    2008 June 02 11:07 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2008 April 27 Sunday
Largest American Embassy In Baghdad For $740 Million

Freedom rings on the Tigris? We've built a $740 million castle for US diplomats in Baghdad.

The 104-acre, 21-building enclave – the largest US Embassy in the world, similar in size to Vatican City in Rome – is often described as a "castle" by Iraqis, but more in the sense of the forbidden and dominating than of the alluring and liberating.

Our castle is bigger than Saddam's castles in case anyone misses the point.

"Saddam had his big castles; they symbolized his power and were places to be feared, and now we have the castle of the power that toppled him," says Abdul Jabbar Ahmed, a vice dean for political sciences at Baghdad University. "If I am the ambassador of the USA here I would say, 'Build something smaller that doesn't stand out so much, it's too important that we avoid these negative impressions.' "

Yet while the new embassy may be the largest in the world, it is not in its design and presence unlike others the US has built around the world in a burst of overseas construction since the bombings of US missions in the 1980s and '90s. Efforts to provide the 12,000 American diplomats working overseas a secure environment were redoubled following the 9/11 attacks.

I'm reminded of Jerry Pournelle's novel Oath Of Fealty where the residents of the Todos Santos arcology live in a massive building that protects them from a future very distopian Los Angeles. "Think of it as evolution in action."

700 employees (doing what exactly?) and 250 military personnel will occupy it. The place is a mini-economy which allows American government workers to work in another country without getting out into that country.

In the case of larger embassies in the most dangerous environments, as in Baghdad, secure housing is included, along with some of the amenities of home – restaurants, gyms, pools, cinemas, shopping – that can give the compound the air of an enclave.

The air of an enclave?

By Randall Parker    2008 April 27 11:16 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (24)
2008 March 27 Thursday
60% Of US Military Officers See US Weaker Than 5 Years Ago

Foreign Policy and the Center for a New American Security did a survey of active and retired officers and found most see the US weakened by the war in Iraq.

In all, more than 3,400 officers holding the rank of major or lieutenant commander and above were surveyed from across the services, active duty and retired, general officers and field-grade officers. About 35 percent of the participants hailed from the Army, 33 percent from the Air Force, 23 percent from the Navy, and 8 percent from the Marine Corps. Several hundred are flag officers, elite generals and admirals who have served at the highest levels of command. Approximately one third are colonels or captains—officers commanding thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines—and 37 percent hold the rank of lieutenant colonel or commander. Eighty-one percent have more than 20 years of service in the military. Twelve percent graduated from one of America’s exclusive military academies. And more than two thirds have combat experience, with roughly 10 percent having served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both.

We've certainly worn out a lot of equipment, built up huge future costs (e.g. taking care of permanently injured soldiers), and distracted ourselves from more important issues.

The US military can afford to fight in Iraq only because it doesn't have something really important on the table. The drain that is Iraq weakens the US military and leaves it less able to act in other theaters should the need arise.

These officers see a military apparatus severely strained by the grinding demands of war. Sixty percent say the U.S. military is weaker today than it was five years ago. Asked why, more than half cite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the pace of troop deployments those conflicts require. More than half the officers say the military is weaker than it was either 10 or 15 years ago. But asked whether “the demands of the war in Iraq have broken the U.S. military,” 56 percent of the officers say they disagree. That is not to say, however, that they are without concern. Nearly 90 percent say that they believe the demands of the war in Iraq have “stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.”

The war in Iraq also contributes nothing to US security while costing a few trillion dollars in the long run. If we wanted to reduce our risk for terrorism the best thing to do is to reduce the number of Muslims in the United States. We could make visas hard to get for Muslims and do much better border and interior enforcement of immigration laws. Doing that would cost a small fraction of the cost of the Iraq war.

The active duty officers who responded weren't as pessimistic as the retired officers.

In presenting survey results at a public event on February 19, we noted several areas where retired and active duty officers surveyed seemed to have significant differences. For example, 44 percent of active duty officers and those retired for a year or less believed the military was weaker than it was five years ago, compared to 60 percent of respondents overall. On the other hand, for many questions, the results for officers who were either active duty or retired within the last year were similar to those of the overall group surveyed.

That 44% of active duty officers who see the US weakened is still a quite substantial number of the total.

By Randall Parker    2008 March 27 08:34 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2008 March 23 Sunday
US Iraq Death Toll Hits 4000

The war began a little over 5 years ago on March 19, 2003. We've now reached 4000 US soldiers dead and a few hundred more Brits and other allied soldiers. What a tragic waste. 5 years is a long time to fight a war in such a small country.

Bush originally argued for an invasion based on a supposed program to develop nuclear and other dangerous weapons. That justification has been discredited and the Bush Administration moved on to terrorism as the reason for the invasion. Bush continues to inaccurately link the Iraq war with the fight against terrorists.

Speaking at the Pentagon, Mr Bush said "removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision". He also said that fighting Islamic militants in Iraq helped to prevent attacks on targets in the United States.

"The terrorists who murder the innocent in the streets of Baghdad want to murder the innocent in the streets of American cities," he said.

The best way to reduce the terrorist threat is to keep Muslims from visiting the United States. The people trying to blow up US soldiers in Iraq are mostly Iraqis who do not want us there. The idea that we are going to create a peaceful and non-aggressive democratic example in the rest of the Middle East to follow is looking pretty dubious. The country is split into religious, ethnic, and tribal factions who each place more importance on holding power than on democracy or respect for individual rights.

Christians in Iraq were accorded far more rights under Saddam Hussein than they are today. Shiite and Sunni Arabs are locked in a fight because the Sunnis know that democracy means Shia rule and Sunni submission. We've managed to bribe some of the Sunni fighters into becoming legal paramilitary forces under limited US control. But that is just allowing the Sunnis to build up forces they need to fight the Shias and the Shias resent our empowering the Sunnis. I do not see how this ends well. I do not see the point of spending billions of dollars per week to try to make it end well.

By Randall Parker    2008 March 23 09:03 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
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.

By Randall Parker    2008 March 22 01:01 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2008 January 18 Friday
Milder Brain Injuries Among Many Iraq War Veterans

We don't just throw away $3 billion dollars a week and lost lives on a pointless war that does nothing to improve American security. Lots of soldiers come back with missing limbs, debilitating injuries in muscles and joints, and brain damage (traumatic brain injury or TBI) with varying degrees of severity.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2008 – An Army report released yesterday outlines how the service can better identify and help soldiers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.

The report contains some 47 recommendations to help the Army better prevent, screen, diagnose, treat and research traumatic brain injury, said Brig. Gen. Donald Bradshaw, who led the task force charged with investigating TBI. Bradshaw is commander of Southeast Regional Medical Command and Eisenhower Regional Medical Center, at Fort Gordon, Ga.


The general said 80 percent of those who suffer from mild TBI, commonly known as a concussion, recover completely. Some 10 to 20 percent of soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with experience in combat may have suffered symptoms consistent with mild TBI.

I am skeptical that 80% recover completely. Brains can't heal as well as other parts of the body. The Army is studying longer term effects. But without before and after cognitive testing with testing done periodically after return we aren't going to know how long lasting the concussion effects are.

The task force applauded the brain-injury program at Fort Carson, Colo., where 17% of returning soldiers have shown signs of the injury. As a result, the Army is replicating Fort Carson's program at other installations.

The task force said most soldiers suffering mild brain injury recover completely. Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and member of the task force, added that research is underway to determine long-term effects.

TBI is in addition to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

TBI is classified as mild, moderate, severe or penetrating, depending on the severity and nature of the injury. Mild TBI, commonly known as a concussion, may affect 10 to 20 percent of Soldiers and Marines redeploying from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not the same as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, although the two conditions may produce similar symptoms, such as sleep problems, memory problems, confusion and irritability. Other mild TBI symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea and light-sensitivity. More than 80 percent of patients treated for mild TBI recover completely.

You can read the full Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force Report (PDF).

By Randall Parker    2008 January 18 11:34 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2007 November 17 Saturday
Tyler Cowen On The Opportunity Costs Of Iraq Invasion

George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen, and co-author of the Marginal Revolution web log, has an excellent op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that the opportunity costs of the Iraq war are huge.

Set aside the question of what we could have accomplished at home with the energy and resources we've devoted to Iraq and concentrate just on national security. Here, the hidden cost of the war, above all, is that the United States has lost much of its ability to halt nuclear proliferation.

Tyler argues that failure in one intervention leads Americans to oppose future interventions for years and for foreign governments to feel more emboldened and less constrained by what decision makers in Washington DC might do. I emphatically agree.

The waste of the Iraq war has diverted money away from efforts that have the potential to deliver real improvements in our security. Tyler doesn't mention it but efforts to keep out illegal aliens - some of the 9/11 attackers were here illegally - would buy us a real increase in security by reducing terrorist risk and conventional crime.

1. We still haven't secured our ports against nuclear terrorism. The $1 trillion we've probably spent on the war could have funded the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security 28 times over.

Tyler argues that there has been no return on investment from the Iraq war. Some of the war's supporters would dispute this. But benefits of the invasion seem really hard to find. Some of the war's supporters expect some eventual benefit. But, again, I do not see this happening. At best, for even more expenditures we might eventually cause Iraq to develop in directions that we could at least pretend to claim we controlled. The goal then is to make us look efficacious by seeing the war through to some sort of conclusion where we can leave while claiming victory.

5. Above all, governing Iraq has, so far, been a fruitless investment. According to 2006 figures, U.S. war spending came out to $3,749 per Iraqi -- almost as much as the per capita income of Egypt. That staggering sum hasn't bought a lot of leadership from Iraq, or much of a democratic model for its Arab neighbors.

The US war effort costs more per Iraqi than the per capita GDP of dozens of countries. In fact, we are spending more per Iraqi than countries 125 (Saint Vincent and Grenadines) through 194 (Malawi at $600 per capita) in a table of countries ranked by per capita GDP using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

That measure really understates the size of the war cost. Many of the economic costs show up in future years with care for disabled veterans, decreased work by disabled veterans, interest on money borrowed to fight the war, replacement of worn out equipment, and other costs that come due in the future.

We have weakened ourselves and reduced our influence by invading Iraq.

Following your lead, Iraq hawks argued that, in a post-9/11 world, we needed to take out rogue regimes lest they give nuclear or biological weapons to al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups. But each time the United States tries to do so and fails to restore order, it incurs a high -- albeit unseen -- opportunity cost in the future. Falling short makes it harder to take out, threaten or pressure a dangerous regime next time around.

By Randall Parker    2007 November 17 01:52 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2007 November 12 Monday
Democrats Say Iraq War Costs Higher

This is called shooting fish in a barrel.

The economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far total approximately $1.5 trillion, according to a new study by congressional Democrats that estimates the conflicts' "hidden costs"-- including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.

That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008, according to the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee. Its report, titled "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.

Yes, of course the war costs more than the amount of money appropriated on it so far. We are borrowing the money to spend it. Plus, we have tens of thousands and many hundreds of soldiers coming home with physical and mental disabilities. A lot more soldiers are getting brain damaged than are getting diagnosed for it. The costs for all that get tallied up over decades and the costs are quite high.

People who are soldiers are people who are not workers. There are opportunity costs.

The report argues that war funding is diverting billions of dollars away from "productive investment" by American businesses in the United States. It also says that the conflicts are pulling reservists and National Guardsmen away from their jobs, resulting in economic disruptions for U.S. employers that the report estimates at $1 billion to $2 billion.

The war does not provide a net benefit to American security. If our leaders really really wanted to do something to reduce the threat of terrorists there's a far easier thing to do: Keep out the Muslims.

By Randall Parker    2007 November 12 10:50 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (29)
Turkish Threats Stoking Kurdish Nationalism

Starting a war causes all sorts of unintended consequences. The Turkish response to Kurdish terrorists is stoking Kurdish nationalism.

YUKSEKOVA, Turkey — Turkish threats to attack Iraq, which may be heightened by a kidnapping over the weekend, are having the unintended effect of fostering closer ties between Kurdish communities in the two countries.

Will the Turkish Kurds leave Turkey for a Kurdistan which will secede from Iraq? What justification can be offered for forcing Kurds to live under Turkish and Arab rule?

Ankara's stance is "pushing Kurds together and deepening the rift between Kurds and Turks," said Sezgin Tanrikulu, bar association head in Diyarbakir, the southeastern Turkey's largest city. "Wounds are being created that will not be easy to heal."

Five years ago, Turkish Kurds had little but contempt for Iraqi Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. Kurds in teahouses across southeastern Turkey dismissed them as "backward tribesmen interested in nothing but dollars from Washington."

Today, that contempt has entirely evaporated. Instead of insults, many Turkish Kurds prefix mentions of Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani with the word "brej" — a Kurdish expression of respect.

The Kurds within Iraq have been fleeing the Arab areas and are becoming more heavily concentrated in the Kurdish north. The central government in Baghdad is a net negative in their lives. They'd be better off with independence. Will they get it?

By Randall Parker    2007 November 12 04:57 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2007 October 28 Sunday
Traumatic Brain Injury More Extensive With Iraq Veterans

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is probably greatly under-diagnosed among returning US and allied veterans of the Iraq war.

They find that even when there are no outward signs of injury from the blast, cells deep within the brain can be altered, their metabolism changed, causing them to die, says Geoff Ling, an advance-research scientist with the Pentagon.

The new findings are the result of blast experiments in recent years on animals, followed by microscopic examination of brain tissue. The findings could mean that the number of brain-injured soldiers and Marines — many of whom appear unhurt after exposure to a blast — may be far greater than reported, says Ibolja Cernak, a scientist with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

This cellular death leads to symptoms that may not surface for months or years, Cernak says. The symptoms can include memory deficit, headaches, vertigo, anxiety and apathy or lethargy. "These soldiers could have hidden injuries with long-term consequences," he says.

The Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) blasts might be injuring the brains of between 10% and 20% of soldiers who serve in Iraq.

When the war in Iraq began, clinicians treating the wounded began noticing similar symptoms. Some screenings at military bases showed that 10% to 20% of returning troops may have suffered such head wounds.

"We've had patients who have been in a blast, who we tested. They looked OK. And they came back later, and they were not OK," says Maria Mouratidis, head of brain injury treatment at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The effects of the blasts appear to cause neural damage that accumulates over time.

150,000 veterans might have brain damage due to the Iraq war.

Medical experts say some wounded vets suffer from undiagnosed brain injuries caused by these highly concussive explosions. An estimated 150,000 soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned home and even gone back to the battlefield with an unrecognized brain injury, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

This is a huge cost. The Iraq was is not making us more secure. We get no benefit for this cost. The war was a mistake and its continuation is a far bigger mistake.

Soldiers with traumatic brain injury have to wait for treatments.

Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering traumatic brain injury, grave wounds or serious illnesses often wait longer for outpatient appointments than the 30-day VA standard, according to an Observer analysis of two internal VA reports.

The analysis of 283,000 recent outpatient appointments showed that the VA scheduled 93 percent within 30 days, a key measure of the agency's ability to meet demand. That left 20,500 waiting longer.

Dr. Martin F. Stein, a 71 year old retired colonel and kidney specialist has been going on 3 month rotations to the Landstuhl Regional Army Medical Center in Germany every other year since 1985. Not exactly the profile of an anti-military guy, right? Well, Dr. Stein says the Bush Administration is trying to hide from the public the extent of US military injuries.

But one thing that has become increasingly clear to Stein as the Iraq conflict continues year after year is that the U.S. government is keeping its wounded soldiers behind curtains as much as possible. The American public has been protected from visual reminders that soldiers are dying and that those who live are left with shattered lives, facing an uncertain future.

"During previous trips, I was free to roam with my camera," says Stein. "During my latest trip, from January to March of this year, that ended. I took out my camera, and guards were on top of me."

He found, too, that his e-mail home was being censored.

"All references to wounded soldiers were being deleted," says Stein.

Your government tries to deceive you.

By Randall Parker    2007 October 28 08:44 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
Tyler Cowen On Security Contractors In Iraq

Writing in his New York Times Economic Scene column, economist Tyler Cowen says the use of private contractor to accomplish military objectives isn't automatically bad.

It is easy to rail against contractors for holding money above loyalty to country; Halliburton, for instance, has been a target of this criticism. But money isn’t the real issue. Few Americans would join the armed services without pay, and most American weapons are made by the private sector for profit.

Furthermore, privateers, private ships licensed to carry out warfare, helped win the American Revolution and the War of 1812. In World War II, the Flying Tigers, American fighter pilots hired by the government of Chiang Kai-shek, helped defeat the Japanese. Today, many of our allies receive payment, either implicitly or explicitly, to support American efforts. War is, among other things, an economic undertaking, so the profit motive in military affairs isn’t always bad or ignoble.

However, Tyler thinks the use of contractors is a sign of government weakness.

The recent comeback of private contracting suggests that central governments have become weaker again, at least relative to the tasks they are undertaking. Alexander Tabarrok, my colleague (and sometimes co-author) at George Mason University, where he is also a professor of economics, traced the history of private contractors in a study, “The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Privateers” (The Independent Review, spring 2007, He showed that public navies and armies began to displace private contractors in the 19th century, as governments became more powerful and better funded.

Today, America no longer has a draft, its military bureaucracy can be inflexible and the public wishes to be insulated from the direct impact of war.

In a way the use of contractors reduces the accountability of government. If George W. Bush had to use only uniformed US military personnel in Iraq then he'd have to implement a draft. But a draft would be so politically unpopular that he might be forced to scale back the US military effort in Iraq or to pull out entirely. Bush is in a weak position and therefore he uses contractors. So it makes sense on a certain level for opponents of the war to oppose the use of contractors.

Tyler sees a number of reasons to use contractors, not all of them good.

Security guards, however, are often "mercenaries." A general or top Iraqi official for instance might be guarded by Blackwater employees. The critics have not shown that Blackwater employees misbehave at a higher rate than do U.S. soldiers, so the comparative case against Blackwater -- as opposed to the more general case against the war -- is mostly shrill rhetoric. It is possible to pay Blackwater employees bonuses for good performance rather than just give medals, plus they are on a higher pay scale in the first place. Nonetheless my judgment call is that issues of perception and accountability are important enough in contemporary Iraq that we should be using contractors less in these capacities (as the column indicated), but the temptation to use them is based on more than just sheer political abuse.

Contractors lower the cost of good operations, contractors lower the operational (but not social) cost of bad operations, contractors magnify the costs of mistaken Executive preferences, and contractors can raise new problems of monitoring. If you don't think the first item on this list is at work, there is good reason to cut back on contractors in Iraq.

It is worth noting that soldiers from some other countries that are serving in Iraq are in a sense contractors to the US government. A glance at the list of Multinational Forces In Iraq shows odd entries such as El Salvador, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. Their presence represents political deals with the United States where they sent forces in exchange for favors or influence or aid. We pay for those forces even if the payments don't come in the form of contracts with private companies.

By Randall Parker    2007 October 28 12:08 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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.

By Randall Parker    2007 October 23 09:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2007 October 14 Sunday
How US Government Cheated Minnesota National Guardsmen In Iraq

Harvard labor economist George Borjas draws attention to a story about some Minnesota National Guard and how the US government connived to avoid paying them more benefits for an especially long tour of duty.

When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.

1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill...

Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.

Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school. "Which would be allowing the soldiers an extra $500 to $800 a month," Anderson said.

Dr. Borjas notes:

I no longer believe in coincidences when it comes to stuff like this. Whoever wrote the order for 729 days knew precisely what he or she was doing.

What does this say about the Bush Administration and the people in the Pentagon? When America sent soldiers abroad to fight for 1, 2, 3 years in World War II they came back to receive excellent educational benefits. Well, we have many soldiers who have been on multiple 1 year tours of duty in Iraq plus their most recent tours of 15 months and beyond.

This group from Minnesota who just served 22 months includes members who probably have served in a war for longer than the vast bulk of the US soldiers who served in World War II. These currently serving soldiers spent probably much more time in combat conditions than did the average US soldier in WWII as well. During WWII we had lots of soldiers in support outfits away from the front lines who were in friendly territory. The soldiers who marched across Europe didn't even spend 12 months from D-Day at Normandy until Nazi Germany surrendered. Now we have National Guard units spending twice the amount of time the D-Day soldiers spent and cheapskates in the Bush Administration are looking at how to shaft them by reducing their time abroad by 1 day.

Update: It angers me that someone so manifestly unworthy (i.e. George W. Bush) has these soldiers over in Iraq dying essentially to allow him and his allies to save face and to pretend that some good result can come this pointless war. Not only is he expending their lives needlessly and getting many more maimed he's also cheating them of benefits with things like this 729 day deployment.

By Randall Parker    2007 October 14 07:54 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2007 September 22 Saturday
Afghanistan And Iraq War Costs Hit $200 Billion Per Year

The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is now running at about $666 per American citizen. Er, 666. Superstitious anyone?

The request will total nearly $200 billion to fund the war through 2008, Pentagon officials said. If it is approved, 2008 will be the most expensive year of the Iraq war.

U.S. war costs have continued to grow because of the additional combat forces sent to Iraq in 2007 and because of efforts to quickly ramp up production of new technology, such as mine- resistant trucks designed to protect troops from roadside bombs. The new trucks can cost three to six times as much as armored Humvees.

Of course, lots of people (e.g. children, prisoners, the unemployed, and those with low pay) do not pay any federal income taxes. Others do not pay very much. So if you are a member of the ranks of net taxpayers (that dwindling breed of those who pay more in taxes than they get in benefits) then you are paying thousands of dollars per year for the Iraq Debacle.

That $200 billion total includes money for Afghanistan. Well the United States has about 27,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and 169,000 in Iraq. That suggests well over 80% of the war costs are for Iraq.

The war spending is in addition to the base Pentagon budget.

During that period, Congress will be debating the administration's new war request, and potentially some additional wiggle room could be provided if Democrats complete action on the regular $460 billion fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations bill in that timeframe.

Note that the $200 billion per year for Iraq does not include expenses that we are incurring for Iraq that will come due for decades to come. For example, every disabled veteran will have medical costs and many of the more severely disabled will have assisted living costs such as live-in nursing help. Plus, those coming back damaged in mind and body will produce less in jobs and therefore won't pay taxes or generate as much wealth. SO there are opportunity costs. Plus, the war is being funded with debt and we will be paying that debt for years to come as well.

Another cost of the Iraq war is the overuse of soldiers who are in bad shape.

BURTON -- In a ranch home where wind chimes tinkle in the breeze and Marine Corps and American flags flap high outside, Cpl. Bryan Antkowiak has been settling into a new life.

He's spending time with wife Kim and daughter Emma, the blonde, bubbly 3-year-old whose birthdays he's missed. He's trying to treat degenerative disc disease, and starting a new job at General Motors.

But two years after leaving Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the Marine -- whose family says is considered by Veteran's Affairs to be 30 percent disabled -- is being sent to the Middle East involuntarily as an inactive reservist.

The amputees and other permanently disabled are an especially important cost of the Iraq war.

Dawn Halfaker is a native of San Diego. She was 27 and a first lieutenant in the Army. Her right arm and shoulder were amputated in an explosion. She suffered lung damage and multiple internal shrapnel injuries. She says: "My dark memories are inescapable; they are the fiber that shaped the threads of my new life, and I must accept them for what they are and persevere through them."

Jay Wilkerson, 41, an Army staff sergeant from El Sobrante, Calif., suffers long- and short-term memory loss. He has lost the use of eight fingers, and the left side of his body is damaged. His two children call him daily at the hospital. "They call to make sure I'm OK," he says, "and it's weird, because I'm the parent. But they call me to make sure I'm OK." Then he laughs.

Our soldiers are losing body parts in a futile attempt to make the Iraqis stop their civil war.

By Randall Parker    2007 September 22 04:58 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2007 September 13 Thursday
Two "The War As We Saw It" Soldiers Die In Iraq

Remember in late August 2007 when 6 sergeants and a specialist in the US Army wrote an essay in the New York Times entitled "The War As We Saw It" where they conveyed a rather more pessimistic view of developments in Iraq. Well, two of those sergeants have died in an accident in Iraq.

Two of the soldiers who wrote of their pessimism about the war in an Op-Ed article that appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 19 were killed in Baghdad on Monday. They were not killed in combat, nor on a daring mission. They died when the five-ton cargo truck in which they were riding overturned.

The victims, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, 26, and Sgt. Omar Mora, 28, were among the authors of “The War as We Saw It,” in which they expressed doubts about reports of progress.

The US presence in Iraq serves no useful purpose. These lives were wasted there.

The US goal in Iraq is basically to hold back competing factions from defeating each other. That doesn't make the factions give up permanently. The conflict will even last longer because we prevent victories and defeats and because many factions are clear that they want to blow up American soldiers.

Sunni Al Qaeda terrorists won't take over Iraq if we withdraw. The powerful Shia majority oppose rule by local Sunni Arabs and even more so oppose rule by foreign Sunni Arabs. The local Sunnis don't want to be ruled by foreign Sunnis either. These basic facts about Iraq need repeating again and again. The facts just plain get ignored by war supporters who parrot the deceitful Bush Administration party line.

By Randall Parker    2007 September 13 10:12 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2007 September 02 Sunday
Iraq War Costing At Least $4 Billion Per Week

You can bet that some of the Iraq war cost is buried in the $460 billion regular defense budget too.

President Bush is expected to ask Congress sometime in September for an additional $50 billion in Iraq outlays on top of the $147 billion in supplemental spending he proposed for Iraq and Afghanistan in February. That's separate from the $460 billion in regular defense spending for fiscal year 2008.

These current costs do not include the cost of lost lives or the medical care, nursing, and subsidized living for those who come back missing body parts.

We have no vital interest at stake in Iraq. If we leave our national interest will not be harmed. In fact, we'll be more secure, not less.

By Randall Parker    2007 September 02 03:08 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2007 August 28 Tuesday
Why Few Iraqi Refugees In United States So Far

So far America has managed to dodge one particular big cost of the Iraq war: Iraqi muslim refugees.

BAGHDAD, Aug. 28 — Despite a stepped-up commitment from the United States to take in Iraqis who are in danger because they worked for the American government and military, very few are signing up to go, resettlement officials say.

The reason, Iraqis say, is that they are not allowed to apply in Iraq, requiring them to make a costly and uncertain journey to countries like Syria or Jordan, where they may be turned away by border officials already overwhelmed by fleeing Iraqis.

George W. Bush needs to stand up and demand that Iraqis stay in Iraq to help fight the terrorists and to help rebuild the Iraqi economy. We need those Iraqis in Iraq so they can volunteer for the Iraqi police, Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi Interior Ministry security forces. They need to be made to fight for freedom and democracy whether or not they favor freedom or democracy.

Bush wants us to believe good times are around the corner. If that is true then there's no need for the US to be burdened by a big Muslim refugee immigrant population from Iraq.

What I want to know: Why should we have US soldiers fighting and dying for the Iraqi people while we also let the Iraqis leave rather than stay and support the Iraqi government? We should oppose a large Iraqi refugee settlement into the United States. We should keep Muslims separated from the rest of the world. Islam is the problem. We should keep the problem out of our civilization.

By Randall Parker    2007 August 28 11:07 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (40)
2007 June 16 Saturday
Private Contractors Fight Parallel War In Iraq

A growing portion of the war in Iraq is getting privatized.

BAGHDAD -- Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.

While the military has built up troops in an ongoing campaign to secure Baghdad, the security companies, out of public view, have been engaged in a parallel surge, boosting manpower, adding expensive armor and stepping up evasive action as attacks increase, the officials and company representatives said. One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year, according to previously unreleased statistics; one security company reported nearly 300 "hostile actions" in the first four months.

The full article is long and provides many interesting details.

In order to hide the scope of the violence the casualty figures for private security services weren't reported at all for years and now they are only partially reported.

After a year of protests by Wayne and logistics director Jack Holly, a retired Marine colonel, the casualty figures were included. In an operational overview updated last month, the logistics directorate reported that 132 security contractors and truck drivers had been killed and 416 wounded since fall 2004. Four security contractors and a truck driver remained missing, and 208 vehicles were destroyed. Only convoys registered with the logistics directorate are counted in the statistics, and the total number of casualties is believed to be higher.

Since many contractors are not Americans (e.g. 500 Kurds who guard a large depot near Baghdad) the cost per soldier is probably much lower in many cases.

One British security company that guards one third of all non-military convoys has lost more people than all but 3 of the countries in the coalition.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that ArmorGroup has lost 26 employees in Iraq, based on insurance claims. Sources close to the company said the figure is nearly 30. Only three countries in the 25-nation coalition -- the United States, Britain and Italy -- have sustained more combat-related deaths.

That is just one of the security companies supplying mercenaries. When you hear about other countries which supposedly make the US presence in Iraq into a big coalition operation keep in mind that the mercenaries combined probably do more security work and fighting than Italy. With the Brits scaling back their Iraq presence the private military outfits probably are doing more than British soldiers as well.

The use of private armies comes at a cost to liberty: If governments estranged from their people can raise the money to hire private armies then the need for willing citizens to serve in militaries ceases to place a restraint on the actions of elites. The elites who want a single world government and the gradual weakening of state sovereignty have got to be looking at the performance of private armies in Iraq and wondering whether they'll serve as key elements of a new world order.

By Randall Parker    2007 June 16 11:06 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2007 June 02 Saturday
May 2007 US Deaths 3rd Highest Since War Start

The 127 US deaths in Iraq for May 2007 are surpassed only by April 2004 with 135 deaths and November 2004 with 137 deaths.

Whenever the US pulls out the Iraqis are going to go at it with each other to decide who gets to force which factions to submit. Equality is a foreign idea in Arab Muslim cultures. Most will submit and others will dominate. We are wasting lots of American lives to try to defend a myth and pretend otherwise.

By Randall Parker    2007 June 02 05:34 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2007 April 30 Monday
Iraq War Cost Approaches Half Trillion Dollars

What a waste.

WASHINGTON - The bitter fight over the latest Iraq spending bill has all but obscured a sobering fact: The war will soon cost more than $500 billion.

That's about ten times more than the Bush administration anticipated before the war started four years ago, and no one can predict how high the tab will go. The $124 billion spending bill that President Bush plans to veto this week includes about $78 billion for Iraq, with the rest earmarked for the war in Afghanistan, veterans' health care and other government programs.

This cost does not include the lost wages of debilitated soldiers, their long term care, the interest on the debt, and other costs that will show up in future years. This is easily a trillion dollar war and probably more.

For a very small fraction of this war's cost we could have a very rigorous system for tracking and deporting illegal alien Muslims in the West. We could make visas hard to get from Muslim countries. We could have much better border security. We could deploy many more CIA agents to track and disrupt terrorist organisations. We could pay other governments to track down Muslim terrorists. If enhanced US security is the goal then the war in Iraq offers very bad value per dollar spent.

By Randall Parker    2007 April 30 10:54 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (16)
2007 February 14 Wednesday
Bush Embraces Refugee Immigration From Iraq

The Bush Administration wants to up the cost of the Iraq war for the American people.

The United States will accelerate the resettlement of about 7,000 Iraqis referred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and will contribute $18 million to the agency's appeal for Iraq, about one-third of the total, Undersecretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky said Wednesday.

Plans call for the paperwork allowing the Iraqis to enter the United States to be completed by the end of September, said Dobriansky, appearing at a news conference in Washington with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ant?nio Guterres, and Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey.

This is part and parcel with Bush's larger "Invade the world, Invite the world" strategy. He connects various harmful policies together to increase the synergy between them.

Bush wants to scale up Iraqi immigration even higher in order to protect collaborators.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — The Bush administration is considering legislation that would allow Iraqis who have been singled out as collaborators for working or associating with American officials to come to the United States on special immigrant visas or through other programs, officials said Wednesday.

Bush embraces the exact opposite of the strategy best equipped to protect us from a threat that he claims is large enough to justify a very costly war. What is that best strategy that Bush rejects? Separationism. Separate the West from the Muslim countries. This is akin to containment with a greater emphasis on immigration restriction. The need for military deterrence is much less in the case of Muslim countries because they are so weak militarily in the first place. We just have to keep them from migrating to non-Muslim countries.

By Randall Parker    2007 February 14 11:57 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2007 February 13 Tuesday
US Army Letting In More With Criminal Records

One of the costs of the Iraq war is a decline in the quality of recruits.

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.


The sharpest increase was in waivers for serious misdemeanors, which make up the bulk of all the Army’s moral waivers. These include aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide.

Look at it on the bright side: If we are going to lose American soldiers fighting in Iraq I'd rather lose people with criminal records.

More recruits are being let in on medical waivers.

The Defense Department has also expanded its applicant pool by accepting soldiers with criminal backgrounds and medical problems like asthma, high blood pressure and attention deficit disorder, situations that require waivers. Medical waivers have increased 4 percent, totaling 12,313 in 2006. Without waivers, the soldiers would have been barred from service.

Some of those with medical problems can probably serve in domestic positions and free up others to go abroad.

As Steve Sailer points out, the Army places such a high priority on intelligence that they have relaxed IQ standards the least. Better to let in criminals than dummies. Much of the time the criminals will carry out the tasks assigned to them. By contrast, the dummies lack the capacity to learn how to do complex tasks.

Update: A link from Salon brought a fair number of readers, some of whom saw my comments as an opportunity to pose as morally superior to moi. Let me be clear to those individuals: The American government sends troops to Iraq where lots of people want to kill them. As a result, some of them die. As long as the American government sends troops to Iraq some of them will continue to die. Do you really favor sending non-criminals to die in preference to criminals? If so, why?

I happen to think we shouldn't send US soldiers to Iraq. I have argued this position for years now. I do not think our vital national interests are at stake. I also do not think US troops make Iraq a better place. All we are doing is slowing down the civil war and by slowing it down we are increasing the number of Iraqis who will die and we are doing so at considerable expense with deaths and maiming of our own soldiers. It is a bad idea to have US forces in Iraq. It is pointless. It is even counter-productive.

But, again, if we are going to have Americans dying in Iraq I'd rather some of them be criminals than not. How can one argue otherwise? Leave aside standard liberal or neocon moral posing. Just tell me why you would prefer non-criminals to die over criminals.

By Randall Parker    2007 February 13 10:55 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (27)
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.

By Randall Parker    2006 December 20 08:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2006 October 11 Wednesday
Johns Hopkins Estimates 650,000 Dead In Iraq

The official death toll reports from Iraq probably drastically underestimate the real number of deaths from the US invasion and its aftermath of continuing war.

As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The deaths from all causes—violent and non-violent—are over and above the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion.

The estimates were derived from a nationwide household survey of 1,849 households throughout Iraq conducted between May and July 2006. The results are consistent with the findings of an October 2004 study of Iraq mortality conducted by the Hopkins researchers. Also, the findings closely reflect the increased mortality trends reported by other organizations that utilized passive methods of counting mortality, such as counting bodies in morgues or deaths reported by the news media. The study is published in the October 14, 2006, edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal, The Lancet.

“As we found with our previous survey, the majority of deaths in Iraq are due to violence—although we also saw a small increase in deaths from non-violent causes, such as heart disease, cancer and chronic illness. Gunshots were the primary cause of violent deaths. To put these numbers in context, deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003,” said Gilbert Burnham, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and co-director of the Bloomberg School’s Center for Refugee and Disaster Response. “Our total estimate is much higher than other mortality estimates because we used a population-based, active method for collecting mortality information rather than passive methods that depend on counting bodies or tabulated media reports of violent deaths. Though the numbers differ, the trend in increasing numbers of deaths closely follows that measured by the U.S. Defense Department and the Iraq Body Count group.”

They estimate over 91% were killed by violence and that coalition forces were responsible for about 31% until July 2006 when deaths from coalition forces declined to 26% of the total. That's probably a sign that the sectarian killings have increased.

The invasion more than doubled the death rate in Iraq.

According to the researchers, the overall rate of mortality in Iraq since March 2003 is 13.3 deaths per 1,000 persons per year compared to 5.5 deaths per 1,000 persons per year prior to March 2003. This amounts to about 2.5 percent of Iraqi’s population having died as a consequence of the war.

One of the justifications for invading Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussein from killing Iraqis. Oops.

Update: Here's what I've long wondered about the casualty rate reports from Iraq:

  • What percentage of those killed show up as visible dead bodies to even have a chance of being collected by police and morgues?
  • Has the government crumbled so far in some parts of the country that there are no morgue employees left to collect bodies? In some areas the police and elected officials have fled. So why not the morgue employees? Do they get paid? The Iraqi army has a had time getting paid. And so maybe the morgue employees in some areas have given up working.
  • How much political pressure is there to publically report lower death figures than are known within the Iraqi government? The huge underreporting of deaths in Baghdad in August 2006 (revised upward by a multiple a week or so later) suggests this happens at least some of the time.
  • How many bodies aren't accounted for because artillery or air strikes obliterate some unknown number of insurgents and civilians in buildings?
  • Do any car bombs obliterate some victims so that an accurate death count is not possible?
  • Are Shia deaths or Sunni deaths more underreported?

Update II: Steve Sailer has an extensive post on the plausibility of this report. Steve points to the text of the study that shows most of the Iraqis polled who reported family deaths were able to provide death certificates.

The study population at the beginning of the recall period (January 1, 2002) was calculated to be 11 956, and a total of 1474 births and 629 deaths were reported during the study period; age was reported for 610 of 629 deaths, sex reporting was complete. During the survey period there were 129 households (7%) that reported in-migration, and 152 households (8%) reported out-migration. Survey teams asked for death certificates in 545 (87%) reported deaths and these were present in 501 cases. The pattern of deaths in households without death certificates was no different from those with certificates.

The death certificates suggest that parts of the Iraqi government have the documentation that could be used to measure the death rates. In theory one could go to an Iraqi city government administration building, go into the archives of death certificates, and see how many death certificates there are for various time periods. Or do Iraqi bureaucracies issue death certificates that they do not keep copies of?

Update III: One problem with the latest study is that the assumption it uses for the pre-war mortality rate might be too low.

The first issue here: Iraq's pre-war mortality rate. The first Johns Hopkins study from 2004 pegged it at five per every 1,000 population, based on what those interviewed recalled. This one was 5.5/1,000.

But UN reports had suggested Iraq's crude death rate was higher than this in the 1980s and '90s. It was in at least the 6.8/1,000 range and rising, which would make the difference between normal deaths and what the researchers called "excess deaths" brought about by the war quite a bit smaller.


This one roughly 40 households in each of 50 sites and as a result the confidence continuum has narrowed considerably to between 426,369 and 795,663 — which is still quite a range.

If we take the low end of the confidence interval we are still left with a high increment in the death rate. Worse, even those who argue for a lower death rate admit the death rate rose substantially this year.

Update IV: Daniel Davies says the numbers do add up.

The results speak for themselves. There was a sample of 12,801 individuals in 1,849 households, in 47 geographical locations. That is a big sample, not a small one. The opinion polls from Mori and such which measure political support use a sample size of about 2,000 individuals, and they have a margin of error of +/- 3%. If Margaret Beckett looks at the Labour party's rating in the polls, she presumably considers this to be reasonably reliable, so she should not contribute to public ignorance by allowing her department to disparage "small samples extrapolated to the whole country". The Iraq Body Count website and the Iraqi government statistics are not better measures than the survey results, because one of the things we know about war zones is that casualties are under-reported, usually by a factor of more than five.

And the results were shocking. In the 18 months before the invasion, the sample reported 82 deaths, two of them from violence. In the 39 months since the invasion, the sample households had seen 547 deaths, 300 of them from violence. The death rate expressed as deaths per 1,000 per year had gone up from 5.5 to 13.3.

Talk of confidence intervals becomes frankly irrelevant at this point. If you want to pick a figure for the precise number of excess deaths, then (1.33% - 0.55%) x 26,000,000 x 3.25 = 659,000 is as good as any, multiplying out the difference between the death rates by the population of Iraq and the time since the invasion. But we're interested in the qualitative conclusion here.

How can a survey of such a large number of people come out drastically wrong? Davies is right. 12,000 people is a large number of people to survey.

Update V: What other method would be more accurate than a survey? I agree with Richard Garfield that under the circumstances a survey is the most accurate method available for measuring death rates.

"I loved when President Bush said 'their methodology has been pretty well discredited,' " says Richard Garfield, a public health professor at Columbia University who works closely with a number of the authors of the report. "That's exactly wrong. There is no discrediting of this methodology. I don't think there's anyone who's been involved in mortality research who thinks there's a better way to do it in unsecured areas. I have never heard of any argument in this field that says there's a better way to do it."

Do you trust lower official figures from a dysfunctional and corrupt Iraqi government? Recall that an employee of the Baghdad morgue reported in August that the real death toll the morgue saw was 3 times the death toll reported for Baghdad by the Iraqi government.

Update VI: The Iraqi woman who writes the Baghdad Burning blog says she sees so many deaths per family among the families she knows that she finds the Johns Hopkins results plausible.

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.

The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

We know the Iraqi government will deceive about death rates. We also know the Iraqi government barely exists in some parts of Iraq. Surely the death rate is underreported. The question is only by how much?

Update VII: Richard Miniter interviewed Johns Hopkins Professor and study leader Richard Burnham on how his team collected the information for this study and why he thinks the results are valid.

Burnham: This was a ‘cohort’ study, which means we compared household deaths after the invasion with deaths before the invasion in the same households. The death rates for these comparison households was 5.5/1000/yr.

What we did find for the households as a pre-invasion death rate was essential the same number as we found in 2004, the same number as the CIA gives and the estimate for Iraq by the US Census Bureau.

Death rates are a function of many things—not just health of the population. One of the most important factors in the death rate is the number of elderly in the population. Iraq has few, and a death rate of 5.5/1000/yr in our calculation (5.3 for the CIA), the USA is 8 and Sweden is 11. This is an indication of how important the population structures are in determining death rates. (You might Google ‘population pyramid’ and look at the census bureau site—fascinating stuff.)

The fact that his measured 5.5 rate is close to the CIA 5.3 rate for the pre-war period is an indication (though not conclusive) that at least for the pre-war period his sample was representative and his method of data collection was sound.

Burnham says most facilities (e.g. morgues) are not reporting their mortality information to the central government and the government is manipulating the data it does get.

PajamasMedia: You write that an active survey is more accurate than a “passive” system of counting media reports, morgue reports or other lists of the dead, which are often grossly incomplete in a war zone. This seems reasonable. To make sure people weren’t making things up, you teams received death certificates some 80% of the time. Also reasonable. So why are the active death figures an order of magnitude higher than the passive counts?

Burnham: The difference depends on the proportion of the passive-reporting facilities whose reports on death tolls reach some central tabulating body. Our information is that not many facilities are reporting, and what is being reported is often being manipulated.

I fully expect far less than complete reporting by the local government units. I also expect not all bodies to even make it to morgues or hospitals. I also expect provincial governates and the central government to cook the books. Plus, reporters can't even get out to most of the places where people are dying unless they are embedded with US troops. So reporters can't get the story of what is really happening with deaths.

Update VIII: A January 2008 report from the Iraqi government and World Health Organization estimates only a quarter the number of deaths that the Johns Hopkins study found.

A new survey estimates that 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years following the U.S.-led invasion of the country. Roughly 9 out of 10 of those deaths were a consequence of U.S. military operations, insurgent attacks and sectarian warfare.

The survey, conducted by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization, also found a 60 percent increase in nonviolent deaths -- from such causes as childhood infections and kidney failure -- during the period. The results, which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine at the end of the month, are the latest of several widely divergent and controversial estimates of mortality attributed to the Iraq war.

The three-year toll of violent deaths calculated in the survey is one-quarter the size of that found in a smaller survey by Iraqi and Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the journal Lancet in 2006.

Here from the WHO press release on the January 2008 study:

The estimate is based on interviews conducted in 9345 households in nearly 1000 neighbourhoods and villages across Iraq. The researchers emphasize that despite the large size of the study, the uncertainty inherent in calculating such estimates led them to conclude that the number of Iraqis who died from violence during that period lies between 104 000 and 223 000.

"Assessment of the death toll in conflict situations is extremely difficult and household survey results have to be interpreted with caution," said study co-author Mohamed Ali, a WHO statistician who provided technical assistance for the survey. "However, in the absence of comprehensive death registration and hospital reporting, household surveys are the best we can do."

"Our survey estimate is three times higher than the death toll detected through careful screening of media reports by the Iraq Body Count project and about four times lower than a smaller-scale household survey conducted earlier in 2006," added Naeema Al Gasseer, the WHO Representative to Iraq.

The study found that violence became a leading cause of death for Iraqi adults after March 2003 and the main cause for men aged 15-59 years. It indicated that on average 128 Iraqis per day died of violent causes in the first year following the invasion and that the average daily violent death toll was 115 in the second year and 126 in the third year. More than half of the violent deaths occurred in Baghdad.

You can read the full text of this January 2008 report in the New England Journal of Medicine: Violence-Related Mortality in Iraq from 2002 to 2006.

By Randall Parker    2006 October 11 11:00 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (77)
2006 September 28 Thursday
Iraq War Costs Up While 2007 Looks Worse

The burn rate of money on the war in Iraq has risen 20% since 2005.

WASHINGTON -- A new congressional analysis shows the Iraq war is now costing taxpayers almost $2 billion a week -- nearly twice as much as in the first year of the conflict three years ago and 20 percent more than last year -- as the Pentagon spends more on establishing regional bases to support the extended deployment and scrambles to fix or replace equipment damaged in combat.

But the larger amounts of money being spent are still not enough to keep the Third Infantry Division and other divisions in fighting shape.

Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense.

The rest of the division, which helped lead the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and conducted the first probes into Baghdad, is moving back to full strength after many months of being a shell of its former self.

But at a time when Pentagon officials are saying the Army is stretched so thin that it may be forced to go back on its pledge to limit National Guard deployment overseas, the division’s situation is symptomatic of how the shortages are playing out on the ground.

Bob Woodward says US forces are now attacked in Iraq every 15 minutes, the Bush Administration is lying about how bad things are in Iraq and in 2007 Iraq is going to get much worse.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.

US forces are getting hit by 800 to 900 attacks per week.

"It's getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," Woodward said in excerpts of the interview released on Thursday before the release of his book on the administration, called "State of Denial."

Most Iraqis support attacks on US troops.

About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year.

That's what a poll found that was done for the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes.

Are we fighting to help people who want us dead? Sure looks that way.

The approval rating of Iraqis for attacks on US troops has gone from 47% in January to 61% now. Most of the shift in opinion came from Shiites. Almost four fifths of Iraqis believe the presence of US troops increases the violence. I say we should trust the Iraqis on this score and leave.

Some experts think staying and leaving both make things worse.

"The predicament the United States faces right now is that we are basically bogged down in the shifting sand of Iraq, and the longer we stay, the more we provide ammunition to the jihadist leaders," said Fawaz Gerges, a visiting scholar at the University of Cairo and the author of "Journey of the Jihadist."

"But if we ... retreat from Iraq, the militants will be empowered," he said.

The Iraqis want us gone. I say we organize a national voter referendum in Iraq where the Iraqis get to vote whether our troops should stay. Respect the will of the democratic majority.

By Randall Parker    2006 September 28 10:21 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2006 September 23 Saturday
Iraq Invasion Increased Terrorist Threat

Mark Mazzetti of thef New York Times reports that a classified intelligence assessment entitled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" reports the Iraq invasion has increased the terrorist threat to the United States and other countries.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

Read the full article for all the details.

Bush calls Iraq a front in a war on terror. If so then it is a front we created that spurs Muslims all over the world to take up Jihad against the West.

Bush is sort of like the Manchurian Candidate. Maybe we should call him the Mecca Candidate.

Update: The Washington Post also has gotten access to people who are familiar with the document. Our Iraq invasion has inspired Muslims toward Jihad, not democracy.

The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.

A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the "centrality" of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.

We are going to need far better border security and tougher visa policies as the threat grows. It is time to put an end to the policies of Immigration, Imperialism, and Insolvency as Daniel Larison calls them.

Here's the Los Angeles Times coverage. I am expecting some reader to take me to task for using very harsh rhetoric about George W. Bush. But Duby and Cheney are either lying or deluded when they claim the Iraq invasion has made Americans safer.

The Bush administration has made the case that a democratic government in the Middle East would serve as a beacon to other nations, providing new hope to populations of disaffected Muslims.

"The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power," Bush said in his speech to the nation on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad." He also said that Americans were "safer, but we are not yet safe" from terrorism.

Bush and Cheney frequently have dismissed suggestions that the U.S. presence in Iraq has inflamed anger toward the United States, arguing that U.S. forces were not in Baghdad on Sept. 11, 2001.

My optimistic hope: We will so enrage the Muslims that when they do things against us that are really bad this will rouse our masses to demand an end to Muslim immigration. That'd put a really big plus in the ledger to weigh against the costs of the Iraq Debacle.

Update II: Greg Cochran comments:

What we're doing makes things worse - big surprise - but we can't quit, because we're effectively nuts. On the other hand, even if you magnify the islamic-terrorist threat tenfold, it still isn't very big as strategic threats go. I guess that the positive way of looking at it is that we've tapped a rich vein of violent insanity that would have undoubtedly broken loose in some other, maybe worse way if we hadn't invaded Iraq. Indeed, this _is_ the best of all possible worlds.

I think we are better off if their anger and resentment toward us intensifies sooner rather than later. If it happens sooner then we can react and isolate them from us before they become a much bigger demographic presence in the West.

But Greg corrects me in my interpretation of what he said: The "rich vein of violent insanity" is something he sees in us.

Update III: Daniel Larison comments:

But remember Bin Laden said that Iraq was vital to their global jihad (Michael Novak has just told us so), so no matter what you do you must not make any kind of rational judgement about this information that would seek to weaken or reduce the jihadi threat.  Under no circumstances should we consider concluding the war in Iraq, even though it daily works to the enemy’s advantage for us to remain.  We must have resolve.  After all, it’s 1938 and the fascists are coming, aiee!

We have to stay in Iraq because to leave would be a sign of weakness. Never mind that we help our enemies by staying. If we leave then Nazi tanks (with modern 1970s technology) will roll in blitzkrieg across Arabia with the Sunni Arabs (or Shia Arabs? or maybe the Persians?) singing "Deutscheland Uber Alles" as they break the back of the French (er, Sunni Arab?) defense.

The Middle East has become the theater of the absurd. Washington DC has become either the theater of the deluded nuts or the theater of the pathological liars. Probably some of each.

By Randall Parker    2006 September 23 10:04 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2006 August 17 Thursday
Rules Violations Up For Military Recruiters

One of the costs of the war in Iraq is increased criminal conduct in the recruiting of soldiers as teenagers become more reluctant to join the US military.

The number of alleged and substantiated violations by U.S. military recruiters increased by more than 50 percent in one year, a rise that may reflect growing pressure to meet wartime recruiting goals, according to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday.

Allegations of wrongdoing by military recruitment personnel rose from 4,400 cases in fiscal 2004 to 6,600 cases in fiscal 2005, with substantiated cases increasing from 400 to almost 630, according to the report. The number of cases found to be criminal violations more than doubled, from 33 to 68.

The number of soldiers recruited fell from 250,000 in fiscal 2004 to 215,000 in fiscal 2005.

The article says the US Army is using bigger incentives this year to meet its recruiting goals. So another cost of the Iraq war is the money paid out to get kids to enlist.

The Army signed up an autistic recruit.

Cases of wrongdoing vary widely, ranging from paperwork errors to serious allegations, such as sexual harassment, falsifying documents and concealing serious medical conditions. In May, for instance, The Oregonian reported that the Army had accepted an autistic recruit and signed him up to become a cavalry scout. The recruit has since been discharged.

Equipment gets left in Iraq when units leave and soldiers get kept in Iraq beyond the expiration of their enlistment.

There aren't enough troops in the ranks to staff all the brigades and divisions. So Peter is robbed in those areas of the budget as well.

The consequences are clear. The units leave their equipment behind in Iraq for their replacements to use. When they get home they have to turn loose thousands of troops whose enlistments ended months before and who were press-ganged into another combat tour by what is known as "stop-loss," or involuntary service in an all-volunteer military.

Thousands of other troops are "cross-balanced" or transferred into other units headed back to Iraq or Afghanistan, filling up all those vacancies in those outfits.

How do units that leave their equipment in Iraq do training in the United States?

The US Army has convinced a lot of Defense Department officials that it needs much more money.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense is considering adding tens of billions of dollars to the Army's base budget in the Pentagon's new six-year spending plan in order to address funding shortfalls that service officials say could threaten the viability of U.S. ground forces, according to Defense Department officials.

Pentagon officials say an Army request for an additional $23 billion to its fiscal year 2008 budget -- and further additions on that order each year through 2013 -- are being seriously weighed in a round of highly unusual midsummer budget negotiations.

The Army has too much to do and not enough money to do it all. If the overall Defense Department budget is not increased then the budgets for the other services will get cut to pay for the Iraq war.

A Pentagon consultant involved in the effort to secure more money for the Army said service officials have argued it cannot execute what it has been asked to do. “The global war on terror, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan -- you cannot execute that, much less the training and readiness of your equipment, there's not enough money to do it all,” said the consultant. “That's the fact.”

A lot of Army equipment is getting worn out in Iraq. The Army will find it increasingly hard to ignore the costs getting created by equipment losses and wear.

By Randall Parker    2006 August 17 06:28 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2006 August 01 Tuesday
Cognitive Declines In Iraq Veterans

Iraq war veterans in the United States show poorer memory, reduced ability to pay attention, and other cognitive changes.

Jennifer J. Vasterling, Ph.D., of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System and Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans and colleagues conducted a study to examine neuropsychological outcomes following Iraq deployment. The study included 961 male and female active-duty Army Soldiers. Deploying Army Soldiers (n = 654) were examined prior to deployment to Iraq (April-December 2003) and shortly after return (within an average of 73 days; January-May 2005) from Iraq deployment. There was also a comparison group of soldiers (n = 307) similar in military characteristics but not deploying overseas. Participants were individually administered performance-based neuropsychological tasks.

The researchers found that Iraq deployment, compared with nondeployment, was associated with mild neuropsychological compromise on tasks of sustained attention, verbal learning, and visual-spatial memory. Iraq deployment was also associated with increased negative effects on measures of confusion and tension. In contrast, deployment was associated with improved simple reaction time and no changes on other neuropsychological tasks. Deployment effects remained statistically significant after taking into account deployment-related head injury and stress and depression symptoms. The researchers interpret their findings as the carry-over into the home environment of what was likely an adaptive brain-based survival response in the combat zone.

If the changes were due to an adaptive response back in a home environment the changes might eventually dissipate. But even if the changes are not due to neuronal damage (and we do not know if that is the case) the possibility exists that their brains will not revert back to configurations more like what they had before they left.

The unanswered question is how much of these changes are permanent?

In an editorial accompanying the study, medical psychiatrists Matthew Hotopf, PhD, and Simon Wessely, FMedSci, weighed in on the issue. Both have done extensive research on post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) among soldiers.

They wrote that while the subtle mental changes outlined in the study bear some similarities to PTSD, they might also be considered perfectly normal coping behaviors. Longer follow-up of the soldiers in the study should help determine if the reactions are normal or cause for concern, they concluded.

Double digit percentages of returning war veterans show signs of post-traumatic stress.

A Pentagon study in JAMA earlier this year found that 35 percent of Iraq vets received psychological counseling shortly after returning, and earlier research found that about 17 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq had symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

About 11 percent of the vets Vasterling studied reported such symptoms upon their return, she said.

War is hell.

Advances in neural stem cell research will eventually lead to methods to repair some of the brain damage in soldiers under heavy sustained stress. Also, the potential exists that drugs could be found that would reduce the stress response and provide protection for neurons. Also, genetic studies will probably eventually turn up tests that show which people are most at risk of post traumatic stress disorder and other undesirable cognitive changes from combat.

By Randall Parker    2006 August 01 04:53 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2006 June 18 Sunday
Iraq War Radicalizes Muslims In Lebanon

Writing for the Washington Post Anthony Shahid finds increased Jihadist sentiments in Lebanon.

Men like Shaaban, of the Islamic Unity Movement, praise the insurgency in Iraq but deny any hand in subversion. At the same time, the growing reach of their groups in the poor neighborhoods of Tripoli -- through newspapers, radio stations, mosques and social welfare, the bread and butter of Islamic groups -- has gone far in transforming a predominantly Sunni city that was traditionally home to a vibrant mix of Arab nationalism and leftist and Islamic politics.

Even longtime residents are struck by the shift in social mores over the past few years: the proliferation of women's veils and men's beards, the flourishing of religion classes and the number of youths joining groups such as Shaaban's. On balconies, interspersed among flags for residents' favorite World Cup soccer teams, are black banners with religious inscriptions usually associated with holy war. In squares of Tripoli, particularly its most religious neighborhoods such as Abu Samra, civic art is often a stark representation of God's name.

It is worth noting that the 9/11 attacks also fed the growth of militant Jihadist Islam. Many Muslims feel emboldened when some of their own hit their enemies hard.

Grievances against the United States are nothing new in a city like Tripoli. For a generation, activists across the spectrum have bitterly criticized U.S. policy. What has shifted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the perception of that policy. The critique is no longer about perceived double standards -- of excessive support for Israel, of backing Arab dictatorships. Today, it is more generalized, universal and uncompromising. Popular sentiment here and elsewhere holds that U.S. policy amounts to a war on Islam, and in the language of Abu Haritha and others, the conflict is framed as one between the faithful and infidels, justice and injustice.

"The targeting of Iraq can be considered the first step in targeting the entire Middle East to impose a new order in the region," said Fathi Yakan, a founder of the Islamic Association and head of an umbrella group known as the Islamic Action Forces.

What is the biggest downside of the US invasion of Iraq? Probably that we seem inefficacious against the Muslim insurgents and this emboldens Muslims to support Jihad and terrorism.

Fighters like Abu Haritha and activists like Shaaban and Yakan speak in almost mythical tones about what they call the resistance in Iraq. In nearly every conversation, they make the assertion that the United States has, at this point, lost the war.

"We already consider it a success. It has already led to the failure of the American project in Iraq," Yakan said with a shrug that suggested the obvious. "I think the Americans realize that, and they are looking for an exit to wash their hands of it."

If the US is going to use force somewhere it really should be overwhelming. It hurts us to use force incompetently as Jorge W. Bush has done.

The irony here is that the Bush Administration might by accident accomplish something that some Arabs see as a clever Machiavellian design: to increase sectarian conflict and hatred between Shias and Sunnis in order to pit Muslims against each other and weaken Musliims politically.

Some see an American hand in Iraq's entropy; in their analysis, the United States and Israel are fanning the flames of sectarianism as a way to further divide the Arab world and create a region even more balkanized than today's. Others see a more deep-seated hostility in U.S. actions, a scorched-earth campaign to hasten an apocalyptic battle or, in Salih's words, the "politics of chaos."

"America is with the Shiites in Iraq and against the Shiites in Lebanon, with the Sunnis in Lebanon and against the Sunnis in Iraq and Palestine. It is against the Shiites in Iran. Where is America?" Shaaban asked. "It needs Einstein to resolve it."

My guess is the increase in hostilty toward the United States due to the Iraq invasion outweighs the increase in hostility between Shias and Sunnis. But if the US pursued a break-up of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab nations the US might be able to exit Iraq in a way that will cause the Jihadis to see the US intervention as a success for the US.

By Randall Parker    2006 June 18 10:47 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2006 January 08 Sunday
Iraq War Might Cost $2 Trillion Or Higher

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government have released a paper which argues that the total cost of the Iraq war to the United States will be $2 trillion or even higher.

Three years ago, as America was preparing to go to war in Iraq, there were few discussions of the likely costs. When Larry Lindsey, President Bush’s economic adviser, suggested that they might reach $200 billion, there was a quick response from the White House: that number was a gross overestimation.[2] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz claimed that Iraq could “really finance its own reconstruction,” apparently both underestimating what was required and the debt burden facing the country. Lindsey went on to say that “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”[3]

Many aspects of the Iraq venture have turned out differently from what was purported before the war: there were no weapons of mass destruction, no clear link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, no imminent danger that would warrant a pre-emptive war. Whether Americans were greeted as liberators or not, there is evidence that they are now viewed as occupiers. Stability has not been established. Clearly, the benefits of the War have been markedly different from those claimed.

So too for the costs. It now appears that Lindsey was indeed wrong—by grossly underestimating the costs. Congress has already appropriated approximately $357 billion for military operations, reconstruction, embassy costs, enhanced security at US bases and foreign aid programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. This total, which covers costs through the end of November 2005, includes $251bn for military operations in Iraq, $82bn for Afghanistan and $24bn for related foreign operations, such as reconstruction, embassy safety and base security. [4] These costs have been rising throughout the war. Since FY 2003, the monthly average cost of operations has risen from $4.4bn to $7.1 bn – the costs of operations in Iraq have grown by nearly 20% since last year (whereas Afghanistan was 8% lower than last year).[5] The Congressional Budget Office has now estimated that in their central, mid-range scenario, the Iraq war will cost over $266 billion more in the next decade, putting the direct costs of the war in the range of $500 billion[6].

Stiglitz and Bilmes are confident that the costs are north of $1 trillion and many of those costs are not paid by the US government directly as line items labelled as being for Iraq.

These estimates, however, underestimate the War’s true costs to America by a wide margin. In this paper, we attempt to provide a range of estimates for what those costs have been, and are likely to be. Even taking a conservative approach, we have been surprised at how large they are. We can state, with some degree of confidence, that they exceed a trillion dollars.

Providing even rough order of magnitude estimates of the costs turns out to be very difficult, for a number of reasons. There are standard problems in cost allocation; there are future costs associated with the Iraq war that are not included in the current calculations; there are marked differences between social costs and prices paid by the government (and it is only the latter which traditionally get reflected in the cost estimates); and there are macro-economic costs, associated both with the increase in the price of oil and the Iraq war expenditures.

How to quantify the costs of lives lost in Iraq?

Consider, as an example, accounting for the value of the more than two thousand American soldiers who have died since the beginning of the war, and the more than sixteen thousand who have been wounded. The military may quantify the value of a life lost as the amount it pays in death benefits and life insurance to survivors – which has recently been increased from $12,240 to $100,000 (death benefit) and from $250,000 to $500,000 (life insurance). But in other areas, such as safety and environmental regulation, the government values a life of a prime age male at around $6 million, so that the cost of the American soldiers who have already lost their lives adds up to around $12 billion[7].

The standard estimates of the death costs also omit the cost of the nearly one hundred American civilian contractors[8] and the four American journalists that have been killed in Iraq, as well as the cost of coalition soldiers, and non-American contractors working for US firms.

I think I see an oversight on their part: They need to adjust for the background death rate of soldiers who are not deployed and calculate how many more died because they were in Iraq. My guess is that the increase in the number killed was not proportionately as great as the proportion who suffer permanent damage. Some of that permanent damage to brains happens without even any physical injuries. Under intense stress parts of the body decay in ways we can not fix. Also, the soldiers are exposed to toxic substances at a much higher rate when in a combat zone. That also doesn't show up in casualty figures.

They account for a large variety of costs including opportunity costs such as wages not made in the private sector because National Guard and Reserves were called up, interest costs on the money borrowed to fight the war, care of permanently injured soldiers over the rest of their lives, accelerated depreciation of military hardware, and macroeconomic effects such as on the cost of oil. Even if you think their macroeconomic calculations are too high the costs they add up before bringing in the macroeconomic effects (see figure 3) are still between $839 and $1104 billion.

My guess is that the amount of permanent damage done to troops in combat has been underestimated because we lack the ability to measure some of the damage. So, for example, brain damage that lowers intelligence by only, say, 5 IQ points or that causes emotional problems will mostly go unmeasured and unquantified. Also, if someone comes back from the war mentally damaged in ways that cause them to be violent how to quantify the costs to friends, families, or strangers who end up on the receiving end of this violence? (aside: higher crime rate immigrant groups impose similar costs on a much larger scale)

They assume a gradual withdrawal of US troops until 2010. That seems realistic. Bush will resist a total withdrawal. A new President entering office in 2009 will not feel as great an obligation to defend Bush's mistakes.

Click through on the link and read the whole thing.

Stiglitz points out that his cost estimates do not include costs to the UK or Iraq.

Mr Stiglitz told the Guardian that despite the staggering costs laid out in their paper the economists had erred on the side of caution. "Our estimates are very conservative, and it could be that the final costs will be much higher. And it should be noted they do not include the costs of the conflict to either Iraq or the UK." In 2003, as US and British troops were massing on the Iraq border, Larry Lindsey, George Bush's economic adviser, suggested the costs might reach $200bn. The White House said the figure was far too high, and the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, said Iraq could finance its own reconstruction.

Three years later, with more than 140,000 US soldiers on the ground in Iraq, even the $200bn figure was very low, according to the two economists.

Eventually I expect medical costs to be lowered by advances in gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and other types of therapies coming in the future. However, those costs will not begin to fall for some years going forward.

Also see a New York Times article entitled "The Struggle to Gauge a War's Psychological Cost".

By Randall Parker    2006 January 08 08:11 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (23)
2005 December 24 Saturday
Total Iraq Past And Future War Costs Put At $1 Trillion

I can think of a lot of productive ways to increase American security for a lot less than $281 billion, let alone $1 trillion. The Iraq war has a very large negative return on investment.

Nevertheless, oil has long hovered in the background. When the White House's economic adviser, Laurence Lindsey, said in September 2002 that the Iraq invasion could cost $100 billion to $200 billion (an estimate the White House quickly disavowed as too high), he indicated that one could expect an additional three to five million barrels a day of Iraqi oil production following the ouster of Saddam.

As it turns out, the Pentagon will have spent $281 billion on the war and occupation through fiscal year 2005, but Iraq's oil production today remains below the level sustained by Saddam even under international sanctions restricting oil industry investment.

The $281 billion figure, recently calculated by the Congressional Research Service, does not include all of the costs that would continue even if the war were to end now, such as benefits for veterans, contributions to Iraqi reconstruction and interest on the national debt. Nor does it include such economic costs as the impact of higher oil prices induced and sustained, at least in part, by the continuing turmoil in Iraq.

The ratio of injuries to deaths is much higher in Iraq than in previous wars. Those saved who would have died in other wars have far more severe injuries than those who would have survived with older medical technology. So we are going to have the costs of invalid survivors who have to be cared for and who (for those will work at all) will not earn as much in their working careers.

Stephen Walt of Harvard's JFK School of Government says the Iraq war will cost $1 trillion total.

The United States’ involvement in Iraq just keeps getting messier every day. The insurgency is as potent as ever, and U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians are dying at a higher rate than they were a year ago. Efforts to reconcile Iraq’s ethnic and religious divisions have failed, and progress on building competent security forces has been painfully slow. A series of supposedly decisive “turning points” have come and gone—including the transfer of sovereignty in June 2004, national elections in January 2005, and the drafting of a new constitution in August 2005—but the country is no closer to stability. Public support for the war is plummeting in the United States, and current U.S. troop levels cannot be sustained without breaking the Army, the Reserves, and the National Guard. Once U.S. forces withdraw, a full-blown civil war is likely. Although our armed forces have fought with dedication and courage, this war will ultimately cost us more than $1 trillion, not to mention thousands of lives. And what will the United States have achieved? Remarkably, we will probably leave Iraq in even worse shape than it was under Saddam Hussein.

That is about what the US economy produces in a single month. But part of that money already goes to other government programs. So effectively the Iraq misadventure will take about a month and a half of after-tax take home pay from American workers.

You can go through free registration process to get access to articles in Foreign Policy. It is worth the time. He attacks two major lines of defense put forward for the idea of having the war as somehow separate from how it was conducted. The advocates should not have pushed for an invasion without a force large enough to subdue the insurgents. Also, the insurgency was foreseen - albeit not by the Bush Administration's ideologues and fools.

The cost of Iraq would pay for about 35 years of medical research at the current funding levels of the National Institues of Health. Or it would pay for a barrier on the border with Mexico about 100 times over. Or it would pay for perhaps 1000 nuclear power plants (assuming economies of scale in volume). Or it would pay for Nobelist Richard Smalley's proposed $10 billion per year in energy research for 100 years (and the research would solve our energy problems in a small fraction of that time). The Iraq war has a high opportunity cost. It was and remains a bad idea.

By Randall Parker    2005 December 24 02:48 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2005 November 05 Saturday
Rural Kids Biggest Contingent In US Military

Poor kids from hardscrabble rural areas turn to the military due to poor alternative options.

More than 44 percent of U.S. military recruits come from rural areas, Pentagon figures show. In contrast, 14 percent come from major cities. Youths living in the most sparsely populated Zip codes are 22 percent more likely to join the Army, with an opposite trend in cities. Regionally, most enlistees come from the South (40 percent) and West (24 percent).

The recruits come from not just rural but also poor areas.

All of the Army's top 20 counties for recruiting had lower-than-national median incomes, 12 had higher poverty rates, and 16 were non-metropolitan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research group that analyzed 2004 recruiting data by Zip code.

Quality of recruits has hit a 10 year low.

Senior Pentagon officials say the war has had a clear impact on recruiting, with a shrinking pool of candidates forcing the military to accept less qualified enlistees -- and presumably many for whom military service is a choice of last resort. In fiscal 2005, the Army took in its least qualified group of recruits in a decade, as measured by educational level and test results.

So hard up kids with lousy prospects are getting killed and maimed by improvised explosive devices. I wonder if white kids from areas which are experiencing large illegal Hispanic immigrant influxes are better recruiting areas. As the illegals drive down the wages for manual labor a stint in the Army becomes more attractive. The costs of being a below average white rural guy in America keep rising. Also see my post "October 2005 Iraq Coalition Death Rate 5th Highest Since Start Of War".

By Randall Parker    2005 November 05 11:35 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (20)
2005 October 30 Sunday
War Costs Falling More Heavily On Older And Married Soldiers

Most Americans do not know anyone who has died in Iraq.

Unlike Vietnam, when young men faced the draft, where every family knew someone who was serving or had dodged the draft -- and unlike the world wars when almost every adult was in some fashion involved in the war effort -- Mr. Bush's open-ended war on international terrorism has scarcely touched most Americans. There are no war-bonds drives, no recruiting posters, no shortages.

Americans are 10 times more likely to know a young adult between 21 and 35 who has been murdered than they are to know someone who has been killed in Iraq.

Accidental drowning kills about as many in the same age group every year as the conflict half a world away.

For Americans, the war in Iraq has now lasted a third as long as the Vietnam War.

That similarly far-away and controversial conflict killed 58,000 Americans -- 19 a day for nearly a decade -- or about 228 for every million Americans. By contrast, only seven U.S. soldiers are killed in the current war in Iraq for every million Americans.

The point about a greater likelihood of knowing someone who was murdered does not apply equally across all sections of society. Since blacks murder and get murdered at several times the rate of whites they are even more likely to know someone who was murdered as compared to someone who died fighting in Iraq. However, among whites the ratio of likelihoods is probably much less than 10 to 1. In some rural white subpopulations from low crime areas (thinking of the northern plains states and New Hampshire) that are near average in IQ I would not be surprised if they were more likely to know people who died in Iraq than who died from murder in the United States.

Young soldiers are much more likely to be married than same age civilians.

Soldiers aged 20 to 24 are twice as likely to be married as their civilian counterparts, said Charlie Moskos, professor emeritus of military sociology at Northwestern University.

"The sadness is the same whether it's a 19-year-old or a 39-year-old dying," he said. A higher percentage of married men are being killed right now than there were in Vietnam, he said, but "if anything, the parents suffer the most in these kinds of wars. The loss of a family member, whether it's a teenage son or a middle-aged husband, is equally traumatic."

The all-volunteer nature of the force also decreases public opposition to the war in Iraq.

"The difference between an all-volunteer force and a draft force is tremendous," said Professor Ernest May, a Vietnam historian at Harvard. Although people understand the tragedy of military deaths in Iraq, he said, they know these are "people who volunteered, who put themselves in harm's way. That in itself means a lower level of public attention."

David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, sees the use of an all-volunteer force and the heightened dependence on National Guard and Reserve units as "an interesting test of whether the all-volunteer force can, in fact, sustain large, drawn-out conflict. While it hasn't fallen apart yet, the feeling is that it was not designed to do that and it's not doing it well and that's why we're using the reserve component in ways they weren't intended to be used."

The casualties in Iraq are older.

On average, casualties in the Iraq war have been about three years older than those killed during the Vietnam War. But that slight change disguises a more fundamental statistical shift: In Vietnam, nearly half the service members killed were 20 or younger. In Iraq, fewer than 1 in 5 of the dead have been that young. There have been commensurate increases in the rates of death in Iraq among U.S. service members in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s.

The war still is not sustainable in the long term. Recruitment is down. So the all-volunteer force is going to be harder to staff. Also, as more die and come back maimed a growing fraction of the population will know someone who died or was injured.

82% of Iraqis want US troops to leave. So the war is even less popular in Iraq than it is in the United States. In spite of staffing up, training, and deployment of Iraqi military units and in spite of development of equipment, tactics, and intelligence aimed at degrading the insurgency the US and British daily death rate has not trended downward. The Panglossian argument for the war becomes steadily less plausible.

By Randall Parker    2005 October 30 11:27 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (23)
2005 October 05 Wednesday
US Army Lowers Recruiting Standards Due To Iraq

Recruiting shortfalls as young men decide Iraq is not worth dying for have led the US Army to announce yet another lowering of standards on recruits.

The Department of Defense "standards on qualification tests call for at least 60 percent Category 1 to 3 (the higher end of testing) and 4 percent Category 4," the lowest end, Harvey said. "The other services follow that standard and the Army National Guard always followed it as well. But the active Army chose a standard of 67 percent in Categories 1-3, and 2 percent Category 4." It now would use the Defense Department guidelines, he said.

This basically lowers the IQ standards for recruits. This will reduce average effectiveness of military units. Perhaps the military can compensate somewhat by assigning dummies to Korea and other places where combat is unlikely.

The 6000 to 8000 soldier recruiting shortfall for the last year is behind the policy change.

Coming off a recruiting year in which the Army fell short of its goal of 80,000 active-duty soldiers, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey announced that the Army would allow up to 4% of its recruiting class to be Category IV recruits — those who scored between the 16th and 30th percentile in the battery of aptitude tests that the Defense Department gives to all potential military personnel.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) has 4 sections (known as the Armed Forces Qualification Test or AFQT) that are pretty heavily "g" loaded. In other words, the sections are similar to IQ tests and measure what IQ tests measure. The standards lowering is being done for results from the AFQT subsections of the ASVAB.

The US military has spent large sums of money on psychometric research for decades and has found that IQ correlates heavily with ability to carry out military duties and not get oneself and fellow soldiers killed. So the US military is very keen on keeping out the dummies. The military correctly sees that maintaining military standards is a matter of life and death. If only medical school admissions boards which lower standards for blacks and Hispanics took the same approach the number of deaths from malpractice would be lower. But I digress.

A previous report by Steve Sailer mentioned that the category IV recruits are below 92 IQ and the US Army already doubled its category IV intake last year from 1% to 2%.

Almost nobody in the media is aware of the vast investment the U.S. military has made over the last 88 years in IQ testing of potential recruits, and the huge number of correlation studies they have done comparing soldiers' IQ with their actual performance. I was only barely aware of it myself until I spent hours last fall interviewing military psychometricians for my article showing that John F. Kerry scored a bit lower on his officer application IQ test than George W. Bush did. (This was the report that Tom Brokaw asked Kerry about on the NBC Nightly News.)

Because the U.S. military knows that bad things tend to happen to low IQ soldiers—and to their comrades who have the misfortune to be standing nearby—since 1991 only about one percent of new enlistees have IQs below the 30th percentile (i.e., an IQ of about 92). (See Table 2.8 in this Defense Department report.)

Last year, the Army announced that because of tribulations in meeting recruitment quotas due to the Iraq War, it would up its share of new soldiers scoring below the 30th percentile all the way to 2 percent.

Since the black IQ average is 85 and 85 is well below 92 that 30th percentile cut-off point makes a substantial majority of blacks ineligible for service in the US military. By one estimate three fifths of blacks and one fifth of whites aren't smart enough to join the military under the tougher pre-Iraq standard. Letting in more lower IQ recruits will especially help with black and Hispanic recruitment.

Update: Fred Kaplan of Slate criticises the lowering of standards and accidentally violates the taboo on racial differences in intelligence.

By Randall Parker    2005 October 05 11:21 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (16)
2005 August 28 Sunday
Stress Of War Exacts Long Term Health Costs

Soldiers who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have much higher rates of death from a large range of causes.

But now Joseph Boscarino of the New York Academy of Medicine has re-analysed the 1985 data to assess which men were suffering from the condition. That analysis, to be published in Annals of Epidemiology, reveals stark differences in death rates persisting 30 years after the end of the Vietnam conflict. All men with PTSD, whether from combat experience or not, were more likely to die from "external causes" such as accidents, drugs or suicide. But men who developed PTSD as a consequence of combat were also more likely to die of heart disease and, surprisingly, various kinds of cancer.

Boscarino finds lowered cortisol levels in soldiers proportionate to the amount of combat exposure they experienced.

Israeli researchers found the same pattern with veterans of the fighting in Lebanon.

In March this year Yael Benyamini and colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel reported that among Israeli veterans of fighting in Lebanon in 1982, those who developed PTSD are now twice as likely to have high blood pressure, ulcers and diabetes, and five times as likely to have heart disease and headaches, as those who did not develop the disorder (Social Science and Medicine, vol 61, p 1267). "PTSD is the key mechanism that leads from the trauma to poorer health," they say.

Because of advances in medical technology a much higher percentage of injured soldiers survive. Therefore the death rates understate the extent of the damage done to soldiers in Iraq.

A modest proposal to any folks reading this who work in policy making positions in the US Defense Department: Do a study on stress levels of soldiers in Iraq to track stress levels on soldiers in the field by minute or by some other high rate of sampling. Use electrodes or give soldiers small devices (PDAs?) where they can record when they feel high levels of stress. Use blood sampling to check how long stress levels remain high after combat operations. Find out exactly which situations cause stress and whether any tactical changes can reduce the percentage of the time that soldiers are in stressful situations.

For example, if soldiers who are about to break down a door feel a lot of stress would they feel less stress in such an operation if they could use a mechanical device to punch a hole through the door and extend a pole with a camera to see what is inside an apartment or house before entering?

Also, do stress levels in soldiers on long operations rise when they lack sleep? Does Provigil (modafinil) prevent some of the stress response to sleep deprivation or does it make the stress response higher?

Also, what base designs would best reduce stress levels of soldiers between combat operations? Would natural scenic vistas or paintings of forests or fields or perhaps ocean views best reduce stress? Does golf course architecture offer lessons for lowering soldier stress while in bases?

An even more effective way to stop the stress would be total withdrawal of US forces. But the American public haven't yet learned enough to make that a possibility.

By Randall Parker    2005 August 28 02:39 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2005 June 28 Tuesday
How Many Troops Returning From Iraq Will Suffer Mental Disabilities?

What portion of soldiers returning from Iraq will suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other emotional illnesses as a result of their military service in a war zone? One estimate for expected PTSD puts it at 20%.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Almost half of the Vermont National Guard troops returning from combat have claimed some level of physical or psychological disability, and at least 20 percent of all Vermont troops are expected to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, officials at the Veterans Administration Hospital in White River Junction predict.

“What happens is that the vets who come back right now obviously have some readjustment because they’re coming from a hostile area back to a normal sense of life,” said Anselm Beach, a spokesman for the VA hospital. “PTSD, however, is more of a long-term diagnosis. Some of it could be chronic and some of it may not be.”

Some mental health officials say the VA’s estimate of 20 percent may be conservative because PTSD often doesn’t surface for months or even years. State officials say the figure could be as high as 30 percent.

15% of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD 13 years after the war ended. Of course almost all of them returned well before the fall of Saigon.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study calculated that, in 1988, 13 years after the conflict had ended, the prevalence of PTSD in Vietnam veterans was 15 percent, and that 30 percent had experienced the disorder at some point since returning from the war.

Dr. Charles Hoge, a researcher with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, found that one eighth of returing soldiers from Iraq were reportiing symptoms consistent with PTSD.

Hoge was one of the authors of a study of returning troops published in June 2004 in The New England Journal of Medicine, which found that about one in eight returning soldiers reported symptoms of PTSD, but less than half of those with problems sought help, mostly out of fear of being stigmatized or hurting their careers.

In 2004 161,000 Vietnam vets were receiving compensation for PTSD.

-- 15.2 percent of all male veterans (479,000 out of 3,140,000 who served in Vietnam) and 8.1 percent of women (610 out of 7,200) were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in a 1986-1988 study by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey (NVVRS).

-- Almost half of all male Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD had been arrested or in jail at least once, 34.2 percent more than once and 11.5 percent had been convicted of a felony, according to the same survey.

-- VA statistics in 2004 showed that 161,000 veterans were still receiving disability compensation for PTSD.

Women soldiers returning from Iraq suffer PTSD at much higher rates than men.

-- According to a 2005 VA study of 168,528 Iraqi veterans, 20 percent were diagnosed with psychological disorders, including 1,641 with PTSD.

-- In an earlier VA study this year, almost 12,500 of nearly 245,000 veterans visited VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms of PTSD.

-- The Marines and Army were nearly four times more likely to report PTSD than Navy or Air Force because of their greater exposure to combat situations.

-- Enlisted men were twice as likely as officers to report PTSD.

-- 8 percent to 10 percent of active-duty women and retired military women who served in Iraq suffer from PTSD.

Veterans Administration hospitals are seeing more PTSD cases.

At Lexington's VA hospital, 316 veterans with the disorder made 4,550 visits to the outpatient clinic last year, up from 264 veterans who made 3,920 visits in 2002, the year before the war began, said spokeswoman Desti Stimes.

In an article about the suicide of a New Hampshire Air National Guardsman who committed suicide shortly after returning from Iraq some insight is provided about the horror of Iraq convoy operations.

Maj. Chris Hurley, operations officer for the 157th and Guindon's supervisor, was not in Iraq but kept in close contact with the unit. He told police officers that the rules of combat in Iraq are different from those in previous wars. The environment is unpredictable and unimaginably harsh, especially for those involved in convoy operations.

"(Hurley) was saying the Iraqis would actually send children out to blow up truck convoys, so when children were seen in the road, the soldiers were told to actually keep going and run right over them," Hurley's police interview reads, "because if they stopped for the children, as would be the norm, there was a possibility that these children could be armed or wired with explosives."

It was the first time the state's Air Guard members, who tend to specialize in defense tactics, had done anything like it, Hurley said.

One thing to note here: The US Army and Marines are sufficiently short on soldiers that US Air Force National Guardmen are doing convoy guard duties in Iraq. The unit described in this article drove 100,000 miles while in Iraq.

We have better drugs today for treating mental illness. Also, the military makes a greater effort to identify it. But about half of all soldiers avoid complaining either out of pride or in order to avoid being blocked from advancement.

How many soldiers total have served in Iraq so far? 300,000 perhaps? If anyone comes across some numbers please post them in the comments. Also, how many soldiers are being sent to Iraq each year for the first time? Some fraction of each new batch is going to add to the total who will suffer long term mental disorders as a result of their service. Based on the numbers above we could easly end up with 50,000 to 100,000 veterans with various forms of mental illness as a result of their time served in Iraq.

The costs of the mental illnesses resulting from service in Iraq will take forms such as higher rates of divorce, higher rates of abuse of spouses and children, poorer work performance and higher rates of unemployment, institutionalization of severe cases, suicide, murder, and other crimes. We will be paying for the Iraq war for decades to come.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 28 08:20 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2005 January 25 Tuesday
Bush Administration Asks For Another $80 Billion In War Funds

The cost of the war in Iraq is rising.

The Bush administration soon will ask Congress for about $80 billion in additional funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, congressional sources said Monday.

If anyone comes across a breakdown on that number for how much goes to Iraq and how much goes to Afghanistan please let me know. I checked a number of stories on this and couldn't find more details.

Add in the $25 previously approved for 2005 and the total is $105 billion.

The package, which administration budget officials were expected to unveil as early as Tuesday, would be in addition to $25 billion already approved for 2005.

Over $160 billion was spent on Iraq through the end of 2004. By the end of 2004 the burn rate in Iraq had risen to $5.8 billion per month. Since Afghanistan is a fairly small operation in comparison my guess is the bulk of the $105 billion figure is for Iraq and that therefore the monthly burn rate in Iraq may be rising to $8 billion.

The monthly burn rate in Iraq has gone up.

Keep in mind that these numbers understate the total costs in at least 3 ways:

  • Equipment used in Iraq is wearing out at faster rates and will have to be replaced sooner.
  • Permanently injured soldiers coming back will necessitate medical and nursing costs for decades to come.
  • The Bush Administration is looking for ways to cut new weapons programs in order to free up money for operations. So future capabilities are being sacrificed for current needs.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, claims it would take $500 billion and a draft to field a US military force large enough to secure Iraq.

The neocons in the Defense Department originally projected that there would be only 30,000 US troops left in Iraq by the end of 2003 and that all the troops would leave by the end of 2005. Instead we have to wonder by the end of 2005 how many billions of dollars and lives will be lost per month and how many permanently injured will be coming back.

By Randall Parker    2005 January 25 11:00 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2005 January 20 Thursday
Lowered Death Rate From Wounds Understates Iraq Conflict Violence

An article in the Harvard Gazette reports on how medical progress has reduced death rates from wounds sustained in combat. The good news is that far fewer wounded US soldiers die as compared to previous conflicts. The bad news is that a lot more people come back blind or otherwise maimed.

Better, faster medical care has reduced deaths from the more than 10,000 war injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan to the lowest percentage of any war in American history. In World War II, 30 percent of U.S. soldiers died from wounds received in combat; in Vietnam, 24 percent of the wounded died. In Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the horrific increase in the destructibility of weapons, mortality has dropped to 10 percent.


But that's not entirely good news for the survivors. Injuries from suicide bombs and land mines often leave lifetime disabilities. Surgeons report a depressingly high incidence of blindness. Amputations, seen almost weekly on television, raise distressing questions about how survivors and their families will adapt and function.

One big surprise is that there was little improvement from Vietnam to Gulf War I.

Both sides of the story are told in an article in the Dec. 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine written by Atul Gawande, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who gathered data on casualties and talked with surgical teams that served near the front lines. He concludes that the "military medical system has made fundamental - and apparently effective - changes in the strategies and systems of battle care, even since the Persian Gulf War." In that 1990-91 conflict, 24 percent of the wounded died, or more than twice the rate in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

That is surprising and disappointing to me. Sounds like the US military's medical treatment capabilities must have been lagging the civilian state of the art back in 1991.

Also keep in mind that the soldiers have much better armor on their own bodies and on their vehicles. So even the total casualty rate, if compared to other wars, understates the level of daily violence that US soldiers in Iraq are experiencing.

Also see my previous post "Death Rates Of US Soldiers Understate Intensity Of Iraq Fighting".

By the way, if anyone comes across figures for the rates of various types of maiming for US soldiers injured in Iraq please post in the comments or send me an email. For every US soldier killed in Iraq how many have lost a limb, an eye, or been paralyzed or suffered brain damage? How many US soldiers are being permanently (at least until stem cell therapies and tissue engineering make such wounds repairable) injured per month or since the war began?

By Randall Parker    2005 January 20 11:20 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2004 December 16 Thursday
War Funding Cost May Hit $100 Billion In 2005

The burn rate in Iraq looks set to rise substantially.

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to ask for between $80 billion and $100 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, rather than the $70 billion to $75 billion the White House privately told members of Congress before the election, according to Pentagon and White House officials.


In total, $152.6 billion in military funding for Iraq has been provided through the end of this year.

Those statistics do not include emergency money to support the 20,000 US troops in Afghanistan, which brings the total bill to $162.3 billion.

Note that the total to date for Afghanistan is about $10 billion or less than 10%. Given that Afghanistan is a small sideshow the cost for Iraq may be close to $100 billion. In fact, the article quotes John Pike of saying that the burn rate in Iraq may soon rise to $2 billion a week. At the end of 2005 with $100 billion spent, more lives lost, and more injured and will the insurgency be bigger or smaller than it is now? Can $100 billion kill insurgents faster than new insurgents can join up? We are going to find out.

The article also comments on the Bush Administration's practice of keeping the Iraq war costs out of the regular budget in order to try to reduce the visibility of the war costs. Plus, the article mentions additional costs that will come in order to retool the US military for other duties when the US withdraws from Iraq. There is also the additional cost of medical care for the many injured soldiers who will have lifetime higher costs of medical care and, in some cases, nursing care as a result of injuries suffered in Iraq. I have yet to come across a good estimate of what that cost will total to but I'm guessing it might be in the tens of billions of dollars.

One of the many places the money is going is toward airlift in order to avoid dangerous roads.

Responding to the threat of roadside bombings and ambushes of American ground convoys in Iraq, the Air Force is sharply expanding its airlift of equipment and supplies to bases inside the country to reduce the amount of military cargo hauled over land routes, Air Force officials said on Tuesday.

Dozens of Air Force C-130 and C-17 transports, as well as contracted commercial aircraft, are now ferrying about 450 tons of cargo a day, including spare parts, food, water, medical supplies and other materiel that normally moves by truck or trailers, a 30 percent increase in the past month.

Humvees are being carried from Kuwait to Baghdad in C-130 transports, two to a transport. Think about that. The US military can't even maintain a secure ground supply line up from Kuwait to Baghdad.

Another place the money is going is $4 billion to be spent on better vehicle armor.

Defense officials declined to say how much has already been spent. But they said that in the next six to eight months, they will have spent $4.1 billion to try to make sure that vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan are those already manufactured with full armor or have had armor added to them. The vast majority are in Iraq.

Update: The National Guard says it needs $20 billion dollars.

Worn down by the war in Iraq and security demands in the United States, the National Guard announced yesterday that it needs $20 billion in new weapons and equipment over the next three years to continue to meet all its overseas and homeland commitments.

Without the money to "reset" itself, Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, the head of the Guard, warned that the reserve force "will be broken and not ready the next time it's needed, either at home or for war."

Guard units are leaving Iraq without their gear so that incoming Guard units have enough to use. Also, the Guard is now understaffed by 10,000 soldiers as active duty soldiers no longer want to join upon leaving active duty. After all, at this point joining the Guard is so likely to cause one to be called it that it like going on active duty but with worse equipment.

By Randall Parker    2004 December 16 01:29 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2004 December 02 Thursday
Iraq Monthly War Cost Rises To $5.8 Billion, Set To Go Higher

As recently as June 2004 it was under $5 billion. Now costs, not including US Navy costs, are running at a rate over $70 billion per year.

As casualties mount in Iraq, so has the monetary cost of the war. The military is now spending more than $5.8 billion each month, top officials told Congress this week.


The Army, with about 110,000 soldiers on the ground in Iraq, has a monthly "burn rate" of $4.7 billion.

The Air Force is spending about $800 million monthly.

The Marines, which are spearheading the fighting in Fallujah, had an average monthly war cost of $300 million.

These costs understate the total real financial costs of the war. For example, the Veterans Administration is already spending

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi said Tuesday that the violent guerrilla tactics used by insurgents in Iraq will take a considerable toll on the mental health of troops, resulting in a lifetime of disability payments for many of those who return from war.

So far 20 percent of returning Iraq veterans who've sought VA care have done so for mental health issues. While the exact cost of compensating those injured in the Iraq war is uncertain, the VA already expects to pay $600 billion over the next three decades in disability payments to veterans of earlier wars.

So what will be the long term costs for maimed and psychologically damaged US soldiers who served in Iraq? Anyone know how to make a rough calculation in that direction? Keep in mind that the portion of maimed US soldiers is much higher relative to deaths as compared to previous wars. For more on that point see my previous post Death Rates Of US Soldiers Understate Intensity Of Iraq Fighting. In a nutshell the ratio of wounded to killed as tripled in Iraq as compared to Vietnam. So fighting in Iraq that produces a death toll of 100 soldiers produces a number of injured that equals about the number of injured that 300 soldier deaths in Vietnam produced.

Back in spring and summer of 2004 the official Bush Administration answer to the obviously inadequate number of US soldiers in Iraq was that native Iraqi forces were staffing up rapidly and would soon take over much more of the fighting. But the tempo of combat has intensified in Iraq and the US casualty rate has risen with little in the way of Iraqi contributions on the US and Iraqi government side. The Iraqis have been making much bigger contributions fighting for the insurgency though.

Well, the fantasy about help from the Iraqis is getting too hard to maintain. The Bush Administration has just decided to increase the number of soldiers in Iraq.

The Pentagon said yesterday that it will boost the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to about 150,000, the highest level since the U.S. occupation began 19 months ago.

Most of the increase in the troop count -- which now stands at about 138,000 -- will come from the extended deployment of units already there as others arrive.

That increase in the number of soldiers in Iraq will of course increase the monthly burn rate.

The military says this boost is in order to support holding of the elections.

"It's mainly to provide security for the elections, but it's also to keep up pressure on the insurgency after the Fallujah operation," Army Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy director of regional operations, said Wednesday.

Of course the elections are supposed to be over in January. But the additional troops will be there till March. The surge probably really is temporary for the simple reason that the US military is not big enough to sustain a larger force in Iraq.

The Bush Administration predictions have been wrong so many times that their predictions aren't worth taking seriously. Before the war Paul Wolfowitz claimed the Iraqis would treat the American soldiers as liberators and in late May 2003 Donald Rumsfeld claimed there'd be only 30,000 US soldiers left in Iraq by the end of 2003.

For obvious domestic political reasons, the Bush Administration going into the war had downplayed the scale and duration of a post-war occupation mission. When then-Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki told legislators that such a mission would require several hundred thousand U.S. troops, his assessment had been immediately dismissed by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as "wildly off the mark." Wolfowitz explained that "I am reasonably certain that (the Iraqi people) will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." Six weeks ago, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was still suggesting the U.S. force in Iraq could be reduced to 30,000 by the end of the year. But the prevailing assessment in Washington appears to be shifting to the idea of a figure closer to Shinseki's.

Of course, the US military does not have enough troops to occupy Iraq with a larger force. At the same time, I do not see Bush pushing to build up a larger military. The budget deficit is too big already. The US military in Iraq needs technologies that would achieve a much greater level of automation in urban fighting. But after a year and a half of urban fighting necessity still hasn't been the mother of enough invention to make urban fighting less dangerous to US soldiers.

So how long will the fighting in Iraq continue? 5 years? 10 years? I can't see it going for 10 years because in 2014 the United States is going to be deep enough into the baby boomer retirement financial crisis that the idea of spending $70-100 billion per year in Iraq is going to be seen as unaffordable and unjustifiable.

By Randall Parker    2004 December 02 01:49 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2004 July 26 Monday
Iraq War Costing More Than Expected, Draining Maintenance And Training

One reason offered for the decrease in tempo of US operations in Iraq is a desire to avoid US casualties before the election. Another reason offered is the ability of the new Iraqi government to veto military operations. But there may be another reason that has been less noticed: Offensive operations eat resources at a faster rate and the US military needs more money that the Bush Administration does not want to try to get from Congress before the election.

The U.S. military has spent most of the $65 billion that Congress approved for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is scrambling to find $12.3 billion more from within the Defense Department to finance the wars through the end of the fiscal year, federal investigators said yesterday.

The report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress's independent investigative arm, warned that the budget crunch is having an adverse impact on the military as it shifts resources to Iraq and away from training and maintenance in other parts of the world. The study -- the most detailed examination to date of the military's funding problems -- appears to contradict White House assurances that the services have enough money to get through the calendar year.

Money is being shifted from maintenance and other categories to pay for operations. Of course this is creating greater future needs for spending while also reducing the ability of the US military to fight in other theaters should the need arise.

Ammo is being burned through at several times the normal rate.

Pre-positioned supply stocks in Diego Garcia and most other forward depots have been depleted.

Army leaders told Congress that it would take years to restore the pre-po stocks. The Army and GAO agree that it will cost $1.7 billion to reconstitute the Army's pre-po sets being used in Iraq, but only $700 million of that has been found so far. This expense was never built into any of the White House's regular or supplemental funding requests for Iraq. Rebuilding these stocks, which are critical to the Army's ability to deploy overseas in a hurry, will have to wait in line with billions of dollars in other unfunded requirements, which, according to the Washington Post, include $132 million for bolt-on vehicle armor; $879 million for combat helmets, silk-weight underwear, boots, and other clothing; $21.5 million for M249 squad automatic weapons; and $27 million for ammunition magazines, night sights, and ammo packs. Also unfunded: $956 million for repairing desert-damaged equipment and $102 million to replace equipment lost in combat.

Presidents who are fighting popular wars can just go to Congress and ask for more money to buy whatever is needed. Bush at this point Bush is not fighting a popular war. Even before the war began Bush was unwilling or unable to recognize the size of the costs and to ask for the amount of money necessary to carry it off properly while not sacrificing other goals such as the pursuit of Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and elsewhere. If the Bush Administration really thinks the high rate of consumption of military resources is necessary then it should make that case to Congress rather than trying to shift costs to the out years while underfunding current operations.

By the way, does anyone know the name of that dedicated training division that normally operates out of a US Army base in California or Arizona that plays the opposing force to US armoured divisions? Hasn't even that division been ordered deployed to Iraq?

Update: Yes indeed, "OpFor" training forces are being shipped to Iraq.

The Army's top training forces at Fort Polk, La., and Fort Irwin, Calif., are being deployed for the first time, to Iraq, raising concerns among some officers that troops will not be given the most strenuous preparation possible before they leave the United States.

The 11th Cav is going to Iraq from Fort Irwin.

The "Black Horse Cav" – the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment – will stop serving as the opposing-force training unit at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., and will join with the 155th Armored Brigade of the Mississippi Guard. They will begin entering Iraq in January.

A Fort Polk training batallion is also going to Iraq.

Similarly, the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry, which acts as the Opfor, or opposition force, for light infantry and special operations training at Fort Polk, La., is being called to Iraq, according to two Army officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

This move reduces future readiness but provides a shorter term boost to forces in Iraq. If the Bush or Kerry Administration needs to do a lot of fighting in Iraq in early 2005 then these forces will be needed.

By Randall Parker    2004 July 26 11:58 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 July 14 Wednesday
Tallying Up Some Wins And Losses From US Invasion Of Iraq

Writing for The National Interest Michael Eisenstadt tallies up gains and losses from the US invasion of Iraq.

For now, it remains unclear whether the WMD programs of neighboring states benefited from regime change in Baghdad, although for Iran and North Korea, the war probably confirmed the importance of a nuclear deterrent when dealing with the United States. North Korea's apparent decision to expand its nuclear arsenal in the aftermath of OIF probably reflects this concern.

Conversely, by inducing Libya to dismantle its WMD programs and Iran to reveal nuclear procurement data in order to avert international pressure or U.S. military action, the war may have helped U.S. intelligence to grasp better the scope of the international supplier network run by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Finally, the invasion of Iraq has undoubtedly complicated the War on Terror. The invasion and events connected with it (such as the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. personnel) deeply humiliated many Iraqis and Arabs, and for many, confirmed Osama bin Laden's image of the West. The Iraq War will likely provide a new crop of recruits for jihadist groups in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

What I'd like to know is whether Muammar Gaddafi (aka Khadafy, Qadaffi, and Ghaddafi) really decided to give up his nuclear program due to the Iraq invasion. He already had compelling reasons to do so. He had more to gain from giving up his nuclear ambitions than from continuing to pursue nuclear development with limited resources. When he finally admitted to his nuclear ambitions and turned over the equipment much of it was sitting in crates unused after having been purchased from A.Q. Khan's nuclear black market and other sources. So he obviously already felt constrained by insufficient resources to pursue his ambitions.

A lifting of trade and investment sanctions will be a moderate boon to Libya's economy and it is hard to see how nukes would provide Gaddafi a similar advantage. He has chosen a path that will strengthen the economy and therefore make it easier to eventually hand power on to his son who at this point does not carry the baggage of responsibility for previous actions of the father. So did the Iraq invasion tip the balance in his mind? Or was he ready to come around anyhow?

William E. Odom says Al Qaeda and Iran are the big winners from the Iraq invasion.

That said, achieving the first two war aims has not necessarily served the American interest. Yet they have benefited the interests of America's foes. The destruction of Saddam's regime serves Iran's aim of sweet revenge for Iraq's invasion in 1980.

Four of Osama bin Laden's interests have also been served. First, he has long been dedicated to toppling secular Arab leaders. Second, Iraq is now open to Al-Qaeda as a base of operations, especially if an Islamic regime emerges there--a likely outcome. Third, the invasion has distracted the United States from its campaign against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Fourth, the war has put the United States at odds with its European allies. Beyond these adverse consequences, we must remember the fiscal costs of the war to the United States--costs not shared by U.S. allies, as they were in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Thus Bin Laden and the Iranians have been the winners thus far. Presumably the proponents of the war would argue that spreading "liberal" democracy first to Iraq and then throughout the Arab world will offset these negative outcomes and also undercut support for Middle East-based terrorist groups. The case of continuing the war, therefore, hinges on whether the attainment of the third war aim is possible.

An argument can be made that the US invasion of Iraq has effectively scared a number of Middle Eastern governments out of providing support for terrorists. But even before the Iraq invasion few of those governments (with Iran as perhaps a notable exception) were still supporting terrorist groups to conduct attacks against Western targets. Libya backed off in the late 1980s as near as I can tell. Reagan and Thatcher were likely responsible for that.

A stronger case can be made against Iran's mullahs for their involvement in attacks against Jewish targets in Argentina as well as suspected Iranian involvement in the Khobar Towers attack, attacks against US targets in Lebanon in the 1980s, and perhaps other attacks. Are Al Qaeda members are being allowed to live freely in Iran? Khaled al-Harbi recently surrendered at the Teheran Iran embassy of Saudi Arabia as part of Saudi Arabia's amnesty for terrorists. Before doing so was he living in Iran with the knowledge of the Iranian government or, as the Iranian government has claimed, was he living as a fugitive along the Afghan-Iranian border? Also, Iran's government claims to be detaining 20 Al Qaeda members. Are they really doing this? If so, to restrain the Al Qaeda members or to protect them from the United States?

Iran's ruling mullahs show plenty of signs of only refraining from supporting terrrorist attacks against US interests when the US makes such support too costly.

Undisclosed until now, Operation Sapphire took place in 1997. Though the bombers who struck the Khobar Towers barracks were mostly Saudis, U.S. investigators quickly determined that Iranian intelligence officials had trained and organized the plotters. The former U.S. official said Iran was intimidated enough by the U.S. counterspy operation that it stopped targeting Americans after the bombing.

The first public hint of the U.S. operation came last week, when Richard Clarke, White House counterterrorism chief for three administrations, told a bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 attacks that the Clinton administration responded "against Iranian terrorism ... at Khobar Towers with a covert action."

Do the rulers of Iran feel more or less constrained by the US invasion of Iraq? My guess is that they feel less constrained because they see the US military too over-committed and hence even less able to threaten Iran. At the same time, Saddam Hussein no longer can threaten Iran. Seems like a net win for Iran in the short term. If Iran can develop nukes then eventually the Iranians may become less easy to intimidate and they may already be supporting terrorists in Iraq.

The Saudis are now trying to crack down on terrorists in Saudi Arabia. But that is in response to terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, not because the US invaded Iraq. Though it could be argued that the US invasion of Iraq goaded Al Qaeda to start attacking Saudi targets which then led to a Saudi government crackdown.

Update: Perhaps a better measure of the effect of the US invasion of Iraq on Middle Eastern governments would be a study of their official media and official clerics. Are their newspapers and government-funded clerics any less hostile to the United States as a result of the Iraq invasion? My impression is that little has changed in their official presses. Anyone have any good information on this question?

Another measure is the effect on public opinion in Muslim countries. A June 2003 poll shows a big swing away from a favorable opinion of the United States with an especially big swing in Indonesia.

The poll found that 83 percent of Turks now have an unfavorable opinion of the United States, up from 55 percent last summer.

The swing was even sharper in Indonesia, where Islamic radicalism has been rising since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

While 75 percent had a favorable opinion of the United States in 2000, 83 percent now have an unfavorable view. Similar levels of animosity hold sway in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

That is just a huge swing in public sentiment for Indonesia. One likely effect is to reduce the willingness of the Indonesian government to cooperate with the United States on security matters - at least publically. But how much of the swing was due to the invasion of Iraq specifically? What was the opinion of Indonesians toward the United States immediately after 9/11 and also after the invasion of Afghanistan? If anyone comes across poll results from Indonesia for time points between 2000 and 2003 please post them in the comments.

By Randall Parker    2004 July 14 02:05 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 June 03 Thursday
Iraq Cost Estimates Rising

Two official sources are putting total projected Iraq costs for the first two years at approximately $120 billion.

The Congressional Research Service, which provides nonpartisan analyses for lawmakers, has calculated Iraq costs for the first two years at $121.8 billion, using higher defense figures than the administration. Either way, the number will grow dramatically in the near future.

Bush has already requested an additional $25 billion for the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, with the bulk of the money headed to Iraq. Administration officials have said they expect to eventually seek more than $50 billion for 2005.

Note of course that the longer the time US forces are in Iraq the higher the costs will go. A higher source estimate in this article is $160 billion. Other sources have projected the total costs as high as $300 billion to $450 billion.

The United States already has a large budget deficit even as it is approaching a financial crisis caused by an aging population and can ill-afford an expensive and yet ineffective national security policy.

By Randall Parker    2004 June 03 11:16 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 July 11 Friday
US Military Spending $3.9 Billion Per Month In Iraq

Occupation against continued resistance is not cheap.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the monthly cost of operations in Iraq is roughly $3.9 billion.

Afghanistan still costs almost $1 billion per month.

In addition, the cost of operations in Afghanistan are now US$900 million to US$950 million monthly, Rumsfeld said.

Tommy Franks says Baathists are being joined by religious fighters and fighters from Syria (who are likely also religiously motivated).

U.S. troops in Iraq face 10 to 25 attacks a day, partly because they are hunting for Baathists, "jihadists" and fighters crossing the border from Syria, Gen. Tommy Franks, who ran the war against Baghdad, said on Thursday.

It would be useful to know what relative portion each of these types of fighters are contributing to the total. Also, is the Syrian government working to facilitate the movement of Islamic Jihadist warriors to the Syrian-Iraq border?

Rumsfeld says most of Iraq is not experiencing continued fighting.

Mr. Rumsfeld emphasized that anti-coalition violence was concentrated in a relatively small area of Iraq, while most of the country was now safe; it came from seemingly unconnected sources; and it was being subdued in military operations that themselves added to the coalition casualty count.

The problem with the continued fighting in Iraq is not just the added cost. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution says current deployment levels are not sustainable.

This total of nearly 250,000 deployed troops must be generated from an Army of just over 1 million. The active-duty force numbers 480,000, of which fewer than 320,000 are easily deployable at any given moment. The Army Reserve and Army National Guard together include 550,000 troops, many of whom already have been called up at least once since 9/11.

O'Hanlon makes a number of suggestions to deal with the strains of having such a large fraction of the Army deployed. But many of those suggestions can not be implemented rapidly. Until the US gets a better handle on Iraq and the attacks decline dramatically the US ought to avoid additional commitments such as a deployment to Liberia. The nuclear proliferation threats posed by Iran and North Korea are additional reasons to avoid any other additional optional military operations in countries which are having civil wars.

By Randall Parker    2003 July 11 02:27 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
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