The economic costs of war in Iraq

With the Iraq War finally over, it is time to take account. Whether you supported the War or not on principle, it is worth noting that the Iraq War’s costs to the US economy were not trivial. The latest estimate is that the War added $1 trillion to the US debt. I would expect that number to rise as the costs of caring for vets is still to come.

Also worth noting is that the US unemployment rate was a mere 5.9% back in March of 2003 (the month the war started). Notably, the onset of the Iraq War ushered in an era of dramatic increases in overall federal spending and debt.

So, am I saying that the Iraq War led us to our current economic condition? No, not by itself, but conservatives need to realize that war is a government program and an expensive one at that.

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7 Replies to “The economic costs of war in Iraq”

  1. No doubt the war was expensive, and as the father of a Marine, I just hope it was worth it. The Government says the cost was about 780 billion – still too close to $1 trillion! However, our Prresident spent 850 billion on his stimulus plan that accomplished absolutely nothing! Hopefully, the war will have produced something!

  2. Yes, the war did produce several things in addition to the debt, namely thousands of prematurely dead people, massive destruction of property, incalculable resentment of the US by the Muslims of the world, and huge profits for the military/industrial establishment.

    What a shame that so many of us common folk, like your marine son, have been persuaded that going to war is a noble thing to do

    1. Ted,

      I can appreciate your thoughts with regard to the added U.S. debt, which certainly should be offset by Iraq’s ability to produce and distribute (oil), as well as the added destruction and premature deaths, which were inflicted to all sides (no doubt but that’s wars are designed to do).

      However, I do find your opinion and perception of Muslim resentment, and the weight, timing and justification of this resentment versus the resulting U.S. indignation, after the resulting impact of several effective attacks, on U.S. Citizens’ and their property (e.g. the World Trade Center attacks, prior to 911, the U.S. Cole attack, and the most recent 911 WTC attack itself), puzzling (i.e., nonsensical).

      With regard to the profits of the “Military Industrial Complex”, I would agree with you that balance is the key for a nation’s existence, and that, the “MIC” should be effectively limited, controlled and scaled according to the mission of the time…if that is your opinion. Although, I wouldn’t give an unsustainable, un-offset, unfunded, potentially unprofitable, war a very good chance of achieving mission success. However, it is fairly obvious that U.S. mission success hasn’t been and isn’t exactly everyone’s goal, here. That being said, I would bet that Dan and his son are all about U.S. mission success, regardless of anyone’s, even those whom they serve and protect, opinions.

      Trust me, we common folks who take an oath defend the U.S. with their lives do understand that there is nothing noble or glamorous about the logistics of warfare. The noble thing to do is to align a nation’s strategy to all side’s weight, strengths and weaknesses, and implement the best and the brightest to achieve the mission as quickly and devastatingly as possible. Although, a strategy of containment is much more complex, stressful and expensive, and may not even be apparent to those in view of a world map. Regardless, the equal and opposite reactions to the U.S. leaving Iraq, in light of a continued U.S. presence in the Afghanistan/Pakistan regions (i.e., on the other side of that country, on that same map) will affect the weight, balances and flows of Iran’s and other nations’ Military Industrial Complex and other assets, and the stability of the region in general. Perhaps it could even give some folks a labeled failure to celebrate for the future. I’m going to hope that others like Dan’s son are all about the leadership and mission successes for a balanced and successful future.

      I’m hoping that we all continue to improve our understanding of what is (the voluntary act of contribution of service to one’s self, his/her family, his/her nation and his/her fellow wo/man) and is not (the degradation of those who provide such service and protection for themeselves, their families and their fellow wo/men) noble, and that Dan and his son have a very Merry Christmas and blessed New Year .

  3. I agree with Mr. Berthelote. In spite of all the propaganda about the glory of war, the necessity of war and all the other pro war BS over the years, the war in Iraq accomplished absolutely nothing insofar as the US is concerned except to weaken our economy and forever tarnish our reputation in the world. No sooner had we left than the country reverted back to the sectarian fighting that existed before SH took power. What might we have accomplished had we spent that trillion dollars and counting here in this country. We have a seriously crumbling infrastructure, millions living in poverty and an educational system on a par with third world countries.

    War is a black hole down which we throw money never to see it again.

  4. noobaloon,

    Hope all you want, the facts speak for themselves, all your patriotic protestations not withstanding. The central government of these United States has clearly been engaged in empire building for many decades, long before the incidents you cite as justification for the latest unprovoked aggressions on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.

    1. Ted,

      Great point “Hope and Change” are immaterial notions, relative to the facts resulting from the actions that are required to bring them about. Although, there certainly have been a lot of common folks who have demonstrated their willingness to put their full faith in such notions, with total disregard of the facts, or lack of facts, placed before them…but that’s an altogether different chapter along the road to economic oppression, attempts towards global socialization and empire positioning within a more centralized global governing system. Let’s just keep ourselves subjugated to OPEC, or something worse, and ensure that no such domestic capacity or distribution of energy production can ever exist within the U.S.

      The construction of a democratic republic (Iraq) within the heart of surrounding nations, which have more recently existed and been dominated by dictatorial and tyrannical governmental systems (Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, etc.), is indeed nation building on the part of the U.S. Regardless of how you and I “feel” about that, the years to come will determine the success or failure of the intervening investments and ongoing strategies.

      I actually do agree with you in the sense that this is not the responsibility of the U.S. taxpayer, at least to the degree that it has been undertaken up-to-this-point. However, there are, and were, alternative actions and inactions available to the U.S., and other countries, with alternative and lasting outcomes to all. What seems pointless to me is your insulting tone towards those young men and women who serve this nation, and the families who make sacrifices in order for them to do so. They certainly protect your right to do so, which is why I can’t comprehend your overt hostility towards them. They are anything but shameful, there’s nothing common about them (they are very uncommon), and unlike you, they do have a deep understanding what is and is not noble (and they demonstrate it better than anyone else in the world).

      If other of these Arab nation states, within the region, began to remove and replace their existing systems of government (perhaps akin to an “Arab Spring”), in order to ultimately follow and/or imitate the concept of the new Iraqi governing system, then the consolidation of their interests and resources could in fact lead to the future development of a new empire, within the region. It’s my understanding that large numbers of the region’s population centers do long for freedom…so who really knows. Perhaps a push and some seeding is enough to help the cause, although, the region’s more recent history may suggest otherwise. Again, this is a complex, expensive and as of yet, an immaterialized notion, requiring action and time.

      For example, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s brilliance for strategy and the function and interaction of existing and potential systems did in fact lead him to the conclusions and statements that William Mee has cited. He did in fact recognize the importance of intervention capability, cost, scale and mission objectives in relation to the necessary and changing balance needed in order to continue a democratic republic system of governance, within the U.S. However, this same brilliance also led him to the actions and resulting invasions that he undertook as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and North Africa (before he ever made those same statements). And, it also led him to his interventionist stance with regard to the Korean War, the deposing of the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, in 1953, and the idea of leveraging less expensive alternatives to conventional warfare (after making those same cited statements), relative to the times and circumstances he was leading in.

      The Middle East will continue to be a hot-bed of activity for years to come, as it has been in years prior. I believe that we may also agree that this would have been the case regardless of the more recent U.S. invasions within Iraq and Afghanistan. The real question is; whether or not these interventions had a desirable future impact for all nations, relative to the impact of no intervention at all, over this same stretch of time and in relation to every hunger not fed (present and future)?

      I suppose you can also hope all you want, in the sense that neither outcome can be conclusively proven or disproven, today. Therefore, you can certainly celebrate your unpatriotic protestations and hopes, and use the opportunity as a petty attempt to denigrate and shame those “common folks” whose children have and continue to serve, and I can celebrate what I hope for as well. Either way, these issues remain unresolved and economically active regardless of how appreciative or hateful they may or may not make either of us, or others, feel towards our service men and women and their families.

  5. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
    Dwight D. Eisenhower, From a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953
    34th president of US 1953-1961 (1890 – 1969)

    Bombs are built then exploded—at this point the real costs to humanity begin; conversely bridges are built and the real benefits to society begin…..WHM

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