Costs of War, Was It Worth It?

John Glaser, June 29, 2011

Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies conducted research on the costs of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan:

The final bill will run up to at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project Costs of War by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

[...] Those numbers will continue to soar when considering often overlooked costs such as long-term obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. The estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due and many billions more in expenses that cannot be counted, according to the study.

In human terms, 224 000 to 258 000 people have died directly from warfare, including 125 000 civilians in Iraq. Many more have died indirectly, from the loss of clean drinking water, healthcare, and nutrition. An additional 365 000 have been wounded and 7.8 million people – equal to the combined population of Connecticut and Kentucky – have been displaced.

To a certain extent, the true costs of these imperial adventures are not known, but results like these at least slightly help the American people (most of whom are relatively insulated from the costs of these wars) understand the damage and expense.

It’s also worth contemplating what the return on the investment was. It has been helpful to the expansion of the American Empire and has put dough in the pockets of the military industry, but the notion that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are more stable countries than they were ten years ago is almost laughable. Iraq’s “government, economy, legal systems, and basic services like electricity and water remain unstable,” corruption is widespread, sectarian and insurgency-based violence is again on the rise, and governance there is slipping towards dictatorship with the Maliki government harassing media outlets who speak ill of him, harsh repression and crackdowns of Arab Spring protesters, and a closed political system. Afghanistan is in ruins: it is one of the poorest, most corrupt nations in the world, nation building efforts are failing, violence and civilian deaths keep hitting record-setting highs, and the U.S. is in an unending and dangerous quagmire there. Pakistan is increasingly unstable with rife poverty and corruption, pockets of extremists in the autonomous tribal regions are very strong, well over 1,000 civilians, and possibly a few thousand have been killed by Predator drones, and the dictatorial government relies on U.S. aid in the billions to even function at all.

These countries themselves are obviously worse off for all this blood and money spent, but what about the American people? Are they safer? Has the threat of terrorism been reduced? Actually no, it has dramatically increased due to these three adventures.

The leaders of the U.S. government should be indictable for not only wasting the resources and lives lost by these wars, but for the grave danger they’ve put the American people in as a result of them.




7 Responses to “Costs of War, Was It Worth It?”

  1. To get a sense of these figures please Google "what does a trillion dollars look like"?

  2. "Was it worth it?"

    No.

  3. No.

    Oh, were you expecting Obama to be any different than his predecessors? Silly you.

    The world is on fire because of our political ignorance, and we just sit and wait for the next episode of 'Dancing with the Stars' to start.

  4. The leaders of the U.S. government should be indictable for not only wasting the resources and lives lost by these wars, but for the grave danger they’ve put the American people in as a result of them.

    Well, since the only people who have the legal authority to do the indicting are part of the same corrupt organism of which the "'leaders' [sic] of the U.S. government" are a part, I'd say that the chances of that happening are less than zero by orders of magnitude. Even if some miraculous spontaneous implosion of the natural laws that order our universe were to bring such an event about, we need to remember that an indictment is merely a form of accusation, the formal charging of someone with an offense. The odds of such an indictment resulting in actual criminal conviction on the charges in a court of law are even more remote, so much so that anyone suggesting it could happen under our current system is deserving of summary committal.

  5. [...] which is actually a war crime under international law. It was fought at really unimaginable human and financial costs. None of this, of course, makes our current presence there any more legitimate. Our current [...]

  6. The world is on fire because of our political ignorance, and we just sit and wait for the next episode of 'Dancing with the Stars' to start.

  7. Tax cut or any number of other things that money could be used for!