The $1 Trillion Cost of War: Rethinking Afghanistan, Pt. 3

Part 3 of Rethinking Afghanistan– on the cost of the war– directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films.

The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, initiated by the Bush Minor administration as the “war on terror,” have now cost over $1 trillion, according to the Congressional Research Service. It is the most expensive conflict in US history in real dollars with the exception of World War II. By 2017 the cost is expected to more than double to $2.4 trillion. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes predicted that the wars would cost $3 trillion once you figure in the cost of care for veterans, but it increasingly seems as though their estimate is low.

In the wake of the financial collapse of the United States, moreover, that is trillions that we do not have (Bush borrowed most of the cost of his wars from future generations at the same time he cut taxes on the wealthy, setting things up so as to push the middle class into poverty while establishing a permanent super-rich oligarchy of spoiled brats like himself).

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, and other Democrats on the Hill are increasingly concerned about the cost of the war, as well as about lax auditing of US government expenditures on it.

See also this recent Reuters factbox on the cost of the Afghanistan war to American taxpayers.

And see Fareed Zakaria’s estimate that the US will spend $100 bn. on Afghanistan in 2010, or $1 bn. per al-Qaeda operative thought to be in that country.

7 Responses

  1. The effort to train and resource the ANSF began for most intensive purposes in November, 2009.

    It is far cheaper to resource the ANSF than to use ISAF direct action.

  2. ANATC [ANA Training Command] only planned to train 1,950 NCOs per year back in November, 2009. Now the plan is to train 15,450 NCOs a year, an 8 fold increase.

    Since the training and funding for the ANSF mostly began 8 months ago, why are you so pessimistic about the ANSF’s ability to win this war, provided the international community doesn’t refuse to fund it?

    The ANA has already expanded from 95 thousand to 134 thousand in the last 8 months. Among other units, it has already created 94 new combat companies [in addition to two new ANA commando combat battalions], one Corps HQs, 5 brigade HQs, 3 combat service support battalions.

    This has already shifted the regional balance of power, and resulted in a surge in ANA kinetic operations against the Taliban.

  3. Anan is correct, of course. It would also be far cheaper to not have gotten into that mess in the first place. Same goes for Iraq.

    I am infuriated at what Bush and the Republicans did to our country, their lame brained attempts to blame the Democrats for what they did, and the American peoples acceptance of those lies.

    The only solution to the gross wealth inequities in this country and the world is precisely what the French people did in 1789.

  4. Dear Professor Cole

    And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared,

    As one of the people who listened to this address on my bedroom radio at some ungodly hour of the morning and breathed a sigh of relief, I am concerned to read Paul Krugman’s piece in today’s New York Times. He postulates a return to the unlamented policies of Bush the Younger.

    From where I am standing, I am seeing sucessful implementation of sensible domestic legislation, to provide health insurance that is not tied to employment, and to regulate the banks who got both US and EU into the present mess. I am seeing failure in the insoluble Middle Eastern region and as you document, ongoing war in Afghanistan with the option of a restarted war in Iraq under the banner of a Kurdistan war.

    Given that we have not forgotten the pitiful performance of the potential presidential nominee ex-Governor Palin, the idea of a return to the failed policies of the Noughties scares me.

    As you have explained that American presidential elections turn on the marginal voters of a few swing states, can we depend on the sane and sensible members of the American electorate to overcome the propaganda of the American media (which Jospeh Nye admitted are defective in his recent Chatham House talk) and preserve us from a total economic and international relations breakdown.

  5. Quick note: In Stiglitz and Bilmes’ book – the 3 trillion dollar war, they state that the $3 trillion is their low end estimate. So you are correct on that. They had much higher estimates, around $5 trillion I believe.
    Here is a little snippet of Stiglitz talking about the book.
    link to carnegieendowment.org

  6. Dear Professor Cole

    It seems the sane and sensible people are speaking up.

    The highest approval rating of the comments on Professor Krugman’s piece (from a Naval Commander) goes like this

    No, Dr. Krugman, it’s not Bush that the Republicans are addicted to. They are addicted to greed and to power and they are quite willing to throw the American middle class under the bus to get it. It’s the mantra of the plutocrats that they truly are.

    Right now America is limping along toward an abyss from which there is no return. If the Bushites gain power, we won’t be limping, we’ll be herded like lemmings over the edge of the cliff. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are enemies of the American people and the most alarming thing about that fact is that the majority of the American people don’t realize it.

    At this juncture the Republican strategy is to provoke more and more white Americans into fearing blacks. Obama and his team know this and that’s why they blundered so badly in reacting to the Shirley Sherrod debacle. Just the thought of Glenn Beck ranting and raving about Obama Administration being racist sent them spinning into the maelstrom without first getting a full background briefing.

    If white independents by into this and embrace the fear that the Republicans are fomenting, President Obama is toast.
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