Costs of War Report Released

This week CIP senior fellow, Bill Hartung, and the Eisenhower Study Group at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the most thorough report to date on the costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Conducted by over twenty academics from wide-ranging fields, the study forces the public to consider the consequences of the wars and question what, if anything, has been gained over the last ten years.  The report considers other options the US could have employed and concludes that these options, which would have been cheaper and likely more effective, were hardly considered before the US engaged militarily. The primary recommendation of the study is the US to increase transparency to the public “because information facilitates democratic deliberation and effective decision-making.”

The findings of the report conclude that the costs of the two wars amount to more than $3.2 – 4 trillion spent (and obligated to be spent) and 225,000 killed.  Among the 225,000 dead, which the study lists as its conservative estimate, are 6,000 US soldiers, 2,300 US contractors, and 20,000 US allies, including Iraqi and Afghan security forces as well as other coalition members.  In civilian lives in Iraq and Afghan, the cost to date is 137,000 not including the often over-looked number of civilians killed in the violence in Pakistan.  In economic terms, the costs of war are much greater than the defense appropriations suggest.  The study includes the war-related spending by the VA and the State Department/USAID, increased federal spending on homeland security, and interest payments on the money borrowed to finance the war.  Beyond these dollar amounts, the increase in military spending and in the federal debt affects interest rates, employment, and investment.

Laudably, the study also addresses the social, political, and environmental costs of the wars.  The study found that the wars have been “accompanied by the erosion of civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.”  The US invasions have failed to bring democracy to Iraq, where segregation by gender and ethnicity has increased, and Afghanistan, where corruption is rampant and warlords retain political clout.

Click here to read CIP’s press release.
Click here to read the full report on the Costs of War website.

By Alyssa Warren.

America’s Costliest War by Bill Hartung

America’s Costliest War
by Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy
Published in the Huffington Post on April 5, 2011

Congress, the media, and the public are rightly asking whether America should be spending $1 billion or more on the intervention in Libya at a time of fiscal austerity. One member of Congress has even proposed that the mission be offset dollar for dollar by cuts in domestic programs (leaving the Pentagon and related security programs off limits).

While this newfound attention to the costs of U.S. global military operations is welcome, focusing on Libya alone misses the mark. The $1 billion in projected spending on Libya is just one tenth of one percent of the over $1 trillion the United States has spent so far on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Looked at another way, the likely costs of the Libyan mission are the equivalent of less than four days of spending on the war in Afghanistan.

And that’s the point. Those genuinely concerned about war costs need to go where the money is — Afghanistan. The Pentagon has asked for $113 billion to fight the war there for this year, roughly two and one-half times what has been requested to support the United States’ dwindling commitment in Iraq. That gap will only increase as troop numbers in Iraq continue to fall. To put this in some perspective, the entire Gross Domestic Product of Afghanistan is about $29 billion per year, which means that annual U.S. expenditures on the war are nearly four times the value of the entire Afghan economy. That number would obviously change if the drug economy were taken into account, but it is stunning nonetheless. Continue reading