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.
By Alyssa Warren.