Government Spending

The Cost of War

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According to the Congressional Research Service, the first six days of military operations in Libya cost American taxpayers somewhere between $400 million and $1 billion. That's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of the federal budget. But the longer we stay, the more we'll spend. And what are we getting in return for this ongoing investment? That's hard to say when even President Obama doesn't seem to know why we chose to get involved. But in general, whenever politicians struggle to justify some form of government spending, it probably isn't worth it. 

(Via Adam Serwer and Steven Aftergood.)

Read Veronique de Rugy's 2008 Reason cover story on America's trillion-dollar war on terror

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  1. Is the plane in the picture dropping that money on the AFSCME headquarters again?

    Or is it at the Goldman Sachs annual sales meeting?

    1. Did Ben give up the helicopter?

      1. A C-130 has more capacity and endurance

  2. “And what are we getting in return for this ongoing investment?”

    Well, just as we elminated drug abuse with the war on drugs, and cured cancer with the war on cancer, we will get heaven on earth.

    1. We also eliminated poverty with the war on poverty, don’t forget.

      1. Back in 1918, we ended war with the War to End All Wars, remember?

        1. And made the world safe for Democracy!

  3. “But in general, when it’s a struggle to justify some form of spending, it probably isn’t worth it.”

    Just because it isn’t politically smart for the president to look straight into the camera and say it succinctly, doesn’t necessarily mean the reason he’s doing it isn’t worth the spending.

    If we can spend $700 billion and suffer 36,395 American casualties on Iraq–which mostly just inspired contempt and derision for us in the Muslim world?

    Then spending $1 billion and suffering no American casualties in Libya is a bargain if it reorients us in the mind of the ummah as being on their side against the dictators.

    1. which mostly just inspired contempt and derision for us in the Muslim world?

      The most heartening single image of the past month?eclipsing even the bravery and dignity of the civilian fighters against despotism in Syria and Libya?was the sight of Hoshyar Zebari arriving in Paris to call for strong action against the depraved regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi. Here was the foreign minister of Iraq, and the new head of the Arab League, helping to tilt the whole axis of local diplomacy against one-man rule. In May, Iraq will act as host to the Arab League summit, and it will be distinctly amusing and highly instructive to see which Arab leaders have the courage, or even the ability, to leave their own capitals and attend. The whole scene is especially gratifying for those of us who remember Zebari as the dedicated exile militant that he was 10 years ago, striving to defend his dispossessed people from the effects of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons.

      Do you ever get tired of beating that IRAQ QAR BAD!!! drum?

      The horse, it is dead.

      1. Sorry, forgot to quote that from above.

        It’s from Hitchens- “The Iraq Effect
        If Saddam Hussein were still in power, this year’s Arab uprisings could never have happened.”
        http://www.slate.com/id/2289587/pagenum/all/

        1. ggod luck w that meme considering iraq cant even form a coalition govt

          1. Because it’s not Vermont yet means it’s a disaster?

            It took the US decades to form a coalition government. Of course it’s not going to work perfectly immediately, but as Hitchens noted above it is incredibly significant that the foreign minister of Iraq, and the new head of the Arab League, will be helping to tilt the whole axis of local diplomacy against one-man rule.

            1. It not being Vermont is a feature, not a bug.

              1. Point taken. Is there any way you guys will ever get rid of Bernie?

                1. I have a cunning plan to wait his old ass out.

        2. The suggestion that the rest of the ummah was so enthralled with the situation in Iraq that it wanted to emulate it is…absurd.

          On its face it’s absurd.

          1. You could read the Hitchens article, which takes pains to point that yes, “I admit that Egyptian and Tunisian and other demonstrators did not take to the streets waving Iraqi flags, as if in emulation. (Though Saad-Eddin Ibrahim, intellectual godfather of the Egyptian democracy movement, did publicly hail the fall of Saddam as an inspiration, and many leaders of the early Lebanese “spring” spoke openly in similar terms.)”

            But then also says this-

            This reticence is quite understandable since, apart from the northern Kurdish region of Iraq from which Foreign Minister Zebari hails, the liberation of the country was not entirely the work of its own people. But this point has become a more arguable one since the Arab League itself admitted that there are certain regimes that are impervious to unassisted overthrow from within. Qaddafi’s is pre-eminently one of these, and Saddam’s was notoriously so, as the repeated terror-bombings and gassings of the Shiite and Kurdish populations amply proved. Meanwhile, Iraq already has, albeit in rudimentary and tenuous form, the free press, the written constitution, and the parliamentary election system that is the minimum demand of Arab civil society. It has also passed through a test of fire in which the Bin Ladenists threw everything they had against an emergent democracy and were largely defeated and discredited. These are lessons and experiences that are useful not just for Mesopotamia.

            Reading, it isn’t that hard.

            1. But I thought it was Obama’s Cairo speech that inspired these uprisings! The Obama Administration said so yesterday, so it MUST be true!

            2. Soooo, does that mean the war in Libya is really Bush’s fault?

              1. well that would be the implied upshot…if one bought that meme to begin with. hitchens is wrong

            3. Again, I see nothing there to show any connection between Iraq and Tunisia or Egypt.

              If you want to look for the impetus for change in Tunisia and Egypt, I suggest you look at the emergence of Facebook and Twitter.

              …not Iraq.

              He’s right about some regimes being impervious to protest–and why limit ourselves to Middle East and North Africa? Why not look at Belarus?

              Regardless, I see nothing about Iraq that makes me think Muslim people anywhere see Iraq as a shining example of freedom and democracy to be emulated. Quite the opposite! I maintain that Abu Ghraib alone set us back with the ummah–maybe even farther back than we were when Saddam Hussein was in power.

              I further maintain that Libya is being viewed by the ummah as an alternative course in Iraq. I think the ummah wanted us to do what we’re doing, and I think we have a chance to make up the ground we lost with the ummah in Iraq.

              1. So you don’t find it significant the foreign minister of Iraq, and the new head of the Arab League, will be helping to tilt the whole axis of local diplomacy against one-man rule.

                That’s just a total coincidence?

                Forget it Ken. I don’t know why I even bothered trying to argue this with you. You simply refuse to see any advantage or benefit whatsoever in the removal of Saddam, and nothing I (or probably anyone else, let alone any Iraqi’s) say will ever change that.

                I’ll respectfully agree to disagree.

                1. no there’s benies to sadaam’s removal. but that ex-post facto illogic cannot be used to justify the invasion. “but your honor, if i hadnt murdered him he was gonna rob the corner store”. ex post facto

                  1. Well it’s a good thing that the AUMF for the war in Iraq shows that we aren’t using “ex-post facto illogic”.

                    Not that you’ll admit this, but it is what it is.

                    1. lil w & his playmates stampeded the AUMF herd w visions of mushroom clouds dancing in their heads. not ex post facto

                  2. “ex post facto”

                    I don’t think this means what you think it does.

                2. “You simply refuse to see any advantage or benefit whatsoever in the removal of Saddam, and nothing I (or probably anyone else, let alone any Iraqi’s) say will ever change that.”

                  When I talk about Iraq, I’m not just talking about the removal of Saddam Hussein.

                  I think of Abu Ghraib, and I think of Bush disbanding the Iraqi military leading to a long, drawn out insurgency. I think of how our actions in Iraq strengthened the hand of Iran.

                  I weigh that (and more) on the scale against the removal of Saddam Hussein, and I don’t think the strategic benefits outweighed what we lost with the ummah.

                  …and that’s not even mentioning the Iraqi and American casualties and $700 billion.

                  1. Abu-FUCKING-Ghraib?????

                    Seriously?

                    Yeah, this is a complete waste of time for me. I tried, but you are about as rational about this as a room full of super models with their drugs taken away.

                    Keep fightin’ the good fight Ken.

                    1. If you don’t think those photos of us torturing Muslims in the same facility Saddam Hussein used to torture his political prisoners cost us big time in terms of hearts and minds around the Muslim world?

                      I don’t know what to say.

                      Abu Ghraib was–at best–the result of Bush’s new interrogation policy being incompetently administered in Iraq rather than just restricted to Guantanamo. …according to the Schlesinger Report anyway.

                      Those photos cost us big time.

                    2. Ken, you don’t know what to say because you have this vision of the “ummah” being some homogeneous entity that if only we would properly coddle would finally let us take them to the prom. As RC stated below, we’ve saved millions of muslims lives with our blood sweat and tears over decades of wars battles and struggle and all it has earned us is a big fuck you (there are exceptions, such as the Kurds, but they aren’t Arabs so it doesn’t really count from an “ummah” perspective). If you think that Abu-Ghraib was some sort of serious scandal within the muslim community instead of media whore-mongering than you are more delusional than I thought possible. To compare what happened when some dumbass soldiers acted irresponsibly on film to FUCKING RAPE CHAMBERS is the height of moral equivalency.

                      But please, go on about how much better we would all be right now if Saddam was still around to help settle things down in the Middle East. I like watching people dig holes.

                    3. “If you think that Abu-Ghraib was some sort of serious scandal within the muslim community instead of media whore-mongering than you are more delusional than I thought possible.”

                      Am I supposed to think that photographs of people being forced to build naked pyramids of themselves is a great way to sell used cars in the Muslim world?

                  2. “I think of Bush disbanding the Iraqi military ”

                    There was no Iraqi military to disband. Since most were conscripts, they went home or scattered when Saddam fell.

                    1. Yeah, must have been my imagination:

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C…..r_Number_2

              2. F*ck um(mah).

    2. How on Earth do you draw the preposterous conclusion that becoming involved in a tribal civil war in a country that was cobbled together as an Italian colony circa 1912 is somehow going to “reorient us in the mind of the ummah as being on their side against the dictators?”

      1. Indeed.

        Especially since our involvement – right now – is bombing them from 10,000 feet.

        That’s hardly sacrificing for the Arab and Muslim people.

        If we do succeed in removing Qaddafi and if some sort of stable government is established 5-10 years from now and if we don’t have to be too involved in whatever post-regime bloodshed ensues (lots of ifs no?), we might mark it as a small plus in terms of the Arab street’s view of America.

        Small.

    3. Then spending $1 billion and suffering no American casualties in Libya

      Why on earth would you assume that we’re just about done spending money in Libya, and won’t ever suffer casualties?

      is a bargain if it reorients us in the mind of the ummah as being on their side against the dictators.

      I don’t think they make a font big enough to capture the size of that if.

      We have gone to war over and over to protect Muslims, sometimes against other Muslims, sometimes against Christians. It hasn’t made us many Muslim friends yet that I can see. Why would this time be different?

      1. “Why on earth would you assume that we’re just about done spending money in Libya, and won’t ever suffer casualties?”

        Because we cleared out the homos!

    4. Libya is a bargain if it reorients us in the mind of the ummah as being on their side against the dictators.

      Until we don’t intervene in all of the other places where there is the ummah vs dictators.

      I miss the days when liberals used words like “blowback” and “meddling.”

      1. mee too ah huh

    5. “Just because it isn’t politically smart for the president to look straight into the camera and say it succinctly, doesn’t necessarily mean the reason he’s doing it isn’t worth the spending.”

      You’re right. There are tons of reasons not to do it. And not one reason to do it.

  4. “Da plane, boss! Da plane!”

    You think bombing Libya is expensive, just wait until the rebuilding/foreign aid efforts start.

    As much as getting bombs dropped on your country sucks, there are few better ways to get free roads and hospitals than getting bombed by the US.

      1. Start with DC and you have yourself a deal.

  5. We wouldn’t want bomb and missile manufacturers to go out of business.
    Those are American jobs we’re talking about!
    One cruise missile costs more than a million bucks.
    Do you know how many American jobs that creates?

    By attacking Libya Obama is creating/saving American jobs!

    Jobs I tell you!

    Jobs!

    JOBS!

    JOBS!

    JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
    -pause for air-
    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOBS!

    1. JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
      Huh?!

      -pause for air-
      OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOBS!

      Heh, You had me going for a moment.

      1. Jew eat yet?

        1. No, how much does the hallah cost?

  6. And CNN just reported that as a result of the rebels losses the Pentagon plans to ramp up the air strikes and target Tripoli as well.

    Video link here.

    1. I saw that. Did you catch the rationale for declaring open season on military targets?

      “The US has interpreted ‘protect civilians’ to mean, it can destroy any weapons Quadaffi COULD USE.”

      And isn’t great that we have turned control of operations over to NATO. At least we know the NATO Commander isn’t a puppet of the United States.

      1. I think you meant

        “At least we know the US is not a puppet of Western Europe.”

  7. somewhere between $400 million and $1 billion.

    I suspect we could have just given some small portion of that sum directly to Kadiffly and he would have gladly relocated to Beverly Hills.

    1. Nah. He’s got billions stashed away around the world. Like most politicians he’s not really interested in the money, he’s interested in power.

      1. With enough pretty ladies, and a good enough “Conquer the World” virtual reality game, you might get him interested.

  8. From ‘The Guardian’:

    “Troops loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have retaken Brega, forcing rebel fighters into a chaotic retreat under a barrage of tank and artillery fire to their stronghold of Benghazi…

    Nato planes continued to bombard the regime troops, but their outgunned opponents were forced back from positions taken earlier in the week, when they advanced to within 60 miles of Sirte, Gaddafi’s home city.”

    In Iraq, didn’t they have a name for that?

    Whack-a-mole.

  9. I am really looking forward to hearing how our next President inherited the Libya situation from Obama in 2013.

    Kick it down the road, folks, because our system is never going to solve another national problem.

  10. Given the ongoing expansion of the air campaign to include close air support with Warthogs and open season on Qaddafi’s military wherever it is and whatever its doing,

    would anyone care to continue arguing that

    (1) this isn’t a war,

    (2) is completely constitutional, and

    (3) shouldn’t be grounds for impeachment and removal from office?

    I mean, if you won’t impeach and remove a President for illegally and unconstitutionally committing the US to a war, what would you impeach and remove him for?

    1. Lying about gettin’head from a fat chick?

    2. Getting his dick sucked by an intern?

  11. War? It sounds like shooting fish in a barrel.
    Some pundit on Fox last night was claiming Obama has 60 days from the time of ordering military action to when he needs to ask Congress to approve (under War Powers resolution), therefore he is still within the letter of the constitution. An Obama toady was trying to convince viewers that the threat from Libya was indeed imminent because – get this – if you are flying your F-15 overhead you are in imminent danger of taking ground fire!

    1. That sorta sounds like the claim that police use paramilitary tactics and weapons to combat all of the violence that happens at drug raids.

  12. Actually, $400,000,000 is a helluva lot of money, even in the “grand scheme” of the federal budget. For example, that amount of money would run my small journalism education non-profit (www.wcpj.org) for one thousand six hundred fucking years! A billion dollars: 4,000 years!!!!

    1. Everybody has to make sacrifices in a situation like this.

      All your decedents are fucked for a millennium.

  13. ia. Chaos in Saudi Arabia, which produces about 12 percent of the world’s oil, would

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