Analysis: Paying the Costs of Iraq, for Decades to Come

Defense Department

A little over ten years ago, George W. Bush fired his economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey, for saying that the total cost of invading Iraq might come to as much as $200 billion. Bush instead stood by such advisors as Paul Wolfowitz, who said that the invasion would be largely "self-financing" via Iraq's oil, and Andrew Natsios, who told an incredulous Ted Koppel that the war's total cost to the American taxpayer would be no more than $1.7 billion.

As it turns out, Lawrence Lindsey's estimate was indeed off -- by a factor of ten or more, on the low side. A new research paper by Linda Bilmes, of the Kennedy School at Harvard, begins this way:
The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history - totaling somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion.   
The most powerful and disturbing part of Bilmes's analysis is the explanation of why, even though American combat deaths and military exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming to their ends, covering the costs has just begun. In the introduction she says:
One of the most significant challenges to future US national security policy will not originate from any external threat. Rather it is simply coping with the legacy of the conflicts we have already fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Read more at The Atlantic

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