Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Iraq, Afghanistan Wars Will Cost U.S. 4-6 Trillion Dollars: Report

Costs to U.S. taxpayers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will run between four and six trillion dollars, making them the most expensive conflicts in U.S. history.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

Costs to U.S. taxpayers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will run between four and six trillion dollars, making them the most expensive conflicts in U.S. history, according to a new report by a prominent Harvard University researcher.

While Washington has already spent close to two trillion dollars in direct costs related to its military campaigns in the two countries, that total “represents only a fraction of the total war costs”, according to the report by former Bill Clinton administration official Linda Bilmes.

“The single largest accrued liability of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the cost of providing medical care and disability benefits to war veterans,” she wrote in the 21-page report, ‘The Financial Legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan: How Wartime Spending Decisions Will Constrain Future National Security Budgets’.

Bilmes, who since 2008 has co-authored a number of analyses on war costs with the World Bank’s former chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz, noted that more than half of the more than 1.5 million troops who have been discharged from active duty since 9/11 have received medical treatment at veterans’ hospitals and have been granted benefits for the rest of their lives. More than 253,000 troops have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Additional costs include the replacement and repair of equipment — which wears out at an estimated six times the peace-time rate — and the accumulation of interest on money borrowed by the Treasury to finance the wars since the nearly two trillion dollars in war costs were not subject to the normal budgetary process.

So far, Washington has paid some 260 billion dollars in interest charged on war-related borrowing, but the “potential interest cost of the U.S. war debt reaches into the trillions,” according to the report.

“One of the most significant challenges to future U.S. national security policy will not originate from any external threat,” she wrote. “Rather it is simply coping with the legacy of the conflicts we have already fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The report comes at a key moment, as Republicans in Congress appear increasingly split between defence hawks on the one hand, who want to maintain or increase Pentagon spending and have been pushing for a more aggressive U.S. role in the Syrian civil war, among other hotspots, and deficit hawks, on the other, who believe the country can ill afford bigger military budgets, let alone new foreign military adventures, especially in the Middle East.

The defence hawks, consisting primarily of neo-conservatives and aggressive nationalists who led the march to war in Iraq 10 years ago, are particularly worried about the impact on the military of the so-called “sequester”, which requires across-the-board cuts by the Pentagon totalling 500 million dollars over 10 years, in order to help reduce the deficit.

With tensions with Iran, North Korea and even China on the rise, they argue that Washington cannot afford to be seen as constrained militarily by its fiscal challenges.

But this report – as well as another put out by Brown University on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion that estimated the total war costs at three trillion dollars – are likely to bolster the deficit hawks among Republicans, as well as foreign-policy realists most closely identified with the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and most Democrats, including President Barack Obama and his closest aides.

That most war-related costs are actually incurred after the wars are themselves concluded is not unusual in U.S. history, according to a recent investigation by the Associated Press (AP).

After researching federal records, it reported last week that compensation for World War II veterans and their families only reached a high in 1991 – 46 years after the war ended.

It also reported that, almost exactly 40 years after the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam, the government is still paying veterans and their families or survivors more than 22 billion dollars a year in war-related claims, and that that figure is on the rise, as the beneficiary population ages. Similarly, payments to Gulf War veterans are also increasing.

The much-greater costs to be incurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are explained by, among other factors, much higher survival rates among wounded soldiers, more generous benefits for veterans, new categories of beneficiaries, more expensive medical treatments, and increases in both pay and benefits for troops in order to gain more recruits for the all-volunteer army.

The report argued that dramatic increase in war-related costs means taxpayers will not get the kind of “peace dividend” that they received after other wars, including the two world wars and the Cold War after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Today as the country considers how to improve its balance sheet, it could have been hoped that the end of the wars would provide a peace dividend, such as the one during the Clinton administration that helped Americans to invest more in butter and less in guns,” it concluded.

“In short, there will be no peace dividend, and the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be costs that persist for decades.”

The Pentagon and other national-security agencies, according to the report, will likely face more – rather than less – pressure to cut costs.

“One likely result,” it predicted, “is that budgetary constraints will tilt the U.S. in a direction of fewer military personnel in the forces …and greater investment in unmanned weaponry, robotics, and other technological solutions – which may or may not be a wise choice over the longer-term.”

To Miriam Pemberton, a national-security analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies, the new study should prompt a major re-assessment of the regular military budget (not including the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars), which grew by nearly 50 percent in real terms to more than half a trillion dollars – over the decade that followed 9/11.

“We need to bring that budget back to where it was when these wars began,” she told IPS. “Those savings need to be re-invested in the needs that have been neglected over the past decade, foremost among them, in my view, being the urgent need to address the climate crisis by investing in a transition to a clean energy and transportation economy.”

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Established in Baltimore in 1897, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is the oldest Zionist organization in the United States—and also among the most aggressively anti-Arab ones.


U.S. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and chosen by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate.


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the Elliott Management Corporation and an important funder of neoconservative causes.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

President Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.


Print Friendly

The war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea make a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis more difficult than ever to achieve.


Print Friendly

The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, is anything but non-partisan or apolitical. For the deeply conservative Kelly, the United States is endangered not only by foreign enemies but by domestic forces that either purposely, or unwittingly, support them.


Print Friendly

The prospects of Benjamin Netanyahu continuing as Israel’s prime minister are growing dim. But for those of us outside of Israel who support the rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis and wish for all of those in the troubled region to enjoy equal rights, the fall of Netanyahu comes too late to make much difference.


Print Friendly

Rich Higgins, the recently fired director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, once said in an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program, that “more Muslim Americans have been killed fighting for ISIS than have been killed fighting for the United States since 9/11.”


Print Friendly

This is how the Trump administration could try to use the IAEA to spur Iran to back out of the JCPOA.


Print Friendly

President Trump seems determined to go forward with a very hostile program toward Iran, and, although a baseless US pullout from the JCPOA seems unlikely, even the so-called “adults” are pushing for a pretext for a pullout. Such an act does not seem likely to attract European support. Instead, it will leave the United States isolated, break the nuclear arrangement and provide a very reasonable basis for Iran to restart the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent in earnest.


RightWeb
share