The Cost of War

The Cost of War

The Cost of War as of 11:15 pm 16 April 2010 MDT

I came across an interesting web site today called the National Priorities Project. The site analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. One of the pages, called the Cost of War, lets you see the cost of war to your community.

For example, the state of Utah’s share of the money spent would be $5,277,419,209. For Texas, where my daughter lives, it is $80,460,219,390. You can even see what benefit your city would have received. For Salt Lake City, near where I live, the amount is $347,007,874.

The Numbers

The numbers indicate all of the approved funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date. These appropriations do not include funds to support the “surge” of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, with estimated costs of approximately $30 billion.

Soldier firing automatic grenade launcher

Insurgents attack Combat Outpost Bar Alai, Afghanistan

By September 30, 2010, the cost of the wars will reach $1.05 trillion. The numbers include both military and non-military spending such as reconstruction. Spending includes only incremental costs, those additional funds that are expended due to the war. For example, soldiers’ regular pay is not included but combat pay is included.

Future Costs

Potential future costs, such as future medical care for soldiers and veterans wounded in the war, are not included. These numbers do not account for the wars being deficit-financed or that taxpayers will need to make additional interest payments on the national debt due to these deficits.

It is likely that the true cost of the wars will be a much higher total. It is unfortunate that money is being spent this way when in these tough economic times it could do so much good at home.

I have been surprised how quiet the media has been about the wars. When Democrats surged back to power in 2006 with cries that the war must end, the story was everywhere. Now that we have a Democrat President and Congress surely we should have left Iraq and Afghanistan by now.

At the very least the same media that carried the end-the-war-now message in 2006 should be advocating the same now.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte
Rickety signature.


  1. I believe that wars are an inevitable outcome of the human condition.

    Eradicating war would require eliminating greed and avarice in the human psyche. Not likely.

    • Some wars could be avoided and others don’t need to go on as long as they do. Also alternatives to occupation could be formulated so that enemies can be harassed with less danger to troops. I do agree though that humans tend to go to war.

    • I agree Paul, war is here to stay until all people are Good People.

      Something that seems to have disappeared is winning a war. It seems like once American troops go somewhere and win, they stay there forever. That gets costly.

      Preemptive wars to prevent wars are kinda bogus I think, but I don’t mind that someone is making sure that the United States maintains its position in the world. If we don’t maintain power someone is going to invade us – I just wish there were kinder ways of maintaining our influence in the world.

  2. How does one avoid a war?

    • Don’t start a war. The U.S. gets involved in some foreign wars that it really doesn’t need to. For example, did the U.S. really have to occupy Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq?

  3. If attacked, how would you as president handle the situation?

    • As soon as possible I would want a declaration of war by Congress. Although controversial, I would want a War Tax. This would be a straight percentage from everyone’s pay, or maybe a Federal War Sales Tax.

      First, the tax would help pay for the war.
      Second, the war could not be dragged on for years (for whatever reason) because more and more voters would object. This also sobers up the population quickly when their patriotism is manipulated (as in the case of the Afghanistan War).

      Presumably a president once elected would have some time in office before a war broke out. I would want to strengthen the dollar and the economy and not have the military drained of strength in foreign adventures.

      The reality is I vote for someone I think would make a good president. I don’t give much thought about what I would do as president.

      However, what I would NOT do is spend a year ramming through Congress a health care bill that the majority of Americans never wanted. Not to mention cap and trade which is such a load of malarkey.

      Finally, I am much too aggressive to ever be commanding any sort of military. Fortunately for America I am foreign born so you will have to look elsewhere for a commander-in-chief.

      Now, I would be interested in what you would you do, or any of my readers.

  4. It appears here there is no objection to a righteous war.

    The National Priorities Project, as I understand, apparently is directed to the effacacies of Government and not war per se.

    I agree with Rick that there ought to be a declaration of war as defined originally. We ought to rid ourselves of the War Powers Act

    War Powers Act of 1973

    (Public Law 93-148) thereby forcing Congress to deliberate the act of war before committing life and wealth toward that end:

    Relieving Congress from the burden of declaring war leads to the feckless dynamic of blaming the President without owning congressional culpabilty to war. To wit, recently the deliberate undermining of President bush and the Iraq War to gain political power – a cynical cowardly act. An arguement is made that timing is too critical in today’s world. I disagree. The Congress must work out a system that is responsive to the occasion. The Congress could, for example, have a small committee on the ready to decide the will of the congress in the event of an emergency.

    I also agree that a War Tax must be imposed to pay for the war. Everyone needs to have skin in the game. I would carry the obligation further by using an expanded draft from which there is no escape barring impossibility of service. If everyone is at threat, then there will be more deliberation about starting wars. Our Professional military is the best; however, depending upon the professionals allows the general public to be distanced from their obligation for National defense. We would still have special forces for specific duties, however, there are many jobs in the military, many of which do not require combat capability. For example, suppose an executive of a corporation draws a call to duty. He well could manage a supply depot or similiar job.

    War is a desperate act. It must be conducted quickly and with overwhelming force that destroys the will of the enemy to continue. Doing so is the most humane way to war. Though brutal, It saves lives and property in the end. Wars that drag on are an indicator there is not steely resolve to win and the lack thereof encourages resistance. Our leaders must have at least the courage to act as they expect from our men in battle.

    • Thanks for the information on the War Powers Act, there was some interesting history, especially about the Supreme Court.

      It seems to me that only where the U.S. is directly threatened should a war be called for. Also it wouldn’t last long if these three laws were present:

      1. Congress has to declare war.
      2. Everyone has the possibility of being drafted.
      3. There is a war tax.

      Maybe there are more factors involved but the ones mentioned would hopefully limit foreign adventures.

  5. I agree with the idea that a war should be avoided, and when necessary, should be fought effectively, precisely, and ended.

    But, what we may be missing is that many wars are not against any one nation, but rather groups scattered among many nations. These groups target many nations. Terrorist attacks to the U.S. are real. A foreign presence (whether it be military or otherwise) may be necessary in maintaining a peace that would not otherwise exist. For example, the U.S. military presence in Germany was necessary, especially as we attempted a peace with Russia. Now the military presence in Germany is slowly being relocated to other nations that have a terrorist presence and are directly threatening the U.S. This might be an argument for another topic, as it is obvious that I believe in a “war on terror”, and am struggling with the idea that a “thorough war” would work. I agree that there should be alternatives to soldier insertion, but I believe we are finding those to be just as costly (at least initially).

    Yes, wars are costly, but having a strong economy and a strong nation, as well as reducing threats to that nation, may require a military that can keep the peace in the other parts of the world.

    Also, a certain percentage of the cost of war goes to the soldiers themselves and their families. I would never promote a war to create jobs, but I might promote a peace keeping mission for it.

    • Thomas in the quote below summed up how I feel. The Taliban and other terrorist groups are not a country. So rather than fight them with a huge expensive army why not fight them with one’s own special groups? These American military groups would harass and destroy the enemy by stealth.

      The usual unmanned aerial vehicles would also be used. I don’t know yet if they can be flown from aircraft carriers but the point is to keep up the pressure without having to have an army of occupation.

  6. Thomas Littlefella says

    At risk of going off the reservation with my comments on “The Cost of War” I offer the following opinions:

    The war in Afghanistan ended long ago (2001/2002) when we successfully drove the Taliban from a visible presence and political power in Afghanistan. At that point we won the war and the cost should have been tallied. I say we won because at that time the national consensus in America was that we won. As we know, sometimes winning can be subjective rather than objective and perhaps America’s consensus that we won the war was subjective. Anytime there is a consensus, people with common sense will use that consensus to their advantage, America failed to use common sense and withdraw as winners, instead we hung around Afghanistan like bullies in a school yard. We are no longer, nor have we for some time, fighting a war in Afghanistan, we are engaging in a political exposition.

    When you have a democracy and live in a free society there are risks. Those risks came to fruition when the terrorists destroyed the twin towers. Ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban calmed emotions and anger in America, but in reality did little to reduce the risk of future attacks associated with our freedom. The gathering of intelligence and the willingness to use that intelligence to thwart potential terrorist attacks is the sole reason we have reduced the danger of future attacks. Our political leaders have our soldiers hanging around the school yard for one reason only; to try and change the 8th century culture in Afghanistan. To change the culture is to change their religion and it is just not going to happen, ever.

    The war in Iraq (The Second Gulf War ) also ended long ago (2003) when we defeated Saddam Hussein and his fighting forces. The fear of weapons of mass destruction gave us a valid reason to go into Iraq. The idea of creating a democracy is why we stayed, and it is another huge mistake. I hope I’m wrong when I say that within five years of leaving Iraq a civil war will ensue and another dictatorship will emerge.

    Islamic terrorism is a very real and dangerous threat to America. I fear that we, the sleeping giant, are still asleep and have only begun to raise an eyebrow to the threat. Our eyes are still held shut to the danger by the political correctness of society. Held shut by an arrogant complacent corrupt government.

    The fog of stupor hangs over America, as we commit our fighting forces to foreign lands without a declared war, all the while streets in our own country are not safe to walk for fear of gangs of thugs.

    Stay on the reservation I did not, sorry.

    Thomas Littlefella

    • I am with you, trying to create a democracy will not work very well, especially when it is “forced” by an army of occupation. Little progress has been made after the expenditure of a trillion dollars.

  7. Generally, I agree with Thomas Littlefellow.

    One variance I have to his reply is the oft-repeated criteria for re-invasion of Iraq following the first Gulf War named Desert Storm. Voices from the left asserted that WMD (weapons of mass destruction) was the rationale for invading Iraq and the failure to locate them became the rallying cry from those bent upon using that event to make opportunistic cause celebre.

    Recollect that to end Desert Storm, Iraq made agreements to honor conditions agreed to by the parties. Without belaboring the point, no fly zones were agreed upon, etc. Iraq violated the agreement several times including firing on U.S. airplanes that were enforcing the “no fly zone.” Firing on another guy’s airplanes is an act of war. Our invasion of Iraqi was lawful on several counts. Here are some links to extensive historical data.

    [link broken]

    Thanks to some incredibly brave and skillful Special Forces and CIA in concert with tribal fighters, the Afghanistan war was brought to swift conclusion. I agree that event should have ended that phase, but it didn’t. Reformers in our culture, in their zeal, concluded that Afghanistan as well as others must look and act like the United States. Our leaders leap-frogged us into nation building. I posit that forcing a foreign culture (ours) on a sovereign nation (theirs) is arrogant, foolhardy, and destined for failure. Culture changing takes generations of occupation and bloodshed to what end?

    I also believe that intelligence is the key to a more secure nation. If my recollection serves me accurately, I don’t believe there is a single instance where Homeland Security has prevented an attack. Fortunate circumstances (mainly clumsy failed explosive devices) and some courageous citizens have acted to prevent attempts on our citizens’ lives, none of which were prevented by agencies of the government.

    Protection through reactive force leaves the initiative to the other fellow by definition.

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