By Elliot Young
Responding to the recent surge in violence in Iraq, the Obama administration is sending 275 combat-ready troops to secure the embassy in Baghdad, with continuing talks on possible reengagement.
Whatever one’s position on intervention, we must remember that it comes at massive costs, both immediate and long-term. As of 2012, the United States spent an estimated $2.4 trillion on the Iraq War, making the cost per US taxpayer almost $3000.
The cost breaks down with $816 billion going to combat operations, $424 billion in diverted government expenditures, $412 billion to future veteran benefits, and $817 billion in other assorted costs. However, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface on the total cost, where the benefits to veterans including interest, over the next four decades, is estimated to bring the final cost to $6 trillion. Veterans benefits are an often-overlooked cost in any war, but are beginning to make up the bulk of our long-term military spending.
Given that these commitments last decades, or in some cases, over a century , any discussion about the fiscal viability of engaging in a war must consider them. Knowing that the true costs of engaging in war are often only realized ex post facto, we should be especially cautious of spending vast sums of taxpayer money on new engagements or re-entering old ones, particularly when the success of past operations is dubious.