A trillion dollar war

by John Quiggin on September 23, 2005

Before the Iraq war began, Yale economist William Nordhaus estimated the likely cost at between $100 billion and $2 trillion. At the time most of the interest lay in the fact that the bottom end of the range was twice as much as the $50 billion estimate being pushed by the Administration. But with a couple of years’ experience to go on, Nordhaus’ upper range is looking pretty accurate. Assuming that Bush ‘stays the course’, it’s safe to estimate that the war will cost the US at least $1 trillion by the time all the bills come in, and it could easily be closer to $2 trillion.

Let’s start with direct military costs. These have been running at about $80 billion a year and are unlikely to decline in the next year or so. Allowing for a gradual withdrawal over the rest of Bush’s term, a rapid withdrawal thereafter and some continuing military aid, it seems reasonable to estimate operational costs totalling $500 billion.

But that’s not the end of the military costs. The war has forced the US military to eat into its capital stocks, literal and metaphorical. The most obvious impact has been on the National Guard, which was never intended for long-term discretionary military operations like the Iraq war. Recruiting for the National Guard, not surprisingly, has collapsed. To quote RedState.orgRegardless of the path chosen, the National Guard, as we know it, cannot survive in this environment and neither should it. Rebuilding or replacing the National Guard will cost big money. The Army and Army Reserve have similar problems, if not quite as drastic, and will be paying the price of the Iraq deployment long after the last troops are withdrawn. Then there are the costs, stretching far into the future, of caring for the thousands of soldiers badly wounded in the war. Overall an estimate of $250 billion looks conservative.

Nonmilitary aid to Iraq has been grossly inadequate to achieve anything and the chaos on the ground has meant that the amount of aid actually delivered has been tiny. Still, it’s hard to imagine that the eventual total will fall short of Nordhaus’ mid-range estimate of $50 billion.

The big unknown in Nordhaus’ estimates was the effect on oil markets. The worst-case scenario, with the entire Middle East being disrupted hasn’t happened. Still, with oil markets stretched tight, even the modest reduction in Iraq’s exports caused by the war has had an impact. I’d estimate about $5/barrel, which implies about $20 billion/year on the US import bill or around $100 billion over five years.

Finally, there’s the impact of the increased debt on US interest rates. So far there hasn’t been any observable impact. There’s a wide range of estimates of the impact of additional deficit spending. A conservative estimate is that the short-run impact of an extra one per cent of GDP added the deficit is a 10 basis point increase in interest rates. On a net foreign debt of $2 trillion, that’s 20 billion per year, or $100 billion over five years. The full cost could easily be many times this amount.

Adding up all these costs, we get a round $1 trillion. As noted, most of these estimates are pretty conservative, and the total could be much more. Feel free to suggest corrections/amendments.

A trillion dollars is a lot, but is it too much to pay for overthrowing a tyrant (let’s suppose for argument’s sake that some sort of stable government emerges in the end)? I’ve hammered the opportunity cost points (spent on US health services, this sum could save around 200 000 American lives, on civilian aid, tens of millions of lives in the Third World) too many times already, so I’ll try another tack. Given a budget of a trillion dollars and almost unlimited military power, does anyone really want to suggest that competent managers couldn’t have achieved a great deal more liberation from oppression than this. I have plenty of ideas, and I’m sure others do too.

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Davos Newbies » Blog Archive » Counting the costs of the war
09.23.05 at 5:52 pm

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1

Tim Worstall 09.23.05 at 7:09 am

“Given a budget of a trillion dollars and almost unlimited military power, does anyone really want to suggest that competent managers couldn’t have achieved a great deal more liberation from oppression than this. I have plenty of ideas, and I’m sure others do too.”

Clearly. Taking out The Berlaymont would have cost less and set a great deal more people free.

2

jeb 09.23.05 at 8:02 am

Please excuse Tim. He’s not always so idiotic.

3

Chris Williams 09.23.05 at 8:03 am

Although it’s a toss-up between dusting Brussels with asbestos and dusting Iraq with DU…

By the way Tim, you’ve just voiced support for terrorism – expect a knock on the door from Judge Ian Dredd any minute now.

Q: “How many people work at the Berlaymont?”
A: “About forty percent of them.”

4

Scout29c 09.23.05 at 8:48 am

I’m waiting for the other economic shoe to drop: inflation. Fighting a war without a war time budget should lead to inflation. I’m aware of foreigners financing our debt but for billions of dollars? Double digit inflation by the end of the decade is the reward for a country that cuts taxes while in the midst of a war.

I’m afraid the gains my retirement achieved during the boom times of the 1990’s will be flushed to the bottom of the coop when inflation comes home to roost. My retirement depends on my salary at the time I retire. I’ve got to stay at work at least until my pay has been adjusted to the coming inflation.

Woe be to them already retired or about to retire when they discover inflation has eaten what they planned on as a comfortable retirement.

5

James Wimberley 09.23.05 at 9:27 am

Nordhaus’ estimate only included the costs to the United States; fair at the time, as his paper was on of the few evidence-based contributions to the US discussion on whether to go to war, but today John should not leave out the cost to (a) Iraq and (b) the rest of the world.

Pre-war Iraq’s GDP was deeply depressed by sanctions, so current output may not have dropped much; but the damage to the capital stock (still continuing) is plainly severe. This includes human capital through the disruption of education as well as damage to hospitals, power grids, housing and pipelines. Any advance on $50 billion? The destruction of the institutions of government and the loss of life are hardet to quantify and polemically should be left out, but not forgotten.

For the rest of the world, the main impact has been via oil prices. Surely this has depressed world growth by a few fractions of a percent? Life and death if you live in Mozambique.

John omits the medical and supplemental pension costs to US veterans – a few $ billions a year. Not a big deal in the total, but politically important as the Bush Administration apparently doesn’t propose to fund these costs but to shift them on to the returning Tommy Atkinses. (http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/verse/volumeXI/tommy.html)

6

BigMacAttack 09.23.05 at 10:06 am

Think of all the culture that has been left under funded.

Actually no I can’t. And I am not sure anti-war folks should. After all if I say yes, haven’t I accepted the premise that US Military might + US dollars = freedom for others(at least potentially)? But that in this case it has just been misapplied? Wouldn’t I be at least be very close to accepting invasions of liberation but just not this invasion of liberation?

I can think of lots and lots of ways it might have made people’s lives better off. Not exactly sure how that compares to the freedoms gained by the Kurds and Shites but my gut says that spending it differently could have resulted in more utility.

And so far I have been made to search for Berlaymont on google but no one has supplied a plausible alternative.

Or maybe we can just call freedom from crapping yourself to death as a kind of liberation and than answer? But I think that would be cheating.

7

Steve LaBonne 09.23.05 at 10:06 am

Good one by Tom Tomorrow: link

8

jet 09.23.05 at 10:47 am

Think of what 1 trillion in research grants over 5 years would have done? I’m going to go be sick now.

9

des von bladet 09.23.05 at 11:09 am

I think the important question, really, is could we all ‘ve had a pony for this such milliard of the FDR’s once-proud “dollars”? (I assume there’s a bulk discount.)

10

Tim Worstall 09.23.05 at 11:21 am

OK Jeb, I’ll try and be at least slightly serious. Jet, I think has a point. My own day job takes me into the fuel cell world and certainly, from what I see bubbling away, $1 trillion would bring fuel cells for cars (trucks buses etc) into use (Distributed CHP via SOFCs is, as far as I can see, going to happen anyway over the next few years).
A decent stab at solving (?reducing?) climate change and making the Middle East somewhere we worry about for its poverty, not its geo-strategic importance?

If I’d actually thought that the money would have been spent in that manner then Saddam and Uday could do as they wish.

(I know that, well, if anyone takes any notice of this comment at all, someone is going to say but the hydrogen economy will never work but that’s a much longer story for another day. Given that in recent weeks there have been at least two announcements about extracting H without the use of fossil fuels, at least three about H fuel tanks, the inherent efficiencies of SOFCs (which is the tiny bit I am involved with) and so on, I think it’s inevitable that it will work.)

11

Grimmstail 09.23.05 at 12:23 pm

Actually, isn’t the ‘conservative’ estimate that running high deficits makes money grow on trees?

12

abb1 09.23.05 at 12:25 pm

All those trillions and soldiers are not wasted, more and more Iraqis are being liberated every day: US soldiers kill deputy mayor, two police officers in northern Iraq.

Stay the course, don’t waver, we can win this thing.

13

Contradictory Ben 09.23.05 at 1:35 pm

I wonder what proportion of that $2 trillion is the direct result not of war per se, but of deep corruption and a criminal failure to place any effective controls on the spending of taxpayers’ dollars.

14

roger 09.23.05 at 1:40 pm

And just think, after that trillion has been racked up on Uncle Sam’s credit card, OBL will still be making videos.
Surely George Bush is one of the strongest, most brilliant leaders we have ever had.

15

sglover 09.23.05 at 1:50 pm

Whenever I try to imagine a historical figure as inadequate as our own Dear Leader, the last of the Romanovs always appears:

The period of peaceful economic development lasted until July 1914, when Russia entered World War I. Military expenses were enormous and immediately caused budget deficit. In 1915 budget deficit stood at 8,561 million rubles; the same year military spending equalled 8,620 million. In 1916 these figures were 13,767 million and 14,573 million, respectively. The government frequently issued bonds to finance the deficit. War Loans (War Bonds) were issued in 1914, 1915, and 1916….

Russian Imperial government needed to expand its borrowing through the State Bank. Soon, on March 17, 1915 the State bank was given permission to issue paper rubles in the total amount of 2.5 billion, – the ceiling was increased. Next year, by the decree of August 29, 1916 the ceiling was increased again, from 2.5 billion to 5.5 billion rubles in paper currency not backed up by gold. In December 1916 the ceiling was raised once more, to 6.5 billion rubles. All these issues of paper rubles by the State bank were backed up by the obligations of the State Treasury.

To further extend the amount of paper rubles issued, Imperial government obtained loans from the British Treasury. These loans consisted of 2 billion rubles worth of gold, placed on reserve outside Russia. The State bank was allowed to issue paper currency backed up by this ”gold abroad”. Domestic gold reserves declined during the war years from 1,603 million rubles as of July 16, 1914 to 1,474 million rubles as of January 1, 1917….

Overall, 29% of war expenses incurred from the beginning of the war until the February Revolution of 1917, were financed by issuing paper currency. Printing money caused inflation. Prices were rising once again. As inflation increased, gold, silver, and even copper coins began disappearing from circulation, becoming a way for the population to store value. It is estimated that in February of 1917, before the February Revolution, the purchasing power of one paper ruble equalled that of 0.26 – 0.27 rubles before the war began.

16

Purple State 09.23.05 at 2:00 pm

Compare the tax dollars Bush is spending to conduct his ill-conceived “war on terroism” with what OBL spent to get the whole thing started. A few thousand bucks in plane tickets, flight school tuition, and food and lodging for the hijackers. He needed a couple of planes to complete the operation but rather than writing a billion dollar check to Boeing he just stole a couple.

So who’s getting better value for the dollar: the American taxpayer under Bush and a Republican Congress or OBL? I’d say OBL is the winner hands down.

17

Slocum 09.23.05 at 3:24 pm

The problem with moving away from direct costs is you get into all sorts of estimates based on comparisons with what the situation would have been otherwise. For example, with respect to Iraqi oil production — what would it have been if Saddam had remained in power? Would Saddam have invested in oil infrastructure and increased production? Or would he have used the tight oil market to play the kind of games with oil prices that Enron did during the California energy crisis?

Or, look at it another way — imagine a world with the sanctions regime removed and Saddam raking in the money from $65 oil. What kind of mischeif would his regime have caused going forward? How much would it have cost to defend against? There’s no possible way to estimate that – perhaps nothing, perhaps huge sums.

18

sglover 09.23.05 at 3:37 pm

The problem with moving away from direct costs is you get into all sorts of estimates based on comparisons with what the situation would have been otherwise. For example, with respect to Iraqi oil production—what would it have been if Saddam had remained in power?

….Or, look at it another way—imagine a world with the sanctions regime removed and Saddam raking in the money from $65 oil. What kind of mischeif would his regime have caused going forward? How much would it have cost to defend against? There’s no possible way to estimate that – perhaps nothing, perhaps huge sums.

Ah yeah, I get it. If we use the imaginary costs from a parallel universe, it turns out that Bush’s war saved us money! Surely Saddam would’ve finished his planetary destructor beam with all that $65/bbl oil revenue. Not even the Medium Lobster could put it so well….

19

Killfile 09.23.05 at 5:21 pm

Sglover: It’s not entirely fair to blame Nicholas II for what happened to Russia. That said, I can see where you’re coming from as far as ineptitude goes.

A better example might be Nero, who was, by all accounts, a disconnected self absorbed jerk, and who flagrently abused trajegy to further his own personal ambitions – in his case owning the biggest house in Rome.

The Katrina disaster has exposed the raw underbelly of Bush’s weak dollar foreign policy. There is a human cost to the corporate republic in which we live. The more we see of it the more likely the people are to reject it.

As to Iraq and Bush’s outright lies, both about why we went to war and what it would cost, I’ve little more to add. It does tie back to the weak dollar policy however. I’ve got a blog post here that explains it in some detail.

20

pb 09.23.05 at 6:12 pm

I never thought I would see the day when liberals were pulling out the calculator and the green eyeshade when it came to foreign aid and democracy promotion. What would the costs have been for another 70 years of “containing” Saddam, his sons and his grandchildren? Could we guarantee a worse war wouldn’t have been fought at some point down the line? What benefits would have resulted from maintaining the staus quo? The decisions we have to make aren’t between war and peace but what kind of war we will fight. Anytime that Brazil, Argentina, India, France, etc are willing to take over and assume responsibility they are welcome to the task. But I don’t see a whole lot of volunteers. So the financial cost (and other costs) is something we will have to endure. As an independent I’m always struggling to figure out which party deserves my support. So far I don’t see the Democrats generating serious ideas about how to deal with this situation. That doesn’t mean I have thrown my lot in with the Republicans. But when the Democrats start chanelling JFK again then I will take them seriously.

21

Slocum 09.23.05 at 6:16 pm

Ah yeah, I get it. If we use the imaginary costs from a parallel universe, it turns out that Bush’s war saved us money! Surely Saddam would’ve finished his planetary destructor beam with all that $65/bbl oil revenue. Not even the Medium Lobster could put it so well….

No, you don’t get it – the original post is based taking the difference between current costs and imaginary costs. How much is oil now? How much will it be in 2008? Ok, how much do you imagine it would it be now if Saddam were still in power? How much in 2008? The difference is to be added into (or subtracted from) your ‘total war cost’. But if you can’t answer the latter two questions, you have no point of comparison. Same problem applies to long-term interest rates–what assumptions are you making about what the world would be like had the invasion of Iraq not taken place? And how do you know those assumptions are correct?

We can certainly know, with at least some accuracy, what was directly spent. But we cannot know with ANY accuracy how much more oil is now than it would have been in a counterfactual 2005 in which Saddam & sons remained in power.

22

MQ 09.23.05 at 6:34 pm

Wow…pb…I’m in awe of your argumentative prowess. Could you please send me a check for say, $50,000? I’ll use it to defend you and yours from evil people in foreign countries who have never attacked you…yet! Best to take care of them now, buddy. The more you wait the more it will cost you, I promise!

23

theorajones 09.23.05 at 6:38 pm

You’re underestimating the healthcare costs. I say this partially because it’s always true (everyone always underestimate teh healthcare costs), but also because this war has a higher proportion of wounded: dead in its casualties, and better survivorship of severe wounds than any war before.

Taking care of the roughly 14,000-15,000 to date will be quite a task.

24

j0nesing_around 09.23.05 at 7:12 pm

A trillion sounds like a lot of mullah. I could buy three blackberries.

25

pb 09.23.05 at 7:13 pm

mq, If Saddam was no threat then why did Clinton spend 8 years and billions of $$ and hundreds + lives (Kobhar Towers etc ) “containing” him? If it is all a scam then it is a Democratic AND Republican scam. The world is a dangerous place, Democrats should stop pretending that mass murdering dictators want peace, they don’t. The only thing they understand is who is stronger. And it is better for dictators to know that we are stronger and they need to act accordingly.

26

j0nesing_around 09.23.05 at 7:21 pm

right on pb

27

roger 09.23.05 at 7:38 pm

Slocum, your comparison should include, of course, the fact that the last four years, Bush is president. So your supposition seems to be that if Bush had not invaded Iraq, he would have said, screw it, trashed the sanctions, and welcomed Saddam into the global system?

I don’t know. Bush is so incompetent that might have been his strategy. But another possible scenario is that he would have used the opportunity to really get rid of the terrorists who attacked us — you know, Al Qaeda — strengthened our police intelligence with Europe and North Africa, so that Madrid, Casablanca, and London could have been prevented, and in general not presided over four years of rising terrorist attacks. Somehow, I think that might have brought the price of oil down.

28

John Quiggin 09.23.05 at 8:37 pm

Health costs are one of the hardest bits to figure out and, as James points out, many of them are likely to be shifted on to the veterans (there’s nothing much extra in the VA budget so far). A big unknown is the prevalence of post-traumatic stress and similar problems. But, as I said, the costs will be big and stretch far into the future.

As regards costs to Iraq, Daniel has covered the cost in lives lost pretty extensively. The costs to the rest of the world are mainly imponderables like the stimulus to AQ recruitment and the general breakdown of international community.

29

Jack Strocchi 09.23.05 at 9:28 pm

A stunning example of synchronicity: John Quiggin, the nerdiest Left wing critic of the war in lock step with Steve Sailer, the nerdiest Right wing critic of the War:

Dept. of Now-They-Tell-Us: A new cost-benefit analysis by the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies on “The Economic Costs of the War in Iraq” concludes that the Iraq War is likely to end up costing over twice what it’s worth:

We estimate that the expected total net present value of the direct costs [of the Iraq War] through 2015 could be $604 billion to the U.S., $95 billion to coalition partners, and $306 billion to Iraq, suggesting a global total expected net present value of about $1 trillion. The net present value of total avoided costs, meanwhile, could be about $429 billion.

The BBC cites a report that shows the Iraq war is now costing more in fiscal terms than the Vietnam war.

The most profitable investment that public agencies can make is in health service delivery and investment. The Lasker foundation has a great series of reports on the benefits from health R & D, especially Exceptional Returns: The Economic Value of America’s Investment in Medical Research, authored by Kevin Murphy.

An Australian version of this report, Exceptional Returns: The Value of Investing in Health R&D in Australia, was put out by Access Economics. The press release $1 INJECTION INTO HEALTH R&D RETURNS $5 ECONOMIC BENEFIT prospects great gains from health investment:

Every dollar spent on health research and development (R&D) returns $5 in national economic benefit, a major new report by Access Economics for the Australian Society of Medical Research reveals.
And Australians’ current life expectancy has increased by eight years compared to the 1960s, because of massive advances in medical research, health promotion and overall healthcare.

When it comes right down to it, the best way to help people is to heal them, rather than wound them.

30

drg 09.23.05 at 9:52 pm

The Gang (Cheney, Rummy, Shrub) are going to be nowhere in sight when the bills come due.

31

Dan Kervick 09.23.05 at 10:00 pm

Let’s see… one trillion dollars is about 20 times Iraq’s entire GDP before the Gulf War, and about 200 times its GDP in 1999 after a decade of sanctions.

With that kind of cash to spend, we could have offered simply to pay Iraq to submit to an international state-building project. This could have been our offer to the Iraqis: We’ll spend half a trillion dollars right now if you allow foreign contractors and NGOs to come in and rebuild your country’s infrastructure, overhaul its court and criminal justice system, fully fund its schools and health care system, and establish free media and civil society institutions. If you hold free and fair elections at the end of a five-year period, as verified by international monitors, you get the other half trillion to endow the budget of the brand, spanking new Iraqi government.

With a few tens of millions of desperate and impoverished Iraqis suddenly screaming “show me the money!” even an autocrat like Saddam might have been forced to take the deal. And if he hadn’t taken the deal, he would have had to face a mad scramble by other Baathists close to the seat of power to put a bullet in him, take control of the government and announce: “a new day for Iraq has dawned – a new era of openness and international cooperation…and prosperity.” Even Saddam would not have been powerful enough to stand in the way of a one trillion dollar tide. There are too many people who would be eager for a chance to get a piece of a trillion dollars worth of action.

Of course, there would have been no tanks and cluster bombs, no shock and awe, and no mountains of dead people. So where’s the fun in that? And paying Iraq to change would have been so dishonorable. As we all know, no amount of death and destruction is too high a price to pay to preserve our national honor, and to prevent a single evildoer from thumbing his nose at us for a decade and getting away with it.

Why spend a trillion dollars building things when you could spend it smashing things instead?

32

'As you know' Bob 09.23.05 at 11:55 pm

Here’s a direct cost that’s been overlooked in estimates I’ve seen:

Assume that we’re about halfway through our occupation of Iraq. Assume casualties continue at roughly the rates we’ve seen.

For back-of-the-envelope purposes, let’s say we’ve had 2,000 KIA and 14,000 wounded. Let’s further assume the average injury amounts to a 50% disabiliy. So, double those numbers : Bush’s little adventure is likely to reach 4,000 KIA and 28,000 wounded (amounting to the equivalent of roughly 14,000 permanently diasabled).
Let’s pull a convenient, plausible number for lifetime earnings out of the air: say $50,000 a year for, say, the next 40 years. (For now, don’t worry about inflation, let it stay in 2005 dollars….)

That’s $2m potential lifetime earnings per casualty, times 16,000 equivalent casualties: so, over the next 40 years, on-the-order of more than $30 BILLION in lost contributions to the economy.

I’m too dispirited by that quick guesstimate to even think about what this disaster is going to cost our VA system for the next 70 years or so.

Oh, yeah: and thousands of childrenwill be growing up orphaned, for Bush’s lies.

33

Martin James 09.24.05 at 2:02 am

Let’s put these numbers in perspective.

The total budget for the next 10 years is 30 trillion or so, easy .

So at 1 trillion, we’re talking about 3.33% of taxes.

If someone had said to me in 2000, when Bush was running for President the first time, you can have Sadaam Hussein removed from power, a major military presence in the oil fields of the Middle East and drive the liberal establishment completely nuts, all for the incredibly low price of 9.99% of taxes… SOLD!!!

However, since then, I saw Michael Moore’s movie. He really changed my mind about things. Wrong dictator. What’s the going rate to take over a Kingdom?

34

nick s 09.24.05 at 5:37 am

Could we guarantee a worse war wouldn’t have been fought at some point down the line?

One presumes not, otherwise the current administration would certainly have fought it instead.

35

Slocum 09.24.05 at 7:36 am

Slocum, your comparison should include, of course, the fact that the last four years, Bush is president. So your supposition seems to be that if Bush had not invaded Iraq, he would have said, screw it, trashed the sanctions, and welcomed Saddam into the global system?

What is your scenario under which the Iraq war doesn’t happen? One possibility would have been that Saddam granted full access to inspectors, they continued their work, and they certified the lack of WMDs. Why, then, would sanctions NOT have been lifted? After all, sanctions were not to have been permanent, they were only to have lasted until Saddam’s disarmament was completed.

But another possible scenario is that he would have used the opportunity to really get rid of the terrorists who attacked us—you know, Al Qaeda

My counterfactual history with Gore instead of Bush (and I put aside my misgivings and voted for Gore, BTW) includes treating 9/11 as a crime rather than an act of war. Under Gore, I don’t believe we’d have ‘used enough troops to get Bin Laden at Tora Bora’ because we wouldn’t have been anywhere near Tora Bora — nor would Bin Laden have been holed up there. He’d still be somewhere in Afghanistan with his organization intact, hosted by a still-in-power Taliban government. Do you remember how many on the left opposed the invasion of Afghanistan either on ‘moral’ grounds or because it was going to be a disaster (like the Russians and British?). I remember that opposition very clearly.

strengthened our police intelligence with Europe and North Africa so that Madrid, Casablanca, and London could have been prevented

Do you have evidence that sharing police intelligence with Eurpone and North Africa has been neglected?

, and in general not presided over four years of rising terrorist attacks. Somehow, I think that might have brought the price of oil down.

Rising terrorist attacks? We have had serious terror attack since the invasion of Iraq, but we also had many serious attacks before it. Setting aside 9/11, the Bali bombing, for example, was the year before the invasion of Iraq (and was purportedly in response to Australia’s support of East Timor). Do you think that the invasion of Afghanistan was insufficient to motivate continued Al Queda attacks on the West?

And the Madrid, Casablanca and London bombings interfered with oil production and raised the long-term price of oil exactly how?

36

j0nesing_around 09.24.05 at 7:45 am

Longwinded but semi rightish

37

Uncle Kvetch 09.24.05 at 9:52 am

Of course, there would have been no tanks and cluster bombs, no shock and awe, and no mountains of dead people. So where’s the fun in that?

Indeed:

Minutes before the speech, an internal television monitor showed the president pumping his fist.

“Feels good,” he said.

38

Uncle Kvetch 09.24.05 at 9:56 am

Rising terrorist attacks? We have had serious terror attack since the invasion of Iraq, but we also had many serious attacks before it.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. count of major world terrorist attacks more than tripled in 2004, a rise that may revive debate about whether the Bush administration is winning the war on terrorism, congressional aides said Tuesday.

The number of “significant” international terrorist attacks rose to about 650 last year from about 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides briefed Monday on the numbers by U.S. State Department and intelligence officials.

39

jet 09.24.05 at 11:01 am

Uncle Kvetch,
Not to be argumentative, but the 175 number is obviously wrong since the revised numbers were more like 210. This obviously doesn’t change your point, but does show the carelessness of the MSM when quoting a “weblog” that included easily verifiable information.

40

roger 09.24.05 at 11:16 am

Slocum, I do agree with you on one point. If the election hadn’t been stolen from him and Al Gore had become president, I don’t think we’d have sent troops to Afghanistan. This is because Gore, 9or Dole, or Powell, or McCain, or almost any other competent adult) would have taken the warning seriously that Al Qaeda was about to strike, would not have gone on a month long vacation after receiving that news, would certainly have alerted the FAA, and would certainly have been briefed several times about this by the FBI, sending a message down the line to gather info about potential Al Qaeda operatives, and would in general have kept the nation on the level of alertness that averted the Millenium bombing in L.A. There would have been no 9/11.

So I give you points for that. Because Bush screwed up royally, we had 9/11, hence the troops in Afghanistan. Without Bush, no 9/11, no troops in Afghanistan.

When you are right, you’re right.

41

Windhorse 09.24.05 at 2:03 pm

Snark from the heretofore indefatigable Dan Kervick.

Indeed these are the End Times.

42

MQ 09.25.05 at 11:32 pm

“The world is a dangerous place,”

Exactly why you shouldn’t waste $1 trillion attacking part of it that isn’t a danger to you.

“And it is better for dictators to know that we are stronger”

So much the worse, since now we’re weaker.

43

Ragout 09.26.05 at 11:42 pm

Two comments:

1. The cost of the war to the world is not that much different than the cost to the US, and could even be lower. Many things that are costs to the US, such as reconstruction in Iraq or higher oil prices, are benefits to someone else, like Iraqis or oil producing countries. The notable exception, of course, is that placing a value on the lives of Iraqis who’ve died as a result of the war would add a lot to the cost to the world.

2. Quiggin seems to have a really different analysis of the impact of higher oil prices than Nordhaus. If I’m understanding the two of them right, Nordhaus seems to come up with an impact many times larger (maybe $500 billion instead of $100 billion from the same $5/barrel) due to some sort of indirect effect.

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