Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A trillion here, a trillion there

The actual funding appropriated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has reached $1,000,000,000,000. That's a whole shitload of zeroes. That's more than $3,000 apiece that we owe on our credit cards from China Bank. Over and above Duhbya's tax cuts for the rich.

The trillion dollar tab doesn't include any planning whatsoever for anticipated long-range costs such as health care and other earned perks for veterans. Linda Bilmes has in the past carefully estimated those as costing additional trillions. And of course, we're still running up the tab.

It's stunning that only World War II is still "ahead" in costs. It's stunning that the margin is less than a factor of four:

Since the the 9/11 terror attacks, the United States has spent an estimated $1.15 trillion. World War II cost $4.1 trillion when converted to current dollars.
My question, which the big media absolutely has refused to look into since these wars began in 2001, is why? WWII saw millions of men under arms, a huge output of materiel, a vast and expensive air- and sealift. What's different about these modern wars that make them so much more costly?

A few possibilities:
  • War profiteering is worse. (Is it? There's no Harry Truman to look into it.)
  • We've privatized many logistical operations that we used to do more cheaply with underpaid uniformed personnel.
  • We've privatized many security operations (for more than $100,000 a man) that we used to do more cheaply with underpaid uniformed personnel.
  • We're spending millions a pop in modern weaponry to atomize the tents of goatherders.
Any journalists want to look into this? Or is reprinting Pentagon press releases just too much more comfortable than real work?


daniel noe said...

My hunch is that it is all the high-tech gadgetry we now use (including the stuff the public doesn't yet know about).

lovable liberal said...

It's the media's job to keep us from having to rely on our hunches, right?

linda said...

The Bilmes/Stiglitz work does explain why the cost per troop is so much higher now. Its several reasons, for example fuel oil costs $400 per gallon in Afghanistan once you include all the transport costs. Its also borrowed money so you need to include the interest. Some of this work and the updates can be found on their blog:

lovable liberal said...

$400/gal. may be true, but it's ridiculous. After all, the $3/gal. fuel oil in my tank in Massachusetts may well have come from further away - and from significantly closer to Afghanistan.

So, war profiteering...

Here's the link to one of the Bilmes/Stiglitz op-ed pieces. Their blog is here.