For the first time in U.S. history, America is fighting wars — in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — funded almost entirely by U.S. government borrowing. This is according to Catherine Lutz, Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University, and author of a new study on the $4 trillion cost of the war on terror.
While there were many other huge federal expenses – the largest of these probably the nearly $1 trillion Obama stimulus package — this massive borrowing is one of the main reasons for the tremendous budget gaps and the congressional battles over the federal debt cap and how America should close its annual deficits as the next decade passes. It is certain that if the military expenses accumulated since the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 had not cost America so much, deficits over the last decade would have been smaller. The present threats to federal government programs, including Medicare, can be partially blamed on the decision by the U.S. to react to terrorism primarily by sending hundreds of thousands of troops abroad.
When “The Costs of War Since 2001: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan” from the Eisenhower Study Group was published by Brown University two weeks ago, the report was headline news around the country. While Americans had some sense of how much the wars, including the U.S.’s “war on terror,” had cost, the figures of $3.2 trillion to $4 trillion still came as a shock. These sums include money appropriated to the Pentagon to fight the wars, additional money given to the Pentagon as a result of the wars, medical and disability costs for veterans, and homeland security costs.
Many people did not find the report entirely credible, particularly because of the $800 billion spread between the study’s “moderate” and “conservative” cases. The authors did make the point that some of the actual costs could not be determined, either because of the lack of government data about expenses or because the wars were so complex that even experts could not exhume some of the data necessary for detailed conclusions. The authors conceded that “many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans.” They seem to have been invisible to the research team as well.
24/7 Wall St. did an extensive analysis of “The Costs of War Since 2001: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan” — most of it research on the largest categories of costs. We interviewed people associated with the work as well as others who have reviewed it. After a careful study of the report, we found its conclusions even harder to decipher. The results may be correct, but they are based on assumptions that are often hard to justify. That makes the analysis by 24/7 Wall St. important. It also shows the extent to which researchers relied on estimates.
These are the eight outrageous costs of the War on Terror.