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Friday, August 26, 2005

Historical note: costs of unilateralism

Soon, the cost of the Iraq war in dollars is going to exceed 200 billion.

With debate about the future of Iraq heating up, this might be a good time to point out that this cost to America is directly attributable to the Bush administration's unilateralism. Moreover, though it is difficult to know with certainty, much greater global backing might have facilitated the difficult jobs of rebuilding post-war and post-occupation Iraq.

The first Persian Gulf War, by way of comparison, was very cheap for the US because is was largely financed by allied states -- who agreed with the war and the UN Security Council resolutions that authorized it. The war also achieved its admittedly limited objectives quite quickly.

This is from a Washington Post story from December 1, 2002:
Within a month of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the first Bush administration launched what became known as "Operation Tin Cup" -- a frenzied round of diplomacy aimed at getting U.S. allies to help pay for war with Iraq. As a result, the bill to American taxpayers for the Persian Gulf War was about $7 billion, a fraction of its cost.

...the cost of the 1991 war...came to nearly $80 billion in 2002 dollars...In Kuwait, most U.S. troops were able to pack up and go home in a few weeks....In 1991, U.S. taxpayers paid about 12 percent of the military costs of the Gulf War, with the remainder of the burden being shared among such countries as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Japan.

...[Former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas] Freeman says the U.S. government grossly underestimated the costs of the 1991 war by excluding various services provided free by the Saudis. These included the costs of housing and repatriating Kuwaiti refugees, the provision of free fuel, transport and lodging to coalition forces, and a major environmental cleanup.
The US paid only 12% of the costs, or about $7 billion!

The current war is costing the US nearly $4 billion per month. That means that the US is spending more in Iraq every two months than it did in the entire first Persian Gulf War. Over 400,000 American troops were deployed in anticipation of that war, so it was not a small affair.

The war began March 19, 2003, which was 29 months ago and one week ago. That long after Saddam Hussein surrendered in 1991, Bill Clinton was President!

Twenty-nine months and one week after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the US was a few weeks away from the D-Day landings in Normandy. The Germans had already surrendered in the Crimea.

Within four months, the Germans would use their gas chambers for the last time. Within one year, they would fully surrender to the allies, who celebrated V-E day May 8, 1945.

President Bush stood on an aircraft carrier in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner on May 1, 2003.

Doesn't that seem like ancient history now? Do you suppose he'll ever appear publicly in that flight suit again?

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