Pricing Out an Afghan Surge: $65 Bill Could Go to $105 Billion per Year

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humvee us soldier.jpgThe Pentagon, which favors a surge in US troops to Afghanistan knows how defense bidding goes. They’ve seen enough of it from the large defense contractors to know that you bid low and reconcile at a multiple of two or three times higher than the contract later.
That is what the Pentagon seems to be doing by suggesting that each new troop addition that the United States sends to Afghanistan will cost about $500,000. The White House is suggesting the price tag will be double that amount – or $1 million per new soldier per year.
And can I add that these figures do not seem to include the long term health costs that the US commits to with our soldiers — nor other ongoing benefits.
That means that a surge of 40,000 troops will cost approximately $40 Billion on top of the $65 billion/year the US is currently spending on its military deployments.
$105 billion.
David Obey, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has now said that if the administration wants this war, it will have to pay for it — and will have to impose a “surtax” on US citizens.
The health care bill that is being considered by the Congress now costs approximately $85 billion/year — just to set some context.
For more context, Afghanistan’s nominal GDP was $11.7 billion last year.
That’s right. . .$11.7 billion — and we are considering spending ten times that on this military engagement.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

39 comments on “Pricing Out an Afghan Surge: $65 Bill Could Go to $105 Billion per Year

  1. Outraged American says:

    WH eyes Afghan exist by 2017. What “job” Obama-bankrupting
    the US morally & financially? Spilling the blood of how many
    more millions of innocents?
    Possibly including my 17-year-old nephew who is coming over
    to visit on T-weekend only because he loves my crab curry, the
    opportunistic porker?
    NO, just NO. NADA MAS. WE THE PEOPLE need to get out on the
    streets and say NO, or watch our kids, and their kids,
    slaughtered.
    Raise your hand if you want your kids to die. I kind of want one
    of them, she’s a bit of a rotten apple, but the rest I want to have
    full, materialistic lives, just like they’ve been promised because
    they’ve all been spoilt silly.
    Seriously, instead of all these battle-worn, suicidal troops on
    their 19th tour of duty that Obama wants to send, let’s ship
    every 13-year-old in the US to Afghanistan, and let them
    explore their puberty angst while dodging IEDs, instead of
    moaning in our living rooms, “I hate you Mom.” Let them hate
    this mythical Taliban after it blows off one of their limbs or with
    better luck leaves them brain dead so we don’t have to pay for
    college.
    From antiwar.com
    White House Eyes Afghan Exit by 2017
    War Not Going to Last Forever, Spokesman Assures
    EXCERPT
    “We are in year nine of our efforts in Afghanistan,” (WH
    spokesman) Gibbs noted, “we are not going to be there another
    eight or nine years.” This would mean that the administration is
    at least hoping at this point to be out of Afghanistan by 2017.
    Recent polls have shown Americans increasingly opposed to not
    only the Afghan War, but to President Obama’s handling of it. In
    spite of this President Obama is expected to commit another
    34,000 troops to the conflict in next week’s speech.
    When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the military presence
    was comparatively limited, and even in summer of 2008 only
    about 28,000 American soldiers were on the ground. When the
    latest escalation is approved the US will have over 100,000
    troops in Afghanistan.
    http://tinyurl.com/y8buexs
    Philip Giraldi, also at antiwar.com has a very informative article
    about the true cost of war, called, ironically THE COST OF WAR.
    It goes into the minutia of what we’re paying and is scary.
    http://tinyurl.com/ybcp96s

    Reply

  2. bob h says:

    Obama: “After eight years — some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done — it is my intention to finish the job,”
    That’s you he’s talking about, Cheney.

    Reply

  3. questions says:

    I would say again, I am really uncertain about Afghanistan as I mostly have been. I think arguments against escalation and for withdrawal need to rest on non-monetary issues because they are far more convincing without the money stuff. So in fact, I’m actually trying to strengthen the arguments for exit.
    The problem is that as soon as you drop the money issue, you realize that there are actual issues about security that need to be dealt with. Paul emphasizes the inability to close off all safe havens, but I’m not really talking about safe havens as much as I am about just being around in places where seemingly interesting things might be found. I don’t know that we need to occupy every square inch of ground to find interesting things so much as we probably need to be in some places. Harassment seems to be a fruitful enterprise, but we may well not need entire armies tramping through the world to be effective at harassing. This one is for actual analysts to figure out.
    The Looming Tower emphasizes that the claims of victory for having driven out the US could be pretty problematic on top of everything else. We probably need to posture a fair amount and not give “them” a chance to claim victory. It seems this is actually an issue, weird as it might be.
    As for Kant and the world, Dan, I think Kant basically says that morality is derived from reason (reason is a priori), interest in the world perverts reason and so perverts morality. So, in fact, moral content in an action does not rest at all on the action but only on the moral maxim, the acting from duty, not from inclination.
    In Perpetual Peace he notes that war paradoxically leads to peace, that people aren’t particularly moral in their intent but that practical matters will force them in that direction eventually. So even immoral and stupid wars will trend us towards peace. It’s a good thing, I guess, because we’re never going to get away from the world enough to prefer peace absent some serious pressure. So still, Kant makes a lot of sense.
    Regarding the Categorical Imperative and the war — one cannot MERELY treat another as a means to an end, but must ALSO treat others as ends in themselves — this is a, I think the phrase is, regulative ideal. Humans with bodies don’t really get there, so humans with bodies, consumed by desire, aren’t really moral agents, though we ought to try (this is the “merely possible kingdom of ends” stuff). There’s the room for the failure built into the system. Second, there is room for using others so long as respect is built in — we set up a system in which people at some level choose their fates as soldiers (not really always choosing, but patriotism does indeed hold for many).
    We also may be in a situation where at some level the war has to happen. Again, I’m just not well-informed enough to know for certain what the right path is. I’m glad that you’re up enough on top secret documents and the whole history of fundamentalism and related matters that you know already. I’m not there yet. It’s an ongoing project for me.
    I think that there are so many particulars to be gone through — are there actual existing people in Afghanistan who can set up enough of a governing structure, and can these people be assisted in non-stupid ways, do we actually gain any intel from hanging out in Afghanistan, what does each pair of boots on the ground add and/or subtract in terms of our being able to do anything, and so on. I don’t see specificities discussed here; I don’t have answers to such questions myself; what I do see is cries of despair that we’re killing people and not spending money at home on fun things like cul-de-sac potholes and swimming pools (to be fair, these haven’t come up in a while…..)
    Now, the cries of despair might be right, or they might be misguided because the despair we’ll feel when we’re hit again could really be something. POA worries about the National Guard’s not being able to respond to a disaster. Fair enough. Problem is that there could be an equal and opposite disaster from not “doing” the Afghanistan shuffle. But I simply am not in a position to know.
    Once again, I will state my ignorance on this. I think there are deeply compelling arguments on many sides and I hope that there are some really creative thinkers who have access to a lot more background and information than I have who can find our way through. I just don’t think it’s as easy as people here would like it to be, and I don’t think that we should be reductive in our thinking.
    DonS, when you say “it’s likely that…” you don’t really know what’s likely, and that’s a problem. Our interventions and presence in the ME helped us to know who bin Laden was and who was working for him. Of course, our having paid bin Laden for work against the Soviets probably didn’t help things, and our domestic communications system failed completely in stopping him. But our being around did indeed give us information. The ironies are deep, I will admit.
    We did apparently try to get the Saudis to reign him in, but failed. We apparently tried for assassinations, but backed off because we’re not supposed to be in the business of assassinating people and the feds got antsy about ordering the assassination and then feeling the long arm of the law come after them (see, bringing law enforcement to the CIA really can have some mixed effects on governance). It’s really a mess this trying to deal with war-like situations without the benefit of an actual declaration of war. Just the declaration itself might be necessary because of legal issues. We find an “interesting person” and can’t do anything because there’s no war…. I don’t know what to hope for any longer.
    Going back to Machiavelli, it’s helpful to remember how playing one group off another can be very very risky and I hope that our policy makers remember this point. Managed warfare has a way of spinning out of control because everyone playing along has his own agenda and will try to find an auspicious time to jump.
    I don’t know that we can manage the groups and I don’t know that we can afford not to try. So I’m back to square one on this issue, deeply uncertain, deeply concerned.
    On the CBA issue, I think there are a couple of interesting things going on. One is whether or not there is some notion of good outside of “benefits” as traded off against “costs.” Utilitarians are happy to make this trade off, Kantians are not. That my good gets sacrificed to a more intense good on your part suggests that I have no intrinsic value but only a comparative value. Thus I am being treated merely as an means and not at all as an end. Not very Kantian, and not really what you’d ever advocate for yourself — and this point is the major one. We’re not in the business of saying “Hey, my good doesn’t matter if your good is better served” except in some very narrow heroic/self-sacrificing moments.
    This issue shows up in the Kelo vs New London case. People were rightly outraged by the eminent domain seizure of Susan Kelo’s home. They were outraged because the seizure was made based on a utilitarian calculus rather than on a Kantian absolute value reasoning process. We do have an intrinsic notion of the good in many instances and that notion trumps utilitarian calculus over and over again.
    This is Rawls’s point about the problems with utilitarian thinking. We aren’t really utilitarians in a lot of ways, though we sometimes act this way. So, along with the money issue, I want to dump the utilitarian issue and find what is the RIGHT thing to do, not the cost-effective thing.
    As always, thanks for the measured tone in the midst of some deep disagreements over intense issues. It’s nice to get away from the name calling around here.

    Reply

  4. DonS says:

    Well, you know, I left philosophy as a serious pursuit a long time ago. But simple street logic as to cost/benefits goes something like this: It’s likely no amount of foreign intervention can thwart terrorist attacks, actually it may well increase it. No one can say. Mostly its’s political-military posturing. So, no, Afghanistan sure ain’t worth the price tag, with or without a next major attack. Not worth it on the preventative side, and reduces our capability to recoup on the recovery side. A total waste.

    Reply

  5. Dan Kervick says:

    “I’m drawn to Kant because he studiously avoids appeals to the world.”
    Not entirely true, questions. Kant thought his categorical imperative was a test that maxims have to meet. But the maxims themselves might make various sorts of appeals to the world. But anyway, your instincts puzzle me. Good and evil are here in the world with us. To prefer an ethics that studiously avoids appeal to the world is like preferring a cuisine that studiously avoids the employment of food.
    “The money argument is, for me, one more utilitarian/cost-benefit calculus that is more concerned about outcomes than about the good.”
    The same point can be made here. Outcomes of actions, and other events in our world, contain various mixes of good and evil. I don’t know where you think the good resides if it does not reside in outcomes. And if worldly events and outcomes are not subject to moral appraisals, then it doesn’t matter what we do one way or another anyway.
    Yes, prediction is inexact; estimating probabilities is inexact; appraising and comparing the relative values of things is inexact. But we do the best we can. The soul of what we call “responsibility” consists in using what knowledge we have to make the most rational comparisons and estimates we can, and then choosing in a balanced way in accordance with our best assessments of the expected values of our actions.
    The world doesn’t come divided only into the broad tripartite division of what is necessary, what is possible and what is impossible. Among the things that we all recognize as possible, we also recognize that some are much more likely to occur than others, and that our assessments of their relative degrees of likelihood play a vital role in our practical reasoning, including practical reasoning with a strong moral dimension. I have trouble believing that you really don’t understand this fundamental dimension of the relationship between your actions and the world, or don’t really acknowledge its moral relevance.
    In the sphere of practical reasoning, “might” is rarely good enough. There are all sorts of very bad things that might happen, but whose probability of occurrence is so remote as to make them negligible in our deliberations. There “may well be” instigators of catastrophically destructive deeds in many, many places around the world. Given the limitations on our temporal and material resources, we can only address some of these threats, and their degree of importance and relevance to our deliberations is a function of both the probability of their occurrence, and the inherent degree of awfulness should they occur.
    By the way, I haven’t offered any arguments for any actual conclusions one way or another about Afghanistan. I’m just trying to emphasize the kinds of considerations that, it seems to me, should be part of any rational debate about the issue. And I’m a bit perplexed that an educated adult would claim not to recognize the moral dimension of decisions about the allocation of finite resources, especially when such vast quantities of resources are involved, involving the product of such a massive amount of human labor.
    I absolutely reject your contention that cost/benefit analysis is somewhere between trite and immoral. If you are really being sincere, that bespeaks a massive blind spot or deficit in your moral consciousness. But I suspect you are just stubbornly resisting recognizing how much a role the estimate of costs and benefits plays even in your own personal everyday moral decision-making.
    You say you like Kant. Do you suppose Kant would say you are properly treating people as ends if the work and suffering they undertook to produce $100 billon worth of material value is something that is so negligible to you that you think it is either trite or immoral to allow considerations on how that value should be dispensed to enter into our moral deliberations?
    Now I take it that you would have no problem recognizing that at least some uses of resources are so wasteful as to be grotesquely immoral. Suppose one were to spend $100 billion of taxpayer money to build and detonate some new megabomb in the middle of the Mojave Desert, just because it would be “really cool” to watch the explosion. Wouldn’t you accept that, in that case at least, the cost of producing the explosion is so wildly disproportionate to the coolness factor as to make such an expenditure immoral? Now how does that differ from an actual war? Well, when we blow up the bombs and fire off the bullets in a war; or when we pay to train, transport and deploy the soldiers who blow up those bombs and fire off those bullets, we are supposed to be hitting something. We are supposed to be damaging some people or property in the process. And the reason some would say that we are sometimes morally justified in doing this is because in doing so we defend ourselves against threats, and improve our security. Isn’t it fairly clear, then, that since the $100 cost is morally weighty in the Mojave megabomb case, it is just as morally weighty in the war case? The only difference is that the benefit that is supposed to be produced by the war is claimed to be vastly greater than the benefit of a mere fireworks display. How much greater? Well, that is the question, isn’t it? If the expected security benefits to be produced by some war are high enough, they might justify spending $100 billion to produce. But if they are not in that ballpark, the expenditure is irresponsible. That’s the debate we need to have.

    Reply

  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Watch those such as questions squeal with indignation if the United States is hit with a major catastrophic event, such as an 8.0 quake on the west coast, and our national guard is unable to respond effectively because of overseas deployment, and our economic condition makes it impossible to recover from such an event.
    I wonder if he will then “feel the effects” of what these disastrous expensive clusterfucks have cost us.
    Some day such an event WILL occur. Its not if, its when. If it occurs while we are in our current state of burgeoning deficit and costly wars in two separate arenas, this country very possibly might not survive the hit.

    Reply

  7. Paul Norheim says:

    “And of course, if you use the argument to the point of absurdity in this direction, I
    can do it towards reduction in return.”
    I`m not pushing the argument to the point of absurdity, Questions. I just try to apply
    the “safe haven” argument in a limited, precise way to other places that are highly
    relevant to the problem.
    If you`ve just read “The Looming Tower”, you`ll remember that bin Laden had a safe
    haven in Sudan. Then in Afghanistan. And now? There is no doubt that people inspired by
    him have been training in places like Somalia and Pakistan for a long time. And Yemen
    seems to be a likely place as well (perhaps even more in the future, due to rather
    scary developments right now). There are several other places that may potentially
    serve as training camps as well – I just mentioned the most obvious ones right now.
    One thing is a strong government actively protecting terrorist groups. A more relevant
    scenario in this context is a weak government living in some sort of complicated
    association with terrorists, or a divided country more or less in a state of civil war,
    or even a failed state. I understand the argument of having “some presence in the area
    to find interesting things.” But invading and occupying any or every country where
    these guys may operate to prevent them from having a safe haven, doesn`t make sense to
    me – neither strategically nor economically.
    The whole GWOT concept – going to war against states that “harbor terrorists”, or
    literally occupying countries for decades to prevent the terrorists from operating, and
    in the meanwhile transforming these countries into well functioning democracies – is
    quijotic and absurd – either you attack all of them, or, as now, just two at a time.

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    My point is first that money is a poor poor way to support a point. It’s easily defeated and it takes the argument into the absurd direction of saying that the war would be fine if it only cost, say 1 dollar a year per soldier instead of a million dollars a year per soldier”
    Oh bullshit. How do you dream this crap up?
    Questions, your thought processes can easily be described as “bizarre”.

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  9. questions says:

    Actually Paul, I’m a little more nuanced than your reading of me would suggest. My point is first that money is a poor poor way to support a point. It’s easily defeated and it takes the argument into the absurd direction of saying that the war would be fine if it only cost, say 1 dollar a year per soldier instead of a million dollars a year per soldier. And besides, there’s always money in an emergency.
    The real issue is whether or not Afghanistan counts as an emergency. And on this issue I have to say that first, I’m not an area studies person and so I don’t know on this basic level. What I’ve been reading suggests that it may well be helpful to have at least some presence in the area to find interesting things. I have also been reading that every time a government favors some radical group over another, disaster ensues. It may be time to pick up a copy of The Prince and read about what Machiavelli thinks actually works in conquest-like undertakings. I don’t think he’d approve of: mercenaries, auxiliaries, strengthening already strong bad guys, a ruler who isn’t also a soldier, the way the US has used endless streams of proxies to fight (as has Pakistan)…. In fact, Machiavelli (who is one smart guy) would probably advise against the way we’re conducting ourselves.
    My thinking thus far, then, is some altered version of presence with a lot less warring and a lot more something else. What has leaked from the admin so far, if it’s correct, is an increased number of soldiers with a somewhat different mission — civilian good works rather than military destruction — so the admin seems to see perhaps something of what I see.
    I am not sure what the right thing to do is. I don’t read daily threat briefings and I don’t know how to evaluate this stuff. I do know that some people had bin Laden figured out, but not even that helped us avoid disaster. I don’t know how to parse beyond this.
    And of course, if you use the argument to the point of absurdity in this direction, I can do it towards reduction in return. Since we can’t do Yemen and Somalia and and and every corner of the universe, let’s all commit suicide now so that the terriers can’t kill us…. Neither side is a good argument — that’s the problem with that rhetorical strategy.
    We’re already in Afghanistan, we already have some ways of getting intel. I would guess that there’s some judgment that what we’re getting is valuable enough to make it prudent to continue for now, but to shift emphasis. We’ll see what happens.

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  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    You’re wasting your time, Paul.

    Reply

  11. Paul Norheim says:

    Questions, if I interpret you correctly, your basic points are:
    1) Money should not be the issue here.
    2) The occupation and war in Afghanistan may produce more terrorism as a side effect,
    but leaving would give terrorists a safe haven.
    You said: “If the war in Afghanistan would actually prevent the next major 9/11-like
    devastating act of mass destruction and would re-tank the US economy in ways
    heretofore unknown/unseen/unforeseeable, doncha think it would be worth nearly any
    cost to prevent that?”
    But if your premises are valid, you should not stop with Afghanistan. You would
    certainly have to invade Yemen and Somalia as well, even Pakistan – and still,
    jihadists may always find some hidden places to use as training camps, and make plans
    from anywhere in the world. Occupying whole countries (like Afghanistan and Iraq)
    doesn`t make any sense against such enemies. It`s a heritage of the mindset that made
    Bush threaten “the terrorists and those who harbor them” (i.e. the states), as if
    attacking a state would destroy a stateless enemy.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    There are a ton of reasons not to send more troops to Afghanistan: Hundreds more troops will be killed along with countless civilians. And we could get stuck in an Iraq-style quagmire for decades, while terrorism experts say this isn’t even a good way to fight Al Qaeda.
    Well, here’s one more reason: The war will bankrupt our economy and divert funds we urgently need for health care, education and jobs.
    Afghanistan is just about the most remote, difficult-to-access part of the world there is. Sending a gallon of gas there costs $400; keeping a soldier armed, fed and cared for costs almost $1 million a year!
    Use this page to tell President Obama that we just can’t afford any more war. It’s time to stop sending troops, and create a clear timetable to bring everyone home from Afghanistan.
    http://act.truemajorityaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=44

    Reply

  13. questions says:

    Sorry about that — I don’t keep my “name” saved, and I screwed up typing without realizing it. Many many apologies for the confusion it must have cause you Neo Controll, really, many many apologies.

    Reply

  14. DonS says:

    Breaking: Obama wants to “finish the job in Afghanistan”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8377331.stm
    He has obviously been reading this blog. But has he gotten the message?

    Reply

  15. Neo Controll says:

    “Questions” – “q”
    How cute.
    — NCHQ

    Reply

  16. q says:

    Dan,
    Thanks for an interesting response.
    First, I have to confess, I never ever do analytic ethics precisely because of the kind of “suppose” responses! I’m drawn to Kant because he studiously avoids appeals to the world, and I’m drawn at some level to Aristotle because he quite rightly concedes that the right thing to do in any given situation is what a man of practical wisdom and/or philosophical wisdom might do. It’s circular and it doesn’t really help in the world, but it clarifies what situational ethics will ever teach.
    The money argument is, for me, one more utilitarian/cost-benefit calculus that is more concerned about outcomes than about the good.
    So that’s one side.
    The other side is that sitting with The Looming Tower and now Ghost Wars (which I’m not super far into, but which includes a lovely anecdote about using wax paper and cinnamon to write invisibly in Pakistan in 1980!) — anyway, what I find, as usual when I read, is that things are really really difficult to get straight. Islamic fundamentalism in the hands of certain instigators is quite a thing. Predicting who the instigators might be is an inexact science. We certainly had bin Laden figured out, but we still screwed up and the results were pretty horrific. So my view is that there may well continue to be some potent instigators, some of whom we know about (but “know” here is a funny word given how much “we” “knew” about bin Laden), and some of whom we don’t really know about.
    So we really need to think through in very specific ways what happens if we maintain some presence in some way — do we find the instigators? Do we find the occasional weapons cache? Can we protect those who need protecting? Do we abandon ship completely? What do we lose by doing so?
    I refuse to give in to the easiest response which is to jump ship. It’s my tendency to do that, and it may be a flaw in my thinking. And since Aristotle would have us compensate for our flaws (and he’s right on this one), it seems to me that it is utterly worth thinking about what we lose if we leave. I’m not an area expert nor an intell scholar such that I would ever simply assume I know what to do. But I think there are some serious issues that come out in careful thinking, and those issues need to be worked through, agonized through.
    And again, the money issue is just about the weakest issue as it is for so many things. Cost/benefit analysis is somewhere between trite and immoral depending on how it’s drawn up (yes, of course at some level we do it all the time, but no, we don’t actually want someone to say we’re not “worth” keeping alive).
    Again, thanks for the careful response.

    Reply

  17. Linda says:

    This is pretty much a repeat of 1960s, i.e., LBJ’s belief that we could have guns and butter–only today we really can’t afford either guns or butter.

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  18. DonS says:

    There is, sadly, a disconnect between the costs of the US’s current military adventures and benefits on any possible scale one can imagine except enriching the military industrial complex and their leeches — a big exception, granted.
    But this disconnect doesn’t get examined enough because the establishment still grovels at the feet of the ghost of “911 changed everything”, apparently regardless of the costs involved and whether or not the country can afford another war of choice, which is what Afghanistan is..
    Now the rednecks and the wingers will always be in favor of kicking some ragheads’ asses regardless of the cost, unless Limbaugh or Beck gives them a reason to flip over and think with their isolationist brain cell. They don’t understand much. Funny, then that the powers that be should be seeming to follow their line of impulse for endless war.
    For the non-redneck remainder, why are we not given a rationale by the administration to actually justify the war? Sure, I understand the administration insiders have access to information that [they would say] really makes it a hard decision, and that, cutting to the chase, it’s not a bunch of politicos seeking to save face, and military types grooving on accelerated promotions, etc. But if every other god damned piece of important information leaks, certainly to the Israelis, why hasn’t anything of a summarily powerful nature leaked to convince the inquiring mind that there is some current or future trajectory in Afghanistan that merits our road to bankruptcy, not to mention continue to surrender our civil liberties?

    Reply

  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The idea that these huge expenditures on war do not affect or change our lives is fuckin’ asinine to the extreme. Such a comment doesn’t even really warrant a rebuttal, or much more than a grunt of derision.
    And while we are on the topic, I wonder where that 2 TRILLION dollars went that Dov Zakheim presided over “misplacing”.

    Reply

  20. Outraged American says:

    Sorry, the first part of my last comment was cut-off, it was BRAVO
    DAN KERVICK!

    Reply

  21. Outraged American says:

    And Questions, as an unfortunate holder of a degree in
    astrophysics, and an also unfortunate need to boast about it ( I
    worked hard for that sucker), the space programs do have a lot
    of merit. Check out some of the experiments they conduct up
    there.
    I’m not saying we’d be LOST IN SPACE (and I did some of the
    marketing on that movie, tragic really… don’t get me started
    about Akiva Goldsman and the “script”, i.e., three paragraphs, he
    gave us to work with: I made up that movie in order to sell it
    and to this day have no idea what was actually put on screen,
    but judging by the reviews it was awful) without NASA, but there
    is some VALUE gained, although at what cost, as opposed to
    what we could do with that money terrestrially, given that we’re
    about to blow the world up, is debatable.
    I have to say though that this statement by Questions perturbed
    me, “But my taxes and social services received aren’t going to
    change if the government drops the war thing. My life isn’t
    going to change either.”
    I have had five friend serve repeated tours of duty in Iraq and
    Afghanistan, including two ex-students, my college physics
    partner, the woman who I was Maid-of-Honor for — and
    NONE have come back unscathed. This is not a game of Risk,
    these are real people with real lives, as are the people of all the
    countries we’re bombing.
    We need to get the F*ck out of all of them.
    Lou Dobbs has a petition on his website (and I worked with him
    too, back when I worked in the mainstream media, and if you
    don’t believe my resume, ask easy e or look at my tax returns)
    to get all our troops back from everywhere. Lou Dobbs is a
    pompous, narcissistic, assbite IMO, but he’s got the “rabble”
    roused, so sign the petition if you want to end our endless
    imperialism and bring the troops home.
    BRING OUR TROOPS HOME
    We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America,
    hereby petition the federal government to bring home all of our
    troops now deployed and stationed throughout the world.
    http://tinyurl.com/y8dv9nn

    Reply

  22. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Questions seems to forget this IS a thread about the economics of war. His argument for OTHER arguments is disingenuous in the respect that he has seen ALL of us argue the points he raises, on other threads, where the motives and results of these wars are debated.
    But with a good number of Washington politicians invested heavily in the military industrial complex, the economics behind war becomes more than just cost analysis, it also becomes a discussion of motives, ethics, and the influence of special interests. Questions would have you believe that “who profits?” is less of a question than “how is national security enhanced?” But the two questions cannot be separated, because one may well render the other irrelevent. BOTH questions need to be answered for either question to be answered. Indeed, there can be a strong argument that economics play a larger part in United States policy in regards to war than actual national security does. We KNOW that the military adventure in Iraq has not made us any safer, yet we also know that fortunes have been made waging that war.
    But alot of words are being devoted here to arguing against someone advancing a stupid premise out of a constant need to be intellectually “contrary”. On its face, questions argumnent is ridiculous, and its whole purpose is to be argumentative rather than to offer a stance founded in conviction.

    Reply

  23. Dan Kervick says:

    questions, I nowhere argued that money is “the central issue”. Rather, I took strong issue with your claim that the cost argument “doesn’t work well”. For some people, it works very well. Anyone who has a job that involves a lot of bean-counting, or has to work hard to manage their own personal or family budget, has a good intuitive understanding of cost-benefit analysis.
    I also didn’t argue that the reason to emphasize the money is to make an appeal to personal benefit. Rather, my view is that many citizens who work hard to pay taxes take a keen interest in where and how our limited national resources are spent, even when the decision doesn’t impact them personally in any significant way. Some people even take such an interest out of pure public spirit
    I think these factors are especially true in the current political environment when there is much anxiety, even among progressives, about mounting public and personal debt.
    You say:
    “If the war in Afghanistan would actually prevent the next major 9/11-like devastating act of mass destruction and would re-tank the US economy in ways heretofore unknown/unseen/unforeseeable, doncha think it would be worth nearly any cost to prevent that?”
    What we have to do our best to ask and answer are questions such as “What is the probability that some major 9/11-like attack will be perpetrated by people based in Afghanistan?”, “How might military actions reduce that probability?” How far might different *kinds* of actions reduce the probability?” “What are the different kinds of attacks that might occur, and how bad would their consequences be?” “How much would each of the various kinds of preventive military measures cost?”
    You are right to point out that there are reasons for skepticism about whether military action in Afghanistan will reduce the probability of a terrorist attack. There are even arguments for thinking it might *raise* the probability of a terrorist attack. But for those people who are persuaded that the war can significantly reduce the probability of a terrorist attack, there is still the question to consider of whether the achievable marginal benefit in increased safety is worth the expenditure that we will have to make to achieve that benefit. Is it worth $100 billion per annum?
    There are always many bad things that *could* happen to us, and there are never sufficient resources to do all of the things that we *might* do to prevent all of those bad things from occurring. So we have to make choices, and spend our limited resources in the way which achieve the maximum expected benefit.
    Here is a relevant example: suppose some new form of virulent flu is discovered, and that public health officials estimate that if nothing extraordinary is done, 15 million Americans will get that flu within the next year. Suppose it is possible to manufacture some new flu vaccine or other preventive treatment, and if we undertake a crash manufacture and distribution of that treatment, the estimated number of Americans who get the flu will be closer to 5 million. Should we crash the treatment or not?
    Due to the ten million additional Americans who will get the flu if no treatment is available, there are certain costs associated with not crashing the treatment: pain and suffering, lost productivity, long-term health consequences, deaths. There are also clearly costs associated with manufacturing and distributing the treatment, including the costs of using pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities to manufacture one kind of treatment when they could be manufacturing others instead. These are finite numbers. Given the expected costs of *not* manufacturing and distributing the treatment, there will be *some* number such that, if the costs of producing the treatment exceed that number, it will not be worth doing.
    Or another example: The Earth *could* be hit by an asteroid at some point in the forseeable future. How likely is this to happen within ten years? Fifty years? A hundred years? A thousand years? Ten thousand years? How many different kinds of asteroids could hit, and what would be the level of damage inflicted by each kind? Getting our best answers to these questions determines whether we should invest any money in asteroid impact prevention research, and how much we should invest.
    Some of the debate about Afghanistan strikes me as analogous to the talk of asteroid impact hysterics. They implicitly suggest that there is almost no limit to what we should spend to prevent even one gang of jihadists from establishing even one safe haven in Afghanistan. This argument is absurd on its face, and when we start attaching actual numbers – like $100 billion – to the cost of the war, we can start to have a more clear-headed national debate about these questions.

    Reply

  24. Silver Slipper says:

    I agree with Questions that decisions of war should not be based on financial cost. The greatest cost of a war is the loss of life or the loss of quality of life (for those who are permanently injured). Any President who puts our troops in harm’s way should support them completely to keep them as safe as possible and to help them succeed in the mission. If the mission is not worth the loss of life, our President should bring our troops home (4 troops died yesterday)!

    Reply

  25. questions says:

    If the money is the central issue, then what you’re saying is that were it cheaper it would be fine to do.
    I don’t live in an aloof Olympus. I work and pay taxes too. Funny, that. But my taxes and social services received aren’t going to change if the government drops the war thing. My life isn’t going to change either. So arguing for personal benefit seems to be somewhere between simply incorrect and foolish. Tell me what direct benefit you’d get. The only real beneficiaries are the actual soldiers and their families. BUT, suddenly, we’ve strayed from the money argument just like that……
    What is a good argument, as I noted above, is that whatever we’re trying to do in Afghanistan won’t work, cannot be done. This argument is harder to make because we have not yet solved the problem of induction. Good luck working on this!
    If the war in Afghanistan would actually prevent the next major 9/11-like devastating act of mass destruction and would re-tank the US economy in ways heretofore unknown/unseen/unforeseeable, doncha think it would be worth nearly any cost to prevent that?
    So what you’re arguing if you stick to the money issue is that it’s too expensive to prevent the next major act of war against the US.
    Stay away from the money issue and show definitively that we’re not preventing anything. THAT is the only valid and reasonable and convincing way to go.
    It isn’t Olympus, and let’s face it, if you needed life-saving surgery, not a whorehouse experience, you might go into deep deep debt to do it figuring that you could get a job and pay back the debt after the surgery. And let’s face it, plenty of people go to whorehouses anyway. They find the money.
    The US isn’t out of money, by the way. The money is maldistributed, but there’s a lot of money around.

    Reply

  26. Dan Kervick says:

    “Money that is moving is just that. However it moves, it helps the GNP and it provides jobs. Military spending may well be less efficient than other kinds of spending, but it is spending nonetheless.”
    This is a lame argument, questions. $100 billion per year is a fortune, even by the standards of the US budget. That money has to come from somewhere: either new taxes, more borrowing or subtraction from other programs. You seem to be suggesting that the expenditure will pay for itself in terms of the stimulus it will provide to the economy. That seems doubtful. Prove it.
    I find your casual attitude about the expenditure of vast quantities of your fellow-citizens’ money very disturbing. You seem to find money to be gauche and yucky, and don’t like it when people mix their politics with analyses of monetized costs and benefits. Fine. All I ask is that you never take a government job and you keep your hands off the revenues which are the hard-won product of the labor of millions of other people – labor you apparently don’t give a shit about. I had to do months worth of work to generate my own personal contribution to the federal revenue pool. I support activist government, so I am willing to do it. But your la-di-da attitude about my hard work and contribution offends me.
    For some reason, you think that arguments about money “don’t work well”. Maybe they don’t work well in whatever charmed and aloof Olympus you live in. But most responsible adults I know do find arguments about $100 billion dollar budget items to be quite compelling, even gripping, and generally want to be convinced that the benefits that are supposed to result from that expenditure are in fact worth the cost. Most Americans aren’t pacifists, and are willing to support wars under some circumstances. So it is highly relevant to them to consider what are the alleged benefits some war is supposed to produce, and costs would be required to produce them.
    Your weak references to NASA, the WTC cleanup and expensive meals are puzzling. In fact, people debate the space program, waste cleanups and food expenditures all the time, and whenever they do, “bang for the buck” is always part of the debate.

    Reply

  27. PissedOffAmerican says:

    First, Boisfeuras…..
    Your argument is laughable. This business of “most turn out alright” is pure unadulterated horseshit. I know from the Nam experience that my mildly loadie friends, if they came back at all, came back junkies. And to argue the old bullshit that the army will “make a man out of you” when you are already a sociopathic street gangster, is a premise from fantasy land. To hear you tell it, PTSD has curative properties. And THAT, sir, is a load of horseshit.
    “The Lyndie Englands should indeed have been imprisoned; just so should the Janis Karpinskis”
    You know as well as I do that Karpinski was a scapegoat. If you’re going to respond to my “rants”, at least keep the “message force multiplied” CRAP out of your arguments, will you?
    And, uh, I don’t know what planet you’re from, but numerous firearms charges, multiple drug arrests, and an assault with a deadly weapon conviction, by age twenty, pretty well graduates you from the “delinquent” stage, and puts you right up there in “habitual criminal” territory on the planet Earth.
    Facts never helped a good fantasy, however, so keep dreamin’.
    Next…”questions”….
    In this economy, to disregard the costs associated with this clusterfuck we are engaged in, known as the “GWOT”, is asinine to the extreme. Basically, you’re saying that it doesn’t matter whether we can afford it or not, there are better arguments to be made. Well, we CAN’T afford it. So in the real world, if we had any fiscal responsiblity at all, the other arguments are irrelevant. WE CAN’T AFFORD IT.
    If I am pondering a trip to the local whore house, there are a multitude of moral, ethical,and health reasons that could be argued that I really shouldn’t go. But if I don’t have any money, those moral arguments are irrelevent, because the madam ain’t gonna let me in the door.
    (But in a fantasy world where AIPAC is impotent, I suppose it makes perfect sense to bankrupt the country while engaged in killing Muslims)

    Reply

  28. Outraged American says:

    Linda, Amen, pardon the pun. There is a Peace Tax Fund run or
    started by Quakers.
    I don’t want to pay for wars or abortions and I’m an atheist,
    raised as a Catholic. I just view all life as sacred and don’t want
    my taxes paying for the taking of life, because I think that we
    only have one.
    Peace Tax Fund
    http://www.peacetaxfund.org/
    Before I get jumped on about the abortion issue, two things:
    * the effectiveness of birth control now is exponentially better
    than it was when Betty Friedan was 16, or when I was 16, 80
    years after Friedan. There is the morning after pill, which is an
    abortion, but I, while I would never use it myself, view it as a
    compromise. There is no reason to get pregnant now unless
    you want to, and I do strongly advocate free birth control.
    * I do not think the government has the right to step into or
    onto women’s wombs, however, unnecessary late term
    abortions, where the fetus is viable outside the womb and the
    parents just decide they don’t want the child when it is a child
    even if it in vitro, as opposed to a medical emergency, are yet
    another way the “liberals” are losing moderates.
    Palin and her fellow travelers will use both abortion and gun
    control to attract moderates to her, or whatever nutjob the GOP
    run next, to them. Jeb Bush I’m looking at you. Or Newt the
    newt. Who names their child after a salamander?
    Old school liberals need to learn that there are three countries
    here in the US: the far right; the moderates, who can be
    appealed to, but some of whom tend to be concerned about
    unfettered, late term abortions and gun control; “liberals” who
    are so out of touch with the rest of the country they will lose the
    next round of elections. Then we’ll have an even Dumb &
    Dumber version of the tragicomic show “Bush & Cheney “Endless
    War/ Economic Collapse”.
    For anyone who needs a good laugh, and don’t we all, here’s
    video of Palin being booed at a book signing where she stiffed
    her paying fans who’d stood out in the cold for hours:
    From the Huffington Post:
    Palin Booed By Book Tour Crowd
    http://tinyurl.com/yalpkwv

    Reply

  29. DonS says:

    Questions, the cost argument is just another factor on top of all the other reasons why the war in
    Afghanistan is wrong. It is by no means the only factor. All arguments that can possibly be mustered to curtail this tragic adventure are important. Now take your arguments and go forth; make a noise against this war.

    Reply

  30. questions says:

    As briefly as I can put it so that the number of words isn’t used against me….
    Emphasizing the cost is not the best argument against a “surge” ™ in Afghanistan because:
    Money that is moving is just that. However it moves, it helps the GNP and it provides jobs. Military spending may well be less efficient than other kinds of spending, but it is spending nonetheless.
    The hugeness of the cost as a main complaint suggests that a smaller cost would make it all worthwhile. Maybe this isn’t what you want to argue.
    Removing the crashed and burned WTC buildings was pretty expensive. It was done anyway. The space program is expensive. It’s expensive to go out to dinner. A lot of things are expensive. The cost often doesn’t stop the activity.
    The better arguments against a “surge” ™ in Afghanistan are:
    It makes worse what we wish to prevent.
    It kills people who don’t wish to die.
    It does nothing at all to make the world safer.
    It can’t ever lead to anything in Afghanistan save more mess.
    The Soviet Union died there. The US will as well.
    Not even infinite war could help.
    The Taliban are the only group of people capable of stabilizing Afghanistan, so we’re stuck with them.
    Nothing in Afghanistan affects anything in Pakistan or any other country, so it simply doesn’t matter.
    Prove some of these points, and you may well have an argument. The cost thing just doesn’t work well and leads you where you don’t want to go.

    Reply

  31. Linda says:

    The question I’d like members of Congress and this administration to answer:
    If Catholic Church (that doesn’t pay taxes)and others who oppose abortion don’t want their tax dollars to be used to pay for abortions, then isn’t it fair that Quakers and others who ethically oppose these wars also should not be forced to pay taxes for them?

    Reply

  32. DonS says:

    POA I remember making siimilar point about the lowered recruiting standards maybe 4 or 5 years ago with regard to judges in my rural Virgina venue being willing to suspend adjudication of offenders contingent upon them being willing to sign up and go off to boot camp the next day. Well, things have apparently gone downhill since then.
    I guess the ‘all volunteer army’, supposedly the route to the ‘professional’ army, is becoming yet another candidate for the lipstick on a pig award. Again, we are having the dispossessed, the underclass and those without other opportunities fighting our wars for us , which certainly was one of the the worst aspects of the draft during VietNam. Except of course we have to count in the Blackwater Hessians and other mercenaries, caterers, and countless hangers on.
    Right now, BTW, we are spending a couple of weeks in Paris, and I’ve got to report that folks here seem to be doing just fine without a war mentality to sustain them. Also, and this is surprising to me, there is very little oppressive security presence, not at the airport, or the museums, or on the street. In fact, if anything, I would say the security is almost unseen. The most severe interdiction we’ve has so far has been at the department store Bon Marche where my wife tripped off the security alarm at the door on the way out (also on the way in but she didn’t hear it; but the plain clothes guard was almost apologetic in making routine inquiry and hustling us on our way.

    Reply

  33. Outraged American says:

    The US military is recruiting gang bangers and knows that it is.
    From the official US military paper Stars & Stripes:
    FBI says U.S. criminal gangs are using military to spread their
    reach
    By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes
    European edition, Thursday, December 7, 2006
    GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. criminal gangs have gained a
    foothold in the U.S. military and are using overseas deployments
    to spread tentacles around the globe, according to the FBI.
    FBI gang investigator Jennifer Simon said in an e-mail to Stars
    and Stripes this week that gang members have been
    documented on or near U.S. military bases in Germany, Italy,
    Japan, South Korea and Iraq.
    ENTIRE ARTICLE
    http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=42002
    There is ample proof that this is a poverty draft, has been and
    will be, well, until there’s a real draft.
    Combine that with the nationalism that is taught from
    kindergarten –“I pledge allegiance to the flag of…”
    WTF??? — I have two kindergartners in my life, one related, one
    not, so I think about my own kindergarten experience and all
    those pledges I, as an unthinking child, made over the course of
    years and again think WTF???
    It’s plain crazy — they’re training us from five to go die for a
    piece of cloth. Might as well teach us how to goose step.
    I would pledge allegiance to the Bill of Rights, but “our”
    government destroyed that by passing the “Patriot”Act in order
    to give their full support to Israel’s endless War on Islam, which
    morphed into “our” “War on Terror.”
    Combine that with:
    * a completely and deliberately undereducated populace
    * an economy forcing both parents to work, some taking on two
    or three jobs, so latchkey kids
    * an increasing disregard for “moral” standards that encourages
    kids to have sex without realizing the consequence.
    I am ALL for FREE birth control, but I’m surrounded by very
    young unwed mothers whose baby dads have disappeared, and
    who obviously didn’t get the message that sex w/o birth control
    tends to = kids
    * a cult of celebrity/ “entertainment industry” that also promotes
    sex without consequences
    * a credit card/ mortgage industry that makes these
    undereducated people think that owning a home is a God given
    right, and spending $500 on Chanel glasses, despite that you
    don’t have enough money for your car payment, means money is
    free.
    And what do we get?
    Cannon fodder.
    And, no middle class, which, an educated one, along with a free
    press, is absolutely necessary for a free country. And that’s
    what the Cheneys of this country have wanted all along — a
    huge gap between rich and poor with nothing in between, all the
    better to use the latter to expand their personal economic
    empires. Lest we forget, Cheney was CEO of Halliburton.
    I’ve seen it in India and in other “third world countries”, but
    despite my innate cynicism, I never thought I’d see it here. But
    I’m seeing it here, in Arizona, every single day. The middle class
    is disappearing, and we as Americans, are too stupid/
    uninformed/ ill informed, to realize the consequences.
    The kids in my family go to private schools (against my will for
    the younger ones — the grade schools here are still good
    depending on the district. For the older ones the high schools
    in Phoenix have become jungles, except for two who go to
    magnet schools. The schools do not teach the Bill of Rights
    anymore, even in the private schools.
    SHAME.
    As POA says, it’s a clusterf*ck.

    Reply

  34. Boisfeuras says:

    One could always look at it the other way, that for the many “delinquents” the military has taken (and don’t kid yourself, this didn’t start with Bush – the Romans used to clean out prisons, and they tended to make decent soldiers), most turn out alright. Some go back to their bad, pre-military ways, most don’t. Most also make good soldiers.
    The Abu Ghraibs and Mahmudiya killings happen because poorly disciplined weekend soldiers are poorly trained and poorly led. Their officers and the administration officials who supported “harsh interrogation” policies are responsible. The Lyndie Englands should indeed have been imprisoned; just so should the Janis Karpinskis.
    Moreover, you apparently haven’t updated your 2007-vintage warn-out narrative. All the military services exceeded their recruiting goals. . .
    Facts never helped a good rant, however.

    Reply

  35. PissedOffAmerican says:

    We have a client, very wealthy, whose son, now twenty, who is the ultimate street gangster. Two firearms conviction, an assault with a deadly weapon conviction, numerous drug arrests, and membership in a local street gang. Where is this wonderful lad right now? In boot camp, learning the finer points of urban warfare. Pre-Bush, he would have been laughed out of the recruiter’s office. But these carpetbagging murderous pieces of crap in Washington have stretched our military to the breaking point, and all reasonable standards for enlistment have been shed. If your body is warm, they’ll take ya. So here you have this accomplished twenty year old psychopath being taught how to handle an M-16 and how to conduct urban warfare. I GUARANTEE there will be horrendous costs to be paid for recruiting an army of such sociopathic malcontents.
    And we wonder how Abu Ghraibs happen?

    Reply

  36. Boisfeuras says:

    Of course, the costs of an embittered, “betrayed” military returning home are somewhat high themselves. And that’s ignoring the al-Qa’ida issue.
    See the USSR, 1988-1993, France 1958-1968, the United States 1975-1983. A military returning from a counterinsurgency venture to a country that tired and pulled the plug is a cranky institution.
    Beware the anger of the legions. . .

    Reply

  37. Steven Clemons says:

    all good points POA. The broader costs are staggering…and as I
    have written before, I think that the geopolitical costs of
    Afghanistan are producing results in which allies are writing off US
    dependability and foes are moving their agendas.
    JohnH — hope you are right also.
    best, steve

    Reply

  38. PissedOffAmerican says:

    You are being extremely conservative in your accounting Steve. Any escalation in Afghanistan will spill over into Pakistan. The potential for unintended and destabilizing effects are very real. Iraq is not, by a long shot, stabilized or self governing at this point. Iran is a wild card. Israel has told us to go fuck ourselves, despite the fact they still cash our checks. I don’t see how you can divide our expenditures in the ME into different and separate clusterfucks. Fact is, its one big clusterfuck, and when viewed in that context, the cost is in trillions, not billions.
    And did the Pentagon cost in the expenditures to private firms, like these world class criminals, rapists, murderers and carpetbaggers, Blackwater, KBR, Halliburton, etc??
    And what about the briberies we will have to pay to the corrupt warlord “infrastucture” in order to assure that our troops get resupplied, and supply caravans aren’t looted and destroyed. P
    Plus, in California, I note that military equipment such as tanks, troop carriers, etc, are being hauled by private trucking firms to ports of deployment, such as Los Angeles or San Diego. Are those costs included? I have pictures of loooong trains loaded with tanks, trrop carriers, tankers, ambulances, etc, going over the famous Tehachapi Loop. Are these stateside costs factored in?
    And do the Pentagon estimates include the kind of bribery that the Iraqi “surge” employed, where we pay off “insurgents” to stop killing our soldiers??? (Which works great, until we stop paying them.)
    Talking billions is foolish. We are talking trillions, and separating the different “arenas” in the middle east, treating them as separate cost issues, is disingenuous. We need to look at the WHOLE scope of what the war machine is costing us.
    I wonder if Feinstein reads your blog? If so, she has just drooled all over herself.

    Reply

  39. JohnH says:

    Good for Obey! Why should health care proposals be budget neutral and the farce in Afghanistan be exempt?
    Let’s hope that Obey shows more intestinal fortitude than he did on funding for the Iraq Occupation, where he said he made a big hoo-haa about cutting funding but then caved.

    Reply

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