War Still Policy of Choice in Washington — Whatever the Cost

Congressional Republicans are engaged in a rare, internal debate over foreign policy. Prominent neoconservatives, including Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are chiding some in the party for what they describe as “isolationist” views. Of course, this label is dishonest; no one (at least in the Congress) wants to completely cut the United States off from the world.

But it is just as clear there is a pronounced and growing sentiment among Republicans that playing policeman to the world may be an unsustainable burden, especially at a time when we are experiencing a massive debt and budget crisis at home. And, with new, nonpartisan calculations of the costs of such an interventionist foreign policy now available, the questions are more timely and serious than ever. Whether the politicians in our nation’s Capitol will actually act on such sentiment, however, remains a question.

According to a new study from the Watson Institute at Brown University, the so-called “wars on terrorism” will cost taxpayers between $3.2 trillion and $4 trillion. The estimate includes not only the costs directly associated with prosecuting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the occupation and rebuilding in which we continue to engage in those countries; but also the substantial obligations to soldiers and their families.

Independent figures such as these have never sat well with those in government advocating for such adventures.

In the months before the invasion of Iraq, for example, Bush Administration officials claimed that war would cost between $50 billion and $60 billion. In fact, the administration played down higher cost estimates by its then-economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey, who was forced to leave his White House post shortly after suggesting that the war could cost up to $200 billion.

However, the Watson Institute report now estimates we have spent over $757 billion in this Iraq adventure alone. Clearly, Bush Administration officials deliberately low-balled the cost of the war in an attempt to sell it to members of Congress and the public.

While some form of military involvement in Afghanistan was understandable and justifiable in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, our continued to presence in the “Graveyard of Empires” nearly a decade after those attacks has cost over $416 billion.

The cost in terms of human lives also should be noted. The report estimates that 225,000 people have been killed in the 10-year “war on terrorism,” which includes soldiers from the U.S. and allied countries and civilians in occupied nations. Additionally, the report notes that the US Veterans Administration system alone has already treated more than 650,000 veterans of the two wars for a variety of problems and received 550,000 disability claims.

Sadly, our interventions do not end with these two countries. America’s involvement in Libya continues; and apparently at levels higher than publicly admitted. Just last month we learned of airstrikes against militants in Somalia. The Washington Post noted that the “airstrike makes Somalia at least the sixth country where the United States is using drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen.”

With the Congress poised to condone a broadened view of the “war on terrorism,” there is little to prevent President Barack Obama from arbitrarily dropping bombs on whatever country might engage in actions the president finds displeasing on any particular day.

At the end of the day, however, while Republicans and Democrats may bicker, and nuanced differences in domestic policy will surface periodically, when it comes to war, it doesn’t really matter much which of the two major parties occupies the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or is in charge of the domed building at the other end of the street. War is patriotic.

by Bob Barr — The Barr Code

60 comments Add your comment

DeborahinAthens

July 8th, 2011
7:05 am

Where were all of you when Dubya the Dumb swaggered his way into Iraq? I wrote letters called all the stupid pundits-Hannity,Boortz-and got the same response. War is good,war is right (when waged by the US), war is just. Now the Neanderthals are grunting the same old Republican mantra…”War bad…because war is expensive”. Forget about the hundreds of thousands that have lost life and limb. War is bad for children and other living thing…you all make me sick.

Eric

July 8th, 2011
8:18 am

This is not war, but colonialism (which is not called for in the U.S. Constitution). And you’re right, we can’t afford it and it’s lasted too long. If we don’t trim our debt and come home, our own country may be subject to colonization. I say it’s time for a healthy dose of isolationism. Where are you Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt?

J. Wellington Wimpy

July 8th, 2011
8:22 am

I’m surprised, no shocked, that you had the bravery to write such an insightful piece Barr. Hell must be on the verge of freezing over.

thewatchdog

July 8th, 2011
8:24 am

War is patriotic, very true. I see a problem engaging in a war with people whose specialty is IEDs, [improvised exsplosive device]. A IED with 10 dollars worth of exsplosive knocks out a 50,000,000 dollar armored vehicle. The U.S. should be manufacturing IEDs and planting them all over Afghanistan, then the opposition would be all in favor of peace.

Jezz A. Bell - The Phoenician SinSation

July 8th, 2011
8:25 am

Barr: . Just last month we learned of airstrikes against militants in Somalia. The Washington Post noted that the “airstrike makes Somalia at least the sixth country where the United States is using drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen.”

A drone attack is conducted by an unmanned plane and usually are looking for specific targets – i.e.: Al Queda Operatives. Wouldn’t drones be less expensive and more viable than “boots on the ground” men? Just wondering……..

Carlosgvv

July 8th, 2011
8:32 am

The politicians, especially the Republicans, support war, but not because it is patriotic. War costs money. Bullets, rifles, tanks, aircraft, etc. aren’t free. The big arms manufactures make huge profits off wars and give some of that money to the politicians for their election and re-election campaigns. So, it makes good political sense to support and promote wars. Of course, it is utterly immoral, but when has that ever stopped any politicians?

stranger in a strange land

July 8th, 2011
9:37 am

You might have heard of the Rothschild’s (they’re bankers). War worked out really well for them back in the early 1800’s. I expect some banker(s) somewhere are more than happy to finance the war du jour.
As for Afghanistan – just as the Soviets spent a pile of money, and left a pile of dead bodies & munitons behind – now it’s the USA’s turn. All wars are not like this – but think this one falls under the heading of Utter Futility.

pn

July 8th, 2011
9:38 am

War is our major export and the backbone and engine of our economy. The military industrial complex must be fed, even if all other productive segments of our society must be pillaged and starved to feed it.

the Truth

July 8th, 2011
9:59 am

and all of the Wars that the US get involved in are FAKE!

jconservative

July 8th, 2011
10:21 am

Damn fine column Barr.

Somehow, as a nation, we have decided it is OK to get American troops killed to build new nations for the Muslim world as a thank you for the 9/11 attacks.

Oh, we are not doing it as a thank you note? Then why are we killing American soldiers to build new nations for Muslims?

None of this has ever made any logical sense.

redneckbluedog

July 8th, 2011
10:31 am

The Obama administration and the Democrats in both the House and Senate are at full employment..!!!!!!! They’re doing there part……

Furthermore, tax rates and interest rates are as low as they’ve ever been in history..!!!

This one’s on the corporations and the wealthy….The same people we are giving away billions to, oil and gas, millionares, and defense contractors aren’t doing a damn thing to help the US economy…..

You know what they’re doing with those tax breaks..? Putting them in their pockets….

IT’S TIME FOR AMERICA TO GET A REFUND FROM MILLIONARES AND CORPORATIONS AND USE IT TO PAY DOWN THE DEFICIT..!!!!!

MrLiberty

July 8th, 2011
11:09 am

The Rockefeller/Rothschild partnership that runs the world profits with every drop of blood that is shed. What more needs to be said as to why certain members of congress will not let it go. Ron Paul 2012 if you actually care about peace for a change.

zeke

July 8th, 2011
11:45 am

Well BOB, if we would fight a war as a war and not a political beauty contest, these costs would be dramatically less! Soldiers are trained to break things and kill people! Until we let them do just that we are never to end an action! We could have been out of Vietnam and Korea in 6 months to a year if the politicians would have let the military do what they were ordered and trained to do.But no, the leftist demonstrators, hippies, left wing nuts convinced the politicians we had to be selective in our actions and be wary of who we killed, in fact, we could not fire unless fired upon! THAT WILL WIN NO WAR!! We could have been out of Iraq and Afghanistan in the same time frame, but, we could not prosecute the military action without political pandering!! Hopefully, if little Israel does not do it for us, when we have to go into Iran, WE WILL TURN THE SAND TO GLASS AND ELIMINATE THIS SCOURGE! Sure, there will be civilian casualties and that is not good! but, win the war at whatever costs to the enemy country!!!

stranger in a strange land

July 8th, 2011
11:54 am

Mr Liberty – (ref my 0937) that might be a bit of a stretch about R & R, and not sure R Paul is the right answer – but if getting out of foreign wars, police actions, etc is your # 1 priority – then Paul is your man

Liberals are retarded

July 8th, 2011
12:08 pm

DeborahinAthens

Were you born that stupid?

Liberals are retarded

July 8th, 2011
12:10 pm

“Where were all of you when Dubya the Dumb swaggered his way into Iraq?”

Laughing at people like you. I laugh at you because you don’t seem to care about Obozo going to war with Libya. You also don’t care that both Iraq and Afghan Wars are ongoing.

Code pink my a$$.

Liberals are retarded

July 8th, 2011
12:10 pm

War got us out of the Great Depression.

Hey libtards, unemployment is back up to 9.2%. Any thoughts, tards?

Father Murphy

July 8th, 2011
12:13 pm

US needs to be out of Iraq, Afghan and Libya.

Liberals are retarded

July 8th, 2011
12:19 pm

redneckbluedog

9.2%.

nuff said

MrLiberty

July 8th, 2011
12:20 pm

Eric – You wrote “I say it’s time for a healthy dose of isolationism. Where are you Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt?”

Just what useless history book did you read?? Wilson was purposely shipping munitions to Britain in hopes of forcing us into war against the wishes of the american public. The Lusitania attack was no “accident”. We were violating international law and our supposed “neutrality” for quite sometime before that attack. Wilson was a HUGE warmonger. As for Roosevelt, I hardly see how anyone with that kind of enthusiasm for the BS Spanish American War (the Maine was an accidental explosion that the government LIED about to get us into war – yes I know, what a shock) can certainly not be called an Isolationist.

And as for the term isolationist, nobody is calling for isolationism (except for maybe Pat Buchanan). The term is non-interventionist. You know, like keeping your nose out of the internal affairs of other countries, but freely trading with them, etc. The way america USED to be before the likes of jerks like Wilson and Teddy and thier empire building schemes.

You really need to get some more accurate history books. Stop reading the ones the government approves of and start reading the ones by people who actually care about documenting the truth.

?????????

July 8th, 2011
12:21 pm

redneckbluedog

Obama extended the Bush tax cuts.

You lose, commie.

?????????

July 8th, 2011
12:22 pm

redneckbluedog needs to get a job.

?????????

July 8th, 2011
12:25 pm

“The politicians, especially the Republicans, support war, but not because it is patriotic.”

Democrats have started more wars than Republicans.

Pedro

July 8th, 2011
12:31 pm

@MrLiberty – thank you for setting the record straight although I doubt many here will take note.

?????????

July 8th, 2011
12:37 pm

MrLiberty

Remember, left wingers like Eric never even took US History. People like Eric believe white people are evil, the the Civil War was all about slavery and that the founding fathers were all atheists who wanted abortion for everyone.

Also, left wingers believe that rich people are evil and at the same time, worship evil rich people like Obama and Soros.

MrLiberty

July 8th, 2011
12:46 pm

As long as we’re discussing history, it was the death of Roosevelt and the end of his New Deal destructive economic policies that got us out of the Depression. Most economists of the day were actually very worried that the Depression would start up again when the war ended. The cluless Keynesians that they were, they never had any clue as to why the Depression happened, so they figured that all those hard-working, productive men coming back from the war along with the ending of so much government spending would destroy the economy.

Thankfully Mises and others of the Austrian school of economics have blown away the stupidity of Keynesian economic fallacy and have well documented that the supposed “end” of the depression that is attributed to the statistics from WW2 really just show the impact of massive rationing of goods and services, the employment of women at significantly lower wages, the shipping of 500,000+ workers “offshore” and the massive spending of money by the government (which began being counted in the GDP figures). The government spending numbers are especially important because government spending is always inflated over the productive sector because they never care how much they spend since its other people’s money. The Ludwig von Mises institute (wwwMisesorg) has some excellent material on the Depression (much free) and Murry Rothbard’s “America’s Great Depression” is probably the best book on the truth of the period.

TallaDawg

July 8th, 2011
12:57 pm

L.A.R. and ??????????? – You two, and people with extreme views like yours, are part of the problem. Americans must learn to cooperate again. Part of cooperation is compromise. Name-calling and hard-lining do no one any good.

Thank you

July 8th, 2011
12:59 pm

Thank you Mr. Barr for a wonderful article. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. Our country uses violence as a “Policy of Choice” for all of our international issues. Those that want to end wars are not necessarily isolationist, but those that want to take over countries, install rulers, and change all countries to democracies are imperialists. Next time you hear us use the term nation building what we are really saying is that we want to take over a country and instill our handpicked leaders, our values, and our form of governing through democracy. We are a better nation than this and we need to stop.

?????????

July 8th, 2011
1:17 pm

“You two, and people with extreme views like yours, are part of the problem. ”

And just what are my “extreme views?” I don’t cooperate with people who spat off talking points from MSNBC.

“Part of cooperation is compromise.”

I don’t compromise with stupid people.

“Name-calling and hard-lining do no one any good.”

Whatever you say, 6-7er.

UGA sucks at football

July 8th, 2011
1:18 pm

TallaDawg

How much longer will CMR last at UGA?

Teams who’ve won the national championship since 1980: Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Florida and Tennessee.

Carlosgvv

July 8th, 2011
1:27 pm

Liberals are retarted

Bush and Cheney took us into Iraq with the purpose of installing a Weatern type democracy. When that turned out to be impossible, rather than get out, they kept us there. Obama inherated this mess. We have no troops in Libya. If you would do some good reading and not just look at The National Enquirer and watch Nancy Grace, you might not be such a moron.

Peter

July 8th, 2011
1:57 pm

Yup Bush and Cheney lied to all about the WAR….the costs, the objective, and the reason.

Now Republican’s want to continue the same old deal why ?

Greed, too much money to made by a few. They never cared they were bilking the American Taxpayer, and folks blindly follow their ways like Lemmings.

Not OK to kill via abortion….BUT hey let’s go to WAR and kill many, sick Republican values.

In fact didn’t Bush pray to “HIS GOD” before going to war ? The God of Oil I suppose. After all that is what the war was about, and avenging his daddy.

Gee wow I am so happy Gas is so much cheaper now, and didn’t he leave all American’s better off after wasting all the money !

Toby

July 8th, 2011
1:59 pm

649 B just passed the con controlled house, cut spending ?

Dr. Pangloss

July 8th, 2011
2:01 pm

According to the website Global Issues at http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending US military spending is 43% of the entire world’s spending. Does the rest of the world really hate us that much?

Winfield J. Abbe

July 8th, 2011
2:39 pm

Marine General Smedley Butler was one of the most decorated Marines and two time Medal of Honor winner. In 1933 he gave a speech “War is a Racket”. He also gave about 1200 speeches in 700 cities around the country.
He said we only defend our homeland and the Bill of Rights. He describes how he spent years in the military misusing his powers for selfish business interests in foreign countries. Is it any wonder countries around the world hate us so? You can easily google up the address. He ended with the comment that Al Capone operated in three districts in Chicago; he operated on three continents in the world!
In 1960 five star general and former president Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the military industrial complex in his final speech..
But the mentally retarded representatives in Congress are all oblivious to this wisdom from history from some of the top heroes of the country. These idiots are not defending the nation, they are war mongers and they are bankrupting the nation doing so since every dollar they spend on war is either borrowed or printed. Does anyone really believe these idiots in Congress and the President have a clue how to solve our problems even if they had unlimited powers to do so? Obviously not.
America today is like the Airbus plane on auto pilot which crashed into the sea. The pilots were impotent to do anything about it. America is on course for the worst wreck in history. It is bankrupt, placing the country at a far worse risk than any invasion could do.
Americans must look inward because you and I and everyone are responsible for electing the lowest most corrupt cheaters of the class to run our country.
Here is the Scout motto they follow: “I promise to do my best to help myself and cheat the rest”.
We have enough weapons of mass destruction to destroy the planet now. What do we need more for? Wake up Americans. It may be too late now.

Liberals are retarded

July 8th, 2011
2:41 pm

“Obama inherated this mess.”

And we’re still there. Also, do you not know what spell check is?

“We have no troops in Libya. ”

No, we’re just mindlessly bombing innocent women and children.

“The National Enquirer and watch Nancy Grace, you might not be such a moron.”

Look retard, I’m not the one who can’t spell simple words. Go sell stupid somewhere else.

Liberals are retarded

July 8th, 2011
2:43 pm

“Yup Bush and Cheney lied to all about the WAR….the costs, the objective, and the reason.”

Then I guess the current VP and Sec of State are both liars for voting to go to war with Iraq, dumb ass.

“Greed, too much money to made by a few. They never cared they were bilking the American Taxpayer, and folks blindly follow their ways like Lemmings.”

If you hate capitalism so much, move to North Korea.

Peter is a moron

July 8th, 2011
2:44 pm

“BUT hey let’s go to WAR and kill many, sick Republican values.”

We’re still in both wars with a new one in Libya. Stupid much?

Peter is a moron

July 8th, 2011
2:50 pm

Guess all these people are liars to, huh Carlos idiot and Peter dumb ass?

Bil Clinton, Dec. 19, 1998: “Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. … Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. … Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.”

“If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear.
We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”
President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

“He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.”
Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

“We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S.Constitution and Laws, to take necessary actions, (including, if appropriate,
air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction
programs.”
Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998

“Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

“Hussein has .. chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.”
Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999

“We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

“We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

“I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force– if necessary– to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

“He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his
chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do” Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002

“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological
weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.
He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

Peter

July 8th, 2011
3:05 pm

Wow look at the BIG Brains that Blog..HA HA HA….calling names because one has zero to say.

All funny stuff….. especially since the Iraq WAR was all predicated on lies.

But hey live like a Lemming…..

!

Peter

July 8th, 2011
3:06 pm

Yes the Iraq WAR is part of the SICK Republican mindset.

Which God do Republican Pray too ? the God of War of course !

Peter can't read

July 8th, 2011
3:10 pm

If Peter could read, she’d know that many Democrats voted for the war in Iraq. She’d also be able to read the entire list of quotes from Democrats who claim that it was the right thing to do.

“Yes the Iraq WAR is part of the SICK Republican mindset.”

Democrats are equally sick.

“Which God do Republican Pray too ? the God of War of course !”

Peter gets the award for “dumbest post of the day.”

Jefferson

July 8th, 2011
4:57 pm

The GOP wrecked the country from 2000 to 2008, it will take years to recover.

Jefferson is a moron

July 8th, 2011
5:04 pm

“The GOP wrecked the country from 2000 to 2008, it will take years to recover.”

Unemployment was under 5% when Bush was president. It didn’t start to go up until the Democrats took over in 07.

Ramblin Wreck

July 8th, 2011
5:27 pm

It’s not just the Republicans who believe it’s time we stop being the policeman of the world. Most of the Dems I know feel the same way, and we believe the current administration is not doing enough quickly enough to get our troops home. While I believe our efforts in Afghanistan were necessary, we have done all we can do there. Iraq was a wrong headed policy/decision from day one. Rand Paul makes a lot of sense when he talks about our defense spending.

killerj

July 8th, 2011
6:45 pm

Dam,Jimmy Carter you see what you have done? Go Tea Party.

Alabama Communist

July 8th, 2011
6:55 pm

WAR IS PEACE! WAR IS PEACE! * Orwellian double speak to the dumb down Republican Tea Party Corporate fools…….and PEACE IS WAR! PEACE IS WAR to the dumb down Corporate Democrats

IKE

July 8th, 2011
7:55 pm

What part of “beware the military industrial complex” don’t any of you history-ignorers git?

morons.

DeborahinAthens

July 8th, 2011
7:59 pm

Liberals are retarded…you falsely assume I am a liberal. I voted for Nixon twice and Reagan twice. I just couldn’t pull the lever for Dubya the Dumb, who was told repeatedly that his tax cuts would cause a massive deficit. Not only did he start two unnecessary, ineffective wars,he cut the taxes anyway and kept them off the books by paying for them from emergency funds. Guess he learned his bookkeeping skills from his old Enron pal,Ken Lay. Before you start huffing and puffing,maybe you should use your brain.

I Know You Are But What Am I?

July 8th, 2011
8:16 pm

Bob, you need to spend more time policing your blogs. The foregoing is an affront to the spirit of debate. No decorum, juvenile name-calling. Can’t wait to jump over to Bookman.