The Real Co$t of War – Iraq v. Libya

Tonight, President Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address. He will lay out a sweeping vision of what’s at stake for the middle class and two visions for the economy. Entangled in his speech will surely be references to the debt ceiling debate and the budget. The President has requested to have the debt limit (how much we as a country can borrow) raised to 1.2 trillion. The Republican held House has already voted “no” to this request on their first day back in session from the holiday break, so we come back to the discussion of how do we decrease spending and balance the budget so we don’t need to raise the debt limit a trillion dollars at a time?

This got me to thinking – how can we cut government expenses to balance the budget if we are unwilling to have honest discussions? Do politicians really believe that teachers unions or janitors are the reason that we are all in a hole financially? or do they just say that to pander to constituents that need someone to blame?

Let’s look at some facts:

  • The war in Iraq cost upwards of $120 Billion per year
  • The total cost stands at over $806 Billion today (predicted to be over $1 Trillion once all is said and done, but “only” $50-60 Billion by the Bush administration?)

Don’t believe me? Check the War Cost Calculator – 


Although most of the troops are out of Iraq, that does not mean that we are still not paying for operations in country! 

OK – now let’s take a look at the chart below – what stands out to you?

Essentially, both conflicts produced the same outcomes – 1 dead dictator – it’s just that the path that we took in Iraq cost the U.S. about $805 Billion more than the path that was taken in Libya – could we have used that money to diminish our debt? and could the budget be balanced without this huge expenditure? You betcha! Is anyone really willing to have that conversation – Nope!

But let’s now take a look at what that eventual $1 Trillion price tag (some are actually predicting the total cost of the Iraq War will exceed $3 Trillion) for the war could have could have bought us……

  • $1 trillion could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system with gold, 23.5-karat gold leaf
  • It could buy every person on the planet an iPod
  • It could give every high school student in the United States a free college education
  • It could pay off every American’s credit card
  • It could buy a Buick for every senior citizen still driving in the United States
  • It could buy 16.6 million Habitat for Humanity houses, enough for 43 million Americans
  • America could double the 663,000 cops on the beat for 32 years

For more ideas – Look Here!

Hopefully in the future, policy makers and politicians will consider the Real Co$t of War before we jump headlong into and endless military engagement. But don’t forget, the $806 Billion price tag does not include what we have spent in Afghanistan – that is a different discussion post all together folks!

****** Update ******

Obama just noted in his SOTU address that we as a nation should “take the money we are no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt and use the rest to do some nation building right here at home”……..great mids think alike huh?


3 thoughts on “The Real Co$t of War – Iraq v. Libya

  1. Im all for investing the money as nation building projects as long as it is not used for buying a Buick for every senior citizen still driving in the United States. Oh the horror.

  2. Great post and I am with you on the better use of the trillions spent on war. My only argument on the Iraq and Lybia comparison is to be careful not to suggest that apples and oranges are alike. There is so much about those two countries, their cultures, their histories and their “moments in time” that are different. It’s not quite as simple in my mind as saying let’s use the same approach and save ourselves a few billion dollars.

    My opposition to the Iraq War is often palpable. However, my experience with organizations has caused me to pause when contemplating their change. And countries have to be even more difficult – ours and everyone else’s.

    The real problem for me with changes in policies (defense, international or domestic) is the dilemma we continue to face to build the needed critical mass and finding viable, realistic alternatives. And don’t get me started on how little we care or invest in kids. Too late – I just did.

    Good job and great food for thought as always.

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