There’s been a lot coverage of the total cost of the war in Iraq this week, mainly due to the $1.6 trillion estimate of the war’s costs through next year, released by Congressional researchers. Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution has written a piece on the subject that gets beyond crude dollar amounts. Here are some costs he lists:
The human toll of the war is dreadful: more than 3,800 U.S. soldiers dead and more than 28,000 wounded, plus more than 1,000 private contractors killed and many more injured. It’s harder to know how many Iraqis have died; some estimates claim that the war has caused a million or more Iraqi deaths, and even if that’s an overstatement, the toll is still very high. But it’s not just the lives that are gone; we’ve also lost the contributions that these people would have made to their families and to humanity at large.
Don’t forget the small statistics, which are often the most striking. According to John Pike, the head of the research group GlobalSecurity.org, an estimated 250,000 bullets have been fired for every insurgent killed in Iraq. That’s not just a waste of ammunition; it’s also a reflection of how badly the country has been damaged and how indiscriminate some of the fighting has been. Or take another straw in the wind: The cost of a coffin in Baghdad has risen to $50-75, up from just $5-10 before the war, according to the Nation magazine.
Above all, governing Iraq has, so far, been a fruitless investment. According to 2006 figures, U.S. war spending came out to $3,749 per Iraqi — almost as much as the per capita income of Egypt. That staggering sum hasn’t bought a lot of leadership from Iraq, or much of a democratic model for its Arab neighbors.