Dollars & SenseIssue: July-Aug 2008
THERE HAS been much talk of late about the cost of the Iraq War, due in no small part to the huge estimates postulated by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Together with his colleague Linda Bilmes, Stiglitz asserts with confidence that the cost of the Iraq War will exceed $3 trillion, prompting sound-bite-prone journalists to dub Iraq "the trillion dollar war." Of course, these estimates are for costs extending through 2017. In fact, our Iraq adventure will cost far less on the margin, since the military will not disappear even if the war in Iraq does. Whether or not we retain forces in Iraq, they will have to be equipped, housed and trained somewhere. Attributing those costs to the Iraq War is disingenuous. What is real are the hidden "opportunity costs" we've already incurred.