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Monday, September 22, 2003
Perspectives on Rebuilding Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 12:14 pm

Larry Lindsey has a column in USAT from yesterday on the costs of rebuiling Iraq. He notes

Critics are using words like “massive” and “staggering” to describe the cost. But what we really should ask is: Compared with what? We cannot walk away. If we have no choice but to fight, it makes sense to spend what it takes to win. While any dollar amount in the billions is substantial, it’s important to put it into perspective. The Vietnam War cost 12% of GDP at the time and World War II cost 130% of GDP.

The cost to defeat Saddam was less than half a percent of America’s annual income (measured as gross domestic product). If spending continues at the current pace, our involvement could cost us 0.4% of our income for the rest of this year. If President Bush’s request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan is approved, the cost of these two fronts will amount to about 0.8% of our income next year.

But what does that really mean? Each year American households spend about 1% of their income on alcoholic beverages and another 1% on tobacco products. We spend about 0.7% of our money on cosmetic products. In other words, our combined operations to combat terror in the Middle East cost a bit more than we spend on makeup and shampoo and a bit less than we spend on booze or tobacco.

And he hits the real “cost” nail on the head here:

What truly matters, however, is what would have happened had we not deposed Saddam. This is necessarily hypothetical. But we do know that taxpayers funded an extra $40 billion in federal spending immediately after 9/11. This came on top of the costs paid by others, notably insurance companies, and reflects the direct costs, not the cost of the disruption to our economy. Moreover, the lives lost on that day remain priceless.

Not to mention the ongoing cost of the no-fly zones and other aspects of the containment process: that wasn’t free.

This piece dovetails well with Michael Barone’s recent piece on the rebuiling from US News

Today’s media have a zero-defect standard: the Bush administration should have anticipated every eventuality and made detailed plans for every contingency. This is silly. A good second-grade teacher arrives in class with a lesson plan but adapts and adjusts to pupils’ responses and the classroom atmosphere. A good occupying power does the same thing.

And, indeed:

The media also have the wrong standard for what is news. It is news when there is a fatal accident at Disneyland and not news when there is not. But Iraq is not Disneyland. In a country that is occupied after decades of a brutal dictatorship, good news is news. Yet with only a few exceptions-see Michael Gordon’s story in the New York Times on the 101st Airborne in northern Iraq-the good news is not being told. More than 6,000 Iraqi civil affairs units-local governments-have been set up. Hospitals have been reopened. A court system has been set up. Mistakes, inevitable in a chaotic world, are being corrected: A Baathist leader put in charge in Najaf was soon removed.

Rather, the media have covered this the way they cover LA local news: like a never-ending crime report that scares you so much you wouldn’t want to leave your house.

Hat tips: Viking Pundit for the Lindsey piece and BlogMaster InstaP for the Barone piece.

Filed under: Iraq

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  1. Wow. It wasn’t the liberal media, nor the Saddam coddling panty waisted liberals who set the bar for this little endeavor. It was Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rummy saying our troops would be greeted with flowers and dancing in the streets. That the Iraq occupation would pay for itself. That order would be restored immediately and our troops would be home in months.

    Now that this illusion is out of the way, you’re all telling us that we have to give and give and give to cover for the Administration’s complete disconnect with reality and complete lack of any serious planning.

    And now that we know there is Zero linkage between Saddam and 9/11 (after the fact, thanks a lot) and no WMDs, nor potential (other than some books) for WMDs, nor is the link between Al Qaeda anything more serious than a parlor game with Kevin Bacon… Well, gee. What the heck was this war for anyway? To free the Iraqi people? Give me a break!

    This is worse than a teenager who wrecks the car into a neighbors house because he was drunk and thought he saw a deer in the headlights and swerved out of control. And now he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions, and he wants everyone else to pay for his mistakes.

    If it wasn’t the most dangerous thing in the world to do, I’d say let the US fry in in a hell of its own making. Unfortunately, thanks to the brilliant war campaign propaganda, I don’t have that choice.

    Again, thanks a lot. Going to be real fun.

    Comment by JohnC — Monday, September 22, 2003 @ 12:25 pm

  2. Oh, and here’s a good one I found from the Salon article

    Its driving force is appeasement of the existing bankrupt Arab order, and ultimately the retention under a different guise of the repressive institutions of the Baath and the army. Hence its point of departure is, and has got to be, use of direct military rule to deny Iraqis their legitimate right to self-determine their future. In particular it is a plan designed to humiliate the Kurdish people of Iraq and their experiment of self-rule in northern Iraq of the last 10 years, an experiment made possible by the protection granted to the Kurds by the United States itself. That protection is about to be lifted with the entry into northern Iraq of much-feared Turkish troops (apparently not under American command), infamous throughout the region for their decades-long hostility to Kurdish aspirations.

    All of this is very likely to turn into an unmitigated disaster for a healthy long-term and necessarily special relationship between the United States and post-Saddam Iraq, something that virtually every Iraqi not complicit in the existing Baathist order wants.

    I write as someone personally committed to that relationship. Every word that I have committed to paper in the last quarter of a century is, in one way or another, an application of the universal values that I have absorbed from many years of living and working in the West to the very particular conditions of Iraq. The government of the United States is about to betray, as it has done so many times in the past, those core human values of self-determination and individual liberty.”

    Written February 16, 2003.

    And you want us to help dig them out of a pit of their own making, that they were repeatedly warned would end up as a flaming pit o’ hell?

    Man, that takes some cajones.

    Again, too bad we have no choice.

    Comment by JohnC — Monday, September 22, 2003 @ 1:01 pm

  3. Perceptions do not limit reality.

    Comment by Torre Leslie — Friday, November 28, 2003 @ 1:35 pm

  4. If you would be unloved and forgotten, be reasonable.

    Comment by Fried Kate — Friday, November 28, 2003 @ 1:35 pm

  5. Comment by Anonymous — Tuesday, August 10, 2004 @ 3:38 pm

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