Iraq War Spending Deconstructed

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

One possible unintended consequence of staying in Iraq for 100 years that John McCain probably never contemplated is the prospect of professors staging anti-war protests for the next century. For example, on April 3-4, New York University (NYU) will feature 17 professors from seven universities and academies in a seminar entitled “Academic Freedom in the Age of Permanent Warfare.”

The speakers at NYU will include:

Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva;

Roger Bowen, formerly of the American Association of University Professors;

• Joan Scott, of the Institute for Advanced Study;

• Rashid Khalidi of Columbia;

Barbara Bowen of the City University of New York; and

Deborah Almontaser of the Kahill Girban International Academy.

Two professors have actually made an earnest, exhaustive attempt to calculate the cost of the Iraq War but they look at it as two academics who have been through the revolving door to government jobs and back again to the Ivory Tower. “Defense comes to four percent of the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] but how much has GDP increased?” Linda J. Bilmes said at the Center for American Progress (CAP) last week. “We are a wealthy country and in one sense can afford it but you have to look at opportunity costs.”

“The $600 billion could have been used to shore up social security or provide health care to kids.” A professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Bilmes is the author, with Columbia’s Joseph E. Stiglitz, of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraqi Conflict.

She combines a concern for the elderly and children with a belief that their problems can best be solved by government programs. Indeed, her forthcoming book is The People Factor: Strengthening America by Strengthening Public Service.
Moreover, although she critiques the manner in which the Pentagon crafts its budgets, her suggested remedy should give those concerned with defense pause. She wants to see “transparency in the Pentagon budget.” “We need a mini-Sarbanes-Oxley in the Pentagon,” she advises.

Securities traders say Sarb-Ox reporting requirements have led to a drying up of investment capital. America’s enemies may relish the thought of such a “transparent” U. S. Department of Defense.

Conversely, she sees side effects of previous wars that might prove illusory. “Unlike other wars, this has not stimulated the economy,” she avers.

Economists might argue that in past conflicts the war effort replaced or displaced the economy rather than stimulating it. Nevertheless, she made some interesting observations.

“The cost of caring for our injured is much higher in this war than in previous wars because there are more survivors,” she said at the CAP. “That’s a tribute to the work of the surgeons.”

Nonetheless, Bilmes claims that “disability hospitalizations are 60 percent higher than they were five years ago.” By the professor’s tally, 300,000 veterans of the Iraqi War have been treated in Veterans Administration hospitals.

Meanwhile, over that same time period, 1.7 million troops have been deployed in Iraq. They average two to three tours of duty apiece that generally run about 15 months each.

The former Clinton Administration appointee offers another revealing insight. “This is the first war since the revolution in which we borrowed from abroad to finance it,” she says.

Specifically, she names China as an angel. That would be doubly curious since:

1. There is some question as to whether China has paid off the loans that U. S. government agencies have made to the People’s Republic for decades; and

2. Evidence continues to accumulate, through the U. S. China Commission and other primary government sources, that the Beijing government is America’s greatest adversary today, whether U. S. officials admit it or not.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.