A VERY SPECIAL TIME WARP FJM

(New to FJM? It's defined here.)

I am about to do something mean.

Atlantic Monthly comedienne Megan McArdle labors mightily, and almost always unsuccessfully, to write columns that do not immediately collapse under the weight of mild scrutiny. It counts as a victory when she writes something that seems logically consistent for the length of time required to read it, even if for no longer. In short, at her top-dollar best she attains contemporaneous plausibility. Readers of her work might, provided they are not well versed in economics and tend to believe everything they read in Serious Media Outlets, think "Hey, this makes some sense!" in real time. That what they just read is stupid beyond comprehension hits them like a thunderbolt only in hindsight when she is on her game.

That's McArdle at her best. When everything goes right. It's McArdle as Michael Jordan scoring 63 over Larry Bird in Boston Garden in '86. Given that, it's almost cruel to subject her writing to the withering glare of hindsight. Something that seems ridiculous a day after it is written is not going to look much better a few years down the road.

Or will it?

No. No it won't. And I'll prove it. Because I am a dick, I present you Megan McArdle (back in the pseudonymous "Jane Galt" days) on March 26, 2003 musing on the cost of Dick & George's Iraqi Adventure in "How much is the war going to cost?" Ho ho ho. Hoo boy. Heh. Ho. Hah. Oh man. Let's do this.

I've seen a number of claims like this one from Eric Alterman:

The first $75 billion is just a downpayment. Expect to pay hundreds of billions in the short-term, trillions in the long run. Expect it to come out of your schools, your police forces, your highways, your future and your children's future

Megan introduces her piece with some wild, hysterical predictions from a Liberal Blogger about the cost of the impending Iraq War.

Anyone who's sat through a budget meeting

Which excludes Megan, of course, although she had yet to reveal her identity when this was written. It sure helped make her seem like a person who had sat through a "budget meeting" (technical term) rather than someone who has never had a real job, save a few months at the firm of one of her dad's pals. And this sweet-ass columnist gig.

knows that almost everyone overestimates their successess (sic), underestimates their costs; it's easier to go back for money later, when you can wave a nice hunk of sunk costs around, than say up front that you think whatever it is you're proposing will be expensive as hell.

Wait a second, I think she WAS sitting in on White House budget meetings! That was Dick Perle's argument. Almost verbatim. Wolfowitz chimed in with "Yeah, fuck 'em!" while Robert Kagan tore apart a Muslim doll with his teeth.

But trillions? US GDP is roughly $10 trillion.

"Roughly. Because I have never figured out how to look up a number." I bet no one knows what the GDP really is. It and the fate of Judge Crater are the only real mysteries left in this world. I asked Google "What was the GDP in 2002?" and all I got was lines of code like the Matrix and a horrible, piercing klaxon.

Alterman is saying that over the long run, this war is going to cost us at least 20% of GDP. That's nuts, and it's not the first time I've seen those sorts of numbers around.

Hee hee. Ho ho ho. Hoo boy. Oh.

Reality check: the entire US military budget is in the range of $350b.

Therefore, by definition this sandy misadventure could not cost more. Unless…the administration repeatedly went back to Congress for "emergency" supplemental funding requests? Nah. No one would fall for that.

Saying that this war will cost trillions in any term short enough for us to care about (I mean, he's probably right, if we use a timescale of several hundred years, but that's not very useful)

McEstimate: it will take several hundred years for the war to cost "trillions." Kids, this is why you shouldn't make a lot of predictions in a medium that archives everything.

is saying that this war is going to cost nearly as much as the entire military budget, year in and year out, for decades. For reference, the next six months are estimated to cost $60b on military spending. (I'm excluding the humanitarian and domestic segment of the budget submitted by the President.) Even with a fudge factor of 50%, that's $90b over the next six months, $180b a year. At that rate, assuming you do absolutely no discounting at all, it would take us over 10 years to get to $2t, thus meeting the "trillions" criteria.

UNLESS…nah. We already went over that. But here we see McTardle Tactic #1A: including lots of numbers parsed with high school algebra skills to create the appearance of precision and the reassuring veneer of facts. Everyone knows that half of $180b is $90b, and half of a year is 6 months. This is the kind of thing you learn at University of Chicago's MBA program.

Which is madness.

It sure is, cubby!

By that logic, we were spending as much on WWII in 1953 as we were in 1943.

WWII was over in 1953. But I see the point because the Iraq War will be over in, like, 6 weeks! And with no casualties. In fact, I think the pre-Iraq War plan was to send over one Marine to wipe out the Hussein regime by himself. It was totally plausible because it's a really big Marine and he's armed with Mjolnir. And once the Iraqi Army is defeated, the war is over, DUMBASS. What don't liberals get about that?

If you don't know, military spending during WWII was over 50% of GDP

Ixnay on the condescension, Chet.

it was in the 10% range during Korea, and dropped sharply thereafter. This while we were still occupying Japan, still garrisoning Germany, had a mandatory draft, and were building up for the Cold War. Even if you attribute the entire cost of the Cold War to WWII, and none of it to Stalinist imperialism, you still don't get the kind of numbers required to make the occupation cost as much as the battle. The difference is even more stark now, for you must remember that we have an all-volunteer army, which gets paid whether or not they're in Iraq.

OK, just to review, apparently her argument is that since our military is all-volunteer and we are paying their salaries anyway, the Iraq War really isn't going to cost much of anything at all. Everyone get that? Good. "For you must remember" it.

The extra, non-labor cost of the war is heavy on things like ordnance

Well I guess she's allowing that it will cost a few bucks. But remember: 6 weeks!

which we won't be expending once we control the country.

(requires sound)

"Which we won't be expending once we control the country." I could not make this shit up if I tried, people. And I have. Lord how I've tried to make up something as funny as McTardle. I subjected a number of baboons to severe head injuries in an effort to replicate her style. It didn't work, and the Animal Liberation Front has burned down my house three times.

Where do they get these numbers?

Certainly not from the ironclad reserves of logic and basic math that lustily fornicate to produce McTardle's numbers!!!!111!!!!one!

With gems like this from James Galbraith, son of the amiably paranoiac pop-economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

That's not a sentence, but OK. Here I have redacted a lengthy quote from Mr. Galbraith, which you can read here and in which he makes some outlandish predictions like that the war might take 5 years or 200,000 troops. Put down the crack pipe, dude!

He offers vague possibilities, making no attempt to quantify them, much less calculate their probability

Yeah, Megan's a real stickler for sources, attribution, and precision.

He conflates all sorts of costs into one big amorphous bundle. He only looks at costs on one side; for example, discussing the cost in lives of the war, without discussing the cost in lives of Saddaam's regime and the sanctions that are the likely alternative to the war.

What we need is a close look at the specifics, not just a bunch of hypothetical bullshit.

If we kill 300 Iraqi civilians and 300 American troops ousting Saddaam (sic), and Saddaam's (sic) secret police are murdering 1,000 people a year, and 5,000 people a year are dying from the humanitarian crisis brought on by sanctions, it is not a net "cost" in human lives.

There is nothing I could write that would be funnier or sadder than this. 4,000 U.S. dead later…but how about those 300 civilian deaths!


Oh.

Likewise, he examines only the negative consequences the current uncertainty might have on the economy, without mentioning that, for example, a successful war might boost the consumer confidence dampened by fears of terrorism,

Yeah, it boosted the shit out of the economy. Especially because…

or that lowered security risk in the Middle East might result in both lower oil prices, and higher investment in highly oil-dependent industries.

…post-2003 oil prices fell like a stone. God, it's like she was staring into a crystal ball.

He offers unsourced references for large numbers — "One estimate for the cost of rebuilding Iraq runs to $2 trillion" — in order to give his claims a false patina of precision.

If anyone can find an example of a Megan McArdle piece in which A) numbers are sourced or B) the sourced numbers outnumber the hypothetical made up numbers, you will win Megan McArdle's home address, a one-way bus ticket to said address, and a flaming suitcase full of dog shit. Do with those what you please.

He cites any number of highly speculative, unquantitative "costs" in terms of US prestige and other such intangibles that have nothing to do with economic costs. He posits "opportunity costs" of not doing things that many of us don't want to spend federal money on in the first place. An opportunity cost is a precise economic term: it means the next-best alternative use for your money.

Thanks for the econ lesson, professor! Boy, anonymity was McTardle's friend, wasn't it? She sounded more authoritative before she revealed that she has no economic training or experience of any kind, and in fact is just a talentless rich kid with an absurdly high opinion of herself and the good fortune that twentysomething glibertarian tools find her attractive.

You can't claim that our failure to institute national health care is an opportunity cost of the war when such a thing would cost far more than the money being spent on the war

Well, it cost way more than the One Marine Swinging Mjolnir version of the War, but not so much the Reality Based one.

Thus, Eric Alterman is enabled to claim that the cost to the US taxpayer will be over $2t, even though most of the larger costs cited by Galbraith aren't going to be borne by Americans either directly or indirectly, but by Iraqi oil.6

Ah, yes. Remember, the war that really isn't going to cost anything to begin with (because we're already paying the Army, stupid) was going to be self-financed by Iraqi oil. Note that this sentence is followed by a footnote, which reads in its comedic entirety: "Am I suggesting that the Iraqis should pay for occupation expenses? Nope. We can afford it, and there's something repellent about making impoverished Iraqis pay for a war foisted on them by an evil dictator. But most of that $2t, if it is any sort of a real number, will be stuff for Iraqis: roads, schools, hospitals, government buildings, power plants and sewers and all the good stuff that lets us live like citizens of the 21st century. That stuff should come out of Iraqi oil revenues."

Again, there isn't much I can add to this. I tried. I got nothin'.

The war will certainly cost more than the $60b and change that the President is asking for. But it is not going to run us several trillion dollars (though even if it did, that would work out to less than 0.1% of GDP over the next 20 years.)

To recap: "The war isn't going to cost us anything much of anything, although it will surely cost more than the amount Bush requested, and even if it does cost a lot it's not so bad so long as we look at the GDP over this arbitrary 20 year timeframe I just pulled clean out of my puckered butthole."

I don't know how much more, and neither does anyone else, although I'm sure the military has better guesses than I could make.

"This is unknowable. The military knows."

Megan, they can tell us with some precision what various scenarios will cost. The fundamental problem here was that the scenario posed to them – a six week war costing only a few grand for Private Smith's salary and a couple of weeks of Mjolnir rental at standard rates – was retarded.

It's important to think about the economic cost of the war — the pro-war side has mostly dropped the ball on this, and it's an important calculation when we consider whether or not to go. But making up ridiculous numbers in order to support your predisposition isn't helpful — and when the war doesn't cost us $2t, people are going to remember that the next time you talk about the costs of a program you don't like.

The first draft had a footnote here: "And when it does, I will look like the biggest (idiot/tool/brain-dead sycophant) this side of an audience at a county fair tractor pull."

This…this article almost FJMed itself. I think the best way to enjoy this is simply to click through and read her original post. Read it again and again. Marvel at it. It's like a time warp back to 2003. Remember 2003? Remember how awful it was? How 70% of the country thought this was a good argument? Six week war! Oil riches to pay the tab! 100 casualties, max! Well, I want you all to do something for me. Think of one person who you really, really wanted to punch in 2003 because this torrent of shit spewed so readily from their mouths. Send them this column. Fire off a quick email and let them know that no matter how hard the McArdles of the world pray that we will forget, we remember.

Ideally this would make him or her feel embarrassed – Megan, if you ever read this (and I sure hope you do!) I have no idea how you can look back at what you've written and do anything other than either die of shame on the spot (something roughly akin to Obi-Wan becoming a Force Ghost on the Death Star) or come to grips with the fact that maybe writing isn't for you – but we know we are dealing with a kind of person so intellectually languid that he or she is incapable of feeling shame. Shame requires being intelligent enough to realize that you were wrong and, more importantly, that it matters that you were so incredibly wrong.

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35 Responses to “A VERY SPECIAL TIME WARP FJM”

  1. Erich Rodgers Says:

    Loved this. Followed a link from Crooksandliars to get here, but have bookmarked this site because of this piece.

    THANKS!!

  2. Sarah Says:

    There was a woman in one of the classes I took in 2007 who actually said something about how un-American it was to oppose the war. I just about took her head off, right there in class. Unfortunately, I don't remember her name and I never got her contact info, or I would gladly send her this post and the original column.

  3. goatboyslim Says:

    At least the audience at a tractor pull gets what it paid for, doesn't have to keep paying for the show to continue, and isn't asked to shell out even more to be allowed to go home.And no one dies…….

  4. Lee, aka Barbed Wire Says:

    I'm glad you brought this up because, well, I would never have bothered to look for anything that Galt McArdle wrote.

    However, I can't believe you left out her fifth footnote… seems to predestine her entire existence. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy….

  5. Jimcat Says:

    McCarglebargle was far from alone in deluding herself into thinking that the Iraq war would pay for itself in oil revenues, or that a quick victory there would translate into instant Middle East stability.

    I bought a hybrid car in the spring of 2003, just as the attack on Iraq was being launched. In fact, I remember seeing news coverage of the beginning of Operation Kill That Arab Bastard Saddam Like My Daddy Should've when I was sitting in the dealership.

    One of my friends questioned how much I would really save on gas, since "Oil prices are going to be much lower after we own Iraq." (Gas was about $1.30 per gallon then.) The person who said this is someone who identifies himself as liberal, is quite intelligent, and has a Ph.D. in economics (he is now a professor). Just goes to show how much energy people can put into disbelieving things that they don't want to know.

  6. J. Dryden Says:

    I think a "shame death" would more closely resemble the face-melting experienced by the Nazis at the opening of the Ark of the Covenant.

    But apart from that minor quibble: lovely work. And it's always good to remember the existence of the 20-30% of people in this country who, when faced with the discrepancy between prediction and result, will insist that the results have *proved them right*. Gotta love American Magical Thinking.

  7. Monkey Business Says:

    I had a conversation with a friend about this a few months ago.

    Someday in the future, I might have kids. There are a lot of steps between here and there, but for a second I'm going to assume that I've navigated all of those. Now, at some point that hypothetical kid is going to take a history class, assuming that we're still educating children at that point and not just letting them run around like packs of wild dogs. In that history class, at some point they're going to get to the time period of 2000-2008, and assuming I've done a decent job raising the little shit, it's going to come home and ask me about it, because I was there and stuff.

    Now, assuming that I haven't raised a complete mouthbreather, he will probably ask me something along the lines of "What the hell were you guys thinking?". I will, at that point, have to look at my child and go "Child, we screwed up. We were scared. We wanted revenge. We let our national emotions blind us to the truth of the situation. We failed to properly evaluate the situation and paid a heavy price for it. And for that, I'm sorry."

    Yes. One day, I plan to apologize to my child for the sheer stupidity that I and everyone else didn't do enough to stop.

  8. Mrs. Chili Says:

    I love you.

    Have you met MAB? http://mcschmanky.blogspot.com/. I bet you two would get along very, very well…

  9. Hazy Davy Says:

    Rightness and righteousness are uncorrelated with financial success.
    Megan McArdle makes more money than I do.

    I don't think she feels embarrassed. And I doubt she will ever feel shame, unless there is a relationship between being right, and getting paid, when you're a political writer.

  10. The Man, The Myth Says:

    Those years from 2001-2005(ish) will haunt me for the rest of my life. I was an idiot. I was one of these people who actually believed the village idiot from Texas. I will never be caught up by a President again. That grand speech he gave with the 19 words about Niger got me excited about war.

    Only gradually over the course of several years did I realize how I had been duped. Unlike most people in America, I actually took courses about that part of the world. Its history was extraordinary, however the oil has been a curse and not a blessing.

    I think of it as a "teachable moment". Too many Americans were afraid and bought into this nonsense. I know I won't do that again. I hope more people can learn from their mistakes.

  11. JohnR Says:

    "..realize that you were wrong.. "

    to riff on your Obi-Wan reference for a sec, remember the whole "Vader killed your father" bit? Well, it turns out Miss Megan is even more unbleievably Jedi-Masterish than General Kenobi himself! He was just right "from a certain point of view". She's right from a point of view that's not simply certain, but is more akin to the view through a black hole's event horizon as seen by a tunneling electron microscope powered by the energy output of something really big such that it sees through time, space and all the other known and unknown dimensions into a region where reality as we know it is replaced by a chaotic, ever-shifting pudding of possibility which takes any form desired by the observer.
    Therefore, QED, cogito ergo sum, ipso facto, etc., etc., by definition Our Megan is right then as she's right now and right forever, world without end, Namen.

  12. jazzbumpa Says:

    The 2003 average price of crude was $27.69.

    http://www.ioga.com/Special/crudeoil_Hist.htm

    This war created a huge externality, in which wealth was transferred from the rest of the world to a few big oil cats and the rulers of some of the most repressive regimes in history – from which terrorism is funded, by no coincidence.

    American foreign policy since WWII has been a continuous sequence of mind-numbing fuck-ups, and the Iraq war was the worst of it.

    WASF,
    JzB

  13. Batocchio Says:

    It can be hard to believe, but much of her Jane Galt stuff is even worse than her current crap.

  14. acer Says:

    What to say about "fiscal conservatives" who stumped for the Iraq War? Oh, right… They're not really fiscal conservatives at all, but Republican hacks who were willing to swallow any wet shit Bush and pals served up. No wonder they accuse me of never questioning Obama.In a just world, all these tools would be off the "centrist" or "libertarian" roll call forever.

    FJMs are my favorite recurring feature here, especially first thing Monday.

  15. The Man, The Myth Says:

    acer: One thing we should have learned by now is that fiscal conservatism lasts only until the next Republican President… in which case they let it slip that all they really want are tax cuts for the rich and government contracts for friends.

  16. mothra Says:

    Oh, McGarble, if she thinks about it at all, will just say that she wasn't actually responsible for SENDING people to war. She will also say that the original plan would most CERTAINLY have cost less, but there were so many things that just couldn't have been predicted…

  17. heydave Says:

    I hated that stupid, craptastic, Jane Galt fightin' behind a fucking typewriter icon she used to use. And now it's so very clear what a worthless shithead she has been for so very long.

    And you gotta love how her sheltered asshole of a cerebral cortex calculated/made up the financial side of a war, with a pittance paid to, oh, those actual fucking lives lost. God, I hate this cunt.

  18. Larry Signor Says:

    @ Monkey Business

    "Yes. One day, I plan to apologize to my child for the sheer stupidity that I and everyone else didn't do enough to stop."

    I already have. Now I will one day have to apologize to my grandchildren.

  19. Jonathan Schwarz Says:

    Sure, that's a lot of stupid. But in fact, there's something even more excruciatingly stupid about what she wrote:

    http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003363.html

  20. Prudence Says:

    A dear friend, and fellow McTardle hater, sent me this link to yet another frothy mug of fail frappe'- it is her post on how and why she's now a homeowner http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/08/how-much-house-can-i-afford/61277/

    "It's frightening to know that the above calculations, which don't seem too stringent, are far, far tighter than those used by our relatively sober credit union. We McSudermans may be a fiscally conservative people, but we Americans clearly still aren't."

    Vomit. It's hard to say what's more annoying, her smug tone, or the fact that, thanks to daddy's money, she's college/grad school debt-free enough to have a "big party" in June, buy a house in DC, and manage "a full 15-20% savings rate" on top of all that.

  21. montag Says:

    When I read anything by MeMeMeMeMeMegan, I can't help but worry about if she drives or not.

    If she does, she's definitely gonna kill someone some day due to complete indifference toward paying attention. It's in her genes.

  22. Davis Says:

    Wow, Megan McArdle called John Kenneth Galbraith a pop economist. Just wow. I don't get the "paranoic" dig, either.

    When Alterman said it would cost "trillions" he clearly meant over a trillion, not at least 2 trillion, which she assumes. Stupid and tendentious.

  23. Paul W. Luscher Says:

    This is a perfect example of what passes for Deep Thought in Right Wing circles: totally erroneous conclusions based on totally unrealistic senarios, delivered in a sonorous style that is supposed to give off the aura of "Real Intellectualism."

    But people are fooled by this crap, even as it takes the country further and further up Shit Creek without a paddle.

    Perfect example: after initially being skeptical about the chances for success of our policy in Afghanistan, Robert Gates changed his mind after reading an article by ROBERT KAGAN (remember PNAC?), who said we should stay for the long haul in Afghanistan, because–unlike those Russkies in the '80s–our purpose is NOBLE.

    So, per Gates, that justifies more America lives and money–and more dead Afghans, never mind what history has to say about Afghanistan being the "graveyard of empires."

    I'll never cease to be amazed at how the words of people who have been proved wrong time and time again are listened to with utmost seriousness by the Movers and Shakers of this country. It's like the Stupid leading the Dumb.

  24. M. Bouffant Says:

    montag, she owns & operates a Mini-Cooper, as she's shared w/ us so many times.

    At least she's more likely to be on the receiving end in a crash, 'though I s'pose DC pedestrians should still watch it.

  25. brad Says:

    If I were less lazy, and Google's archive search function worked better, I'd dig out the post I did at FMM about Megan's long post explaining why being utterly fucking wrong about the war actually means she's a bigger expert on than those of us who were, y'know, right the whole fucking time.
    Her basic argument, which she's returned to repeatedly on those rare occasions she admits being wrong, is that getting an issue wrong forces you to learn why you were wrong, which ends up with you knowing more about the topic than the people who, ummm, got it right from the start.
    Swear to Jebus, that's what she said. Being stupid makes her smarter than you.

  26. brad Says:

    Found it, if anyone cares. http://firemeganmcardle.blogspot.com/2008/03/megan-mea-culpa.html

  27. No Comment Says:

    My reaction to the notion, persistant to this day, that the wealth of Iraq was ever (or could ever become) the USA's to spend is moral outrage. To use this idea as a supporting argument for mass slaughter has always left me wondering what kind of a madhouse the USA has become. It is as if I knew that someone in town had some money buried in the back yard, so I decide that I might as well burn down his house, because he could dig up the money and rebuild. But the moral point seems never to be made, even by those who snicker at the neocon war promoters about the Iraqi-oil-wealth-rebuilding-fairytale not having worked out as promised.

  28. Alex Says:

    Nice blog.

    Note that the amount of deaths are even worse than you point out using the Iraq Body Count figures. IBC just tots up violent deaths reported in the media. However, two studies were done for the Lancet medical journal which surveyed the Iraqi population. The second (and therefore most recent one):

    "estimated 654,965 excess deaths related to the war, or 2.5% of the population, through the end of June 2006. The new study applied similar methods and involved surveys between May 20 and July 10, 2006.[4] More households were surveyed, allowing for a 95% confidence interval of 392,979 to 942,636 excess Iraqi deaths. 601,027 deaths (range of 426,369 to 793,663 using a 95% confidence interval) were due to violence. 31% (186,318) of those were attributed to the Coalition, 24% (144,246) to others, and 46% (276,472) unknown. The causes of violent deaths were gunshot (56% or 336,575), car bomb (13% or 78,133), other explosion/ordnance (14%), air strike (13% or 78,133), accident (2% or 12,020), and unknown (2%)."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_surveys_of_Iraq_War_casualties

    That study was up to June 2006. The IBC number of ~100,000 is up to present. So a comparable number from the Lancet against the IBC figure would be roughly a million dead.

    There is a lot of misinformation out there against the Lancet studies. I suggest Tim Lambert's blog for some good debunking of the misinformation:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/lancetiraq/

    Here's a good one where he takes on some more hilarity from "Jane Galt":

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/03/the_macaroni_and_cheese_argume.php

    Crooked Timber was also good. Here's a long debunking of complaints with the first Lancet study for instance:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2004/11/11/lancet-roundup-and-literature-review/

  29. Bill Jones Says:

    Everybody is entitled to go after the low hanging fruit once in a while, but Megan McArdle?

    c'mon.

  30. Patrick Says:

    Tehehehehe. Excellent. Sad, but most excellent. Have to agree that Raiders of the Lost Arc is a better shame death.

  31. Alsadius Says:

    So you dig up an old McArdle post, where her basic point is that the war will not possibly cost $2 trillion. And in order to make fun of her, you bring out the big guns – a cost ticker, currently reading $743 billion. Admittedly, that's quite a lot of money(to put it lightly), but it's nowhere near $2 trillion. And while we're still spending, the war is more or less over, so I don't see it going too much higher – it certainly won't crest a trillion, for example. So in other words, the fundamental point you've proven here is that Megan was right and the people she was criticizing were wrong on the topic of war expenses.

    Of course, she didn't ace it – the bit about oil costs going down definitely got a chuckle. But her central thesis in that post was right. Seriously, if you're going to go scrounging in an archive, you should be able to do better than this.

  32. RT Butte Says:

    @Alsadius

    Yeah, no, $743 billion is only just shy of half of $2 trillion. Which is funny, because everyone pretty much predicted that. Not that exact number, but ballpark. Everyone who had even half a brain at that time (and even half-brains were in somewhat short supply those days) knew there would be huge costs incurred in invading and occupying. And there were. Which is why McDurble is totally right for downplaying the projected costs and scoffing at those of us with sense. Totally right.

    Yes, we have so far spent ~$743 billion on this war. Guess what? We're not done spending money on it. We still have to pay for the 70,000 Americans still in Iraq who are doing administrative work or something. Not really clear on that. We still have to pay the lifetime veteran benefits, including healthcare for all the brand new combat veterans we made who are missing legs and/or arms and/or their sanity. We still have to spend a bunch of money refitting and rebuilding the military. When you think about all those costs, you can almost imagine the $740 billion is the down payment and now we're about to start paying for the war. We're done paying for combat operations, not the war.

  33. sconosciuto Says:

    @Alsadius:

    we will continue to pay the costs of the Iraq debacle well into the future (as RT Butte ably pointed out)… to add to RT's post, there's also the interest we'll be paying on those hundreds of billions of dollars Bush/Cheney spent 'off the books' to fund the war. Unless you plan on throwing under the bus all those injured Iraq vets (a favorite pasttime of those troops-loving Republicans), there will be a certain amount of increased funding for veterans' benefits and health care over and above what we'd otherwise pay had there not been a war. The military will need increased funding to replace worn-out and destroyed equipment. Military recruiting costs shot up due to the fact that few who had other options, wanted to die in Iraq in order to save the GOP's electoral prospects.

    Beyond all that, if you really want to get esoteric, there's the opportunity cost. We could have *easily* done a much more ambitious health care reform than Obama's for that $2 trillion we will end up spending when all is said and done. There's the inflation in oil prices due to the war. Ammunition and even lumber prices shot up due to the war. There's the loss in productivity due to all those reservists who were called up and asked to serve far longer in combat abroad than they were ever told they would be when they originally signed up for their 'one weekend a month'. How many reservists lost their businesses due to being called up for extended combat tours?

    On and on and on it goes. A wiser man than myself in the previous century once said, "War is a racket." He was right, damned right. $743 billion is the down payment. It is very easy to see how this war will cost in the neighborhood of $2 trillion when all is said and done… at least 10 years from now.

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