The Iraq war was going to pay for itself from Iraqi oil revenue, according to senior Bush administration officials in the run-up to the U.S. invasion. When it became clear that was unlikely, the Bush administration, instead of raising taxes, as we had done in every previous war, cut them instead.
The upshot is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost U.S. taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, both in immediate costs like replacing equipment and rebuilding stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, and long-term legacy costs like caring for wounded and disabled veterans.
These estimates are the work of Linda J. Bilmes, a respected Harvard public-policy professor and an expert in calculating the cost of our military ventures. She figures the U.S. already has spent nearly $2 trillion on the military campaigns.
As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives, she wrote in a new report.
For the moment, Congress is preoccupied with the federal deficit and the national debt, to which these wars contributed greatly. But there are lawmakers and interest groups pushing the U.S. to intervene in Syria, attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear program, root out the resurgent Islamic terrorist groups in North Africa and brace for a military provocation by North Korea.
Some of these military ventures may be necessary, even unavoidable, but the American people are owed an honest assessment of the probable costs and how much their taxes will have to go up to pay for them.