Iraq: An Alternate History

A conservative estimate of the cost in dollars alone to the US of the Iraq war (ie not counting lives, pain, political or strategic or opportunity costs) is $800 billion to date. That’s the amount appropriated by Congress. It doesn’t count the so-called ‘black budget’ and it doesn’t attempt to count the foreseeable future costs– taking care of our wounded, for example.

The population of Iraq is about 32,000,000. So that means the war cost us about $25,000 per Iraqi.

I think my suggestion back in 2003 that instead of staying in Iraq we just give every Iraqi $3000 per year for the next year or two is looking awfully good in retrospect.

Note that Iraq GDP per capita in 2010 was $3,800 under a purchasing-power-parity measure, but valued at the official exchange rate was only $2,567. So basically for what we spent on Iraq since 2003, we could have given every Iraqi the equivalent of their share of GDP every year until now, and it would have cost about the same as what we spent. And there wouldn’t be the killed and wounded.

Perhaps buying countries is actually cheaper then invading them. Note, however, that the money would have to actually go to the people, not to the government or the military or the exercise would be fairly pointless (see, e.g., Egypt, Pakistan).

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15 Responses to Iraq: An Alternate History

  1. Just me says:

    Indeed. I have been selling a similar idea since 9/11, but no one is buying. My idea goes something like this: pre-9/11 we were already the biggest “defense” spender in the world to the tune of nearly 50% of global “defense” spending. Still, all that guns and uniforms money couldn’t stop the 9/11 attacks. Why then spend even more guns and uniforms money (i.e. the Homeland Security budget) after the attacks? Obviously the law of diminishing returns applies to the additional spending. Why not instead spend money on good will efforts.

    Its been a while and I am too lazy to go looking up the numbers again right now, but if memory serves, the UN estimated in the year 2000 that it would take $40 billion dollars to provide for the basic needs of every man, woman and child in the world who was then without. That is the same figure that was initially proposed for Homeland Security after 9/11. It seemed to me an infinitely better use of our money to spend the $40 billion (or even just half) working towards the goal of providing the poor with food and shelter for those in need. We then stamp on every floor board, roof tile, and grain of rise “provided by the people of the United States.”

    I am guessing that my plan would have made us a whole lot safer in the long run than any non-sense that the Dept of Homeland Security has come up with. And more importantly, you can’t go wrong with my plan. If it doesn’t work, you fed hungry people.

  2. Vic says:


    You have some serious bugs in your webpage software – aside from the aforementioned ones. For example, on my XP box, when I use firefox, my posts go to nowhere when I hit “Post Comment.” So far as I can tell, they never appear (I don’t see them when I switch to IE to look.) Yet a duplicate comment gets detected if I try again.

    It may well be that all of this is just exaccerbated by my relatively secure browsing habits and setup – but it shouldn’t work that way. These are not features, they are bugs. You might want to start looking for some different web software.

    • I think what you are describing is mostly a feature, not a bug. Try taking the cookie when you post and see what happens. You should see the comment right away in the same browser and session you used to make the comment.

      When you go in as the separate IE user, you are unrecognized as there is again no cookie there, so you get the cached copy that doesn’t have the comment (yet).

      The bug is not that the cached version lags the uncached version available to those who take the cookie — that’s a feature — the bug is that the lag is too long. I am working on that.

      But don’t hold your breath for me to move away from WordPress, the conversion is too much work. I could turn off the cache, but then the site gets really, really slow. I could try a different cache program, but this is already my second one…

      • Vic says:

        Just to be clear…

        I made a comment using XP and Firefox. That comment has not appeared on this thread and is presumably lost.

        Meanwhile, using the same XP box, but viewing with IE, these two comments (the one I am writing now, and the earier complaint comment) worked just fine and the page displays just fine.

        So whatever the caching issues, you ALSO have an issue where someone who is using a little bit more security in a Windows box (always a good idea) can’t post without compromising that security. And I note that in this instance, I don’t think the cookie is an issue. My XP Firefox does accept cookies, it just doesn’t keep them between sessions. I more suspect my not allowing scripts in Firefox.

        Personally, I think that not allowing a basic level of security to be in place is more on the “bug” side of things than the feature side, but then I don’t believe I should ever be forced to allow anyone to run whatever they like on my box without my permission. (It’s not that I think YOU are doing anything bad, but I worry about others – I wouldn’t expect anyone to just allow scripts to run.)

        • Michael says:

          I use a lot of security, and I’m using XP & firefox, and this comment is visible. So, exactly what security are you using? I don’t think the cookie is required to comment, just to see it quickly. What else have you got going on?

          • Also, when you say the comment does not appear, is it also not appearing on the list of recent comments on the front page? Because that list DOES seem to update properly.

            • Vic says:

              What I typically see can vary, and to be honest I’ve gotten confused myself:

              – I’ll see a “story” on your front page with a number marking the number of comments. Then when I go in to it, I see the story, but no comments. (I’ve seen this, but I can’t remember the O/S I was using – maybe it’s fixed now).

              – Or I’ll see the comments, but if I try to add one, it just goes off into cyber-neveland. (XP + FF)

              – Or I won’t see my comment appear, until much later (which I think is your known cache problem).

              -Or I can see things and do in IE that I can’t do in FF.

              What I SEE right now, in both XP/IE and XP/FF is all of the comments (excepting of course my lost one – that I think really is lost).

              I’m writing in XP right now, using IE. After I post this, I’ll send a test post, also from XP, but using FF as I have it set up. If things are the same, the FF test post will go nowhere (maybe look and see if you see any evidence at all of it getting to you).

              I don’t have Linux available at the moment to test from there, but I can do so at a later time if you think it’s an issue.

  3. Vic says:

    OK, I just posted from XP + FF and it went nowhere.

    Now I posting this from XP + FF, but I have allowed scripts from your site.

    • Vic says:

      That this worked, but blocking scripts does not, seems to back up my idea that it is the disallowing of scripts that causes posting problems.

      I normally use FF (whether in XP or Linux) and have high security (no scripts allowed in XP – I don’t worry about them in Linux). Whereas my IE is at a lower level of security because I need to use it on occasion for just that purpose.

      It’s your choice, of course, but I personally think that NO website should require giving it the ability (used or not) to run whatever it wants on your computer without you knowing about it. You might consider what scripts your website is running (or why it requires them) and whether or not they add real value. If not, you might consider getting rid of that “feature” so that people can browse you and participate securely.

      • I’m pretty sure I know what this is and I’m afraid I consider it a feature not a bug. I use a wordpress plugin called WP Hashcash. It requires your browser to do a small arithmetic computation in javascript. If the entity attempting to comment cannot do this computation, the plugin treats you as a spamming robot.

        Before I used this plugin I was inundated with spam. It is a very very effective spam blocker. But that is what blocks you when you block all scripts.

        So I am afraid this is a design choice on my part. I understand your position on scripts, and it is not unreasonable, but the cost to me in manual spam culling is just not worth it.

  4. jones says:

    I appreciate the point you’re making, but I think too often these discussions come down to cost. Nobody ever mentions the 5 million Iraqi citizens we turned into refugees.

    In the news, they keep talking about the last 9 years…. as though this represents the extent of our involvement in Iraq. Nobody talks about the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people we starved to death while enforcing sanctions against Iraq throughout the 1990’s.

    Even less discussed than the brutal sanctions we enforced is the fact that Saddam was a CIA asset in the 1980’s who we were backing against Iran. It’s short-sighted to say that Bush’s adventure in Iraq was a failure: the last 30 years of Iraq policy have been nothing but unmitigated failure.

    Talk about “blowback,” we need not only a national discussion of what really happened during the Bush years, but we need an honest discussion of what a profoundly anti-democratic institution the CIA is.

  5. Test. Was comment pagination the source of the problem?

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