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The Costs of War in Syria

September 5, 2013 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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As Rothbard pointed out, war and militarism are socialism writ large, and not surprisingly, war is very expensive to the taxpayers, and especially to those who are the targets of military intervention.

There is presently a debate in Congress and in the media about how expensive the war in Syria will be. In the American policy debate The expenses are only calculated in estimated monetary terms, and so we know that the debate will of course ignore  all damage done to the Syrians themselves and to global markets, which are always damaged and stunted by wars.

Nevertheless, even the very tame and limited argument over the costs to the U.S. treasury will be based mostly on conjecture and dishonest assessments of the true cost.

We might get some glimpses of some of the honest estimates as the debate rages between the bureaucrats and the politicians, although even those are still nothing more than estimates.  The bureaucrats (i.e. the Pentagon) will use the drive to war in Syria as an opportunity to demand that more taxpayer money flow into their coffers. We have seen this already with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s claim that the tiny cuts imposed by sequestration “are weakening the United States’ ability to respond effectively to a major crisis in the world.”  It will be in the Defense Department’s interest to high-ball the costs of the war.

Nevertheless, even the Defense’ Department’s claims of costs for the Syria war will likely be well below the true cost by the time the public hears them, for the Department will be restrained by the Obama Administration’s competing interest to make the war appear as cheap as possible. Fearing resistance from some taxpayers, the Administration will naturally wish to have the war appear cheap, easy, and no big deal, as regards to cost.

Indeed, John Kerry was claiming yesterday that unnamed “Arab countries” have offered to pay for the war. This claim by the Obama Administration should be seen as being on more or less the same levels as the Bush Administration’s claim in 2003 that the Iraq war and the reconstruction of the country would be paid out of Iraqi oil revenues.

Those who remember the debate of Iraq War costs a decade ago will also recall the Bush Administration’s outrage over General Eric Shinseki’s (correct) estimate that hundreds of thousands of troops would be necessary to restore peace to Iraq in …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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