The Cost of War

Good column from Bob Herbert on Iraq's hefty price tag and, of course, there's Stiglitz's book as well. If you look at something like the economic problems in Ohio right now and consider how much better that situation would look had that kind of money been invested in productive infrastructure in the US, it's pretty infuriating. Spent directly, that money would have meant jobs. But spent on something more useful than a fruitless occupation of Iraq, it would have laid the groundwork for continued prosperity. Now at best it's down the drain.

This reminds me of something John Brennan, formerly of the CIA then director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and then the National Counterterrorism Center until retiring in 2005, said on Sunday, namely that in contrast to John McCain, Barack Obama "understands the direct correlation between tremendous expenditures of blood and treasury in Iraq and the US economy." Brennan points out that "al-Qaeda strategy has been to bleed the US into bankruptcy" and thus to do as McCain proposes and "continue with the same approach will have severe consequences for U.S. national security." Obviously this came out in the midst of a primary campaign, but it's hardly an Obama-specific point; rather it's one anti-war candidates of any stripe can (and should) make.

Few people seem to appreciate it, but it's quite literally true that al-Qaeda's strategy is to cripple the U.S. economy by dragging us into quagmires abroad. Osama bin Laden himself has said this, and it's the only strategy that makes sense. A smallish number of people with no base of resources can't possibly defeat us unless we shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly as Bush and McCain propose.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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