As James Clyburn and Steny Hoyer slam Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) for his view that thousands of dead Americans is a small price to pay for the Iraq War, I guess the defense he's edging toward is that the monetary cost of the war in Iraq has been small. In reality, however, the monetary cost has been enormous, ranging into well over $1 trillion in the more inclusive estimates. Mark Kleiman takes a look:
If we get out of Iraq having spent less than $1 trillion (the total so far is roughly $600 billion) we ought to count ourselves lucky. Invested in long-term Treasuries, that would yield $50 billion a year. For a modest fraction of one year's interest on that endowment, we could end malaria worldwide. For another very modest fraction, we could implement the Nunn-Lugar bill to tighten up on loose nukes. A national ID system with secure documents tied to biometrics probably wouldn't cost more than few billion a year to operate. $5 billion a year — a tenth of that endowment income — would fund 100,000 Peace Corps volunteers, or just about a doubling of the National Science Foundation budget or of the budget for monitoring the nation's 4 million probationers, or the proposed expansion the S-CHIP insurance program for not-quite-poor-enough children.
And, of course, the monetary costs of plans that have us staying in Iraq for 10-15 years as stability emerges are also enormous even if they only entail 2-3 more years of us staying there at full strength.