From the Things We Can't Afford File

Via Brad Plumer, a new report which indicates "Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends."

It's worth noting, however, that we obviously have a great deal of control over forward-looking spending. If you believe that General Petraeus is succeeding in Iraq, then you owe it to yourself and to the country to understand General Petraeus' vision of success "Northern Ireland, I think, taught you that very well. My counterparts in your [British] forces really understand this kind of operation... It took a long time, decades." That would obviously be a costly undertaking.

From the point of view of U.S. and global interest, one has to ask oneself if decades -- or according to a more optimistic later Petraeus quote, as few as one decade -- of further war, with future costsly likely exceeding the sums already spent, is really the best use of American resources. I don't think the claim that it is stands up to any kind of cursory scrutiny. There's a time-honored principle of budget politics which holds that defense spending isn't really spending, but in fact it really is spending and there's no prospect of getting a reasonable return on an open-ended commitment to Iraq.