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Customer Review

162 of 170 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, Yet Credible and Comprehensible!, March 4, 2008
This review is from: The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict (Hardcover)
Three trillion dollars for the war in Iraq is an incredible amount, almost beyond comprehension, and certainly far beyond the figures provided by the Bush administration. Yet this total is made both credible and comprehensible through the documentation of Joseph Stiglitz (2001 Nobel Prize-winner in economics, and Professor at Columbia) and Linda Bilmes, Harvard University expert on public policy and finance.

Compelling alternative uses for the money are numerous. For example, we could have put Social Security on sound financial footing for a fraction of that cost, and avoided the nearly 4,000 American deaths (plus $500,000/death benefits) and 100,000 estimated Iraqi deaths - plus an untold number of seriously wounded and their long-term disability and health costs. (Stiglitz found that 40% of Gulf War troops were declared disabled, and that was only a one month war; he sees Pentagon estimates of Gulf War II wounded and disabled as grossly understated, and documents that conclusion. Another key point - peak disability expenditures for WWII veterans did not occur until 1993; thus this war will affect spending decades into the future.) Alternatively, America's trillion dollar+ infrastructure needs could be met with only half that expense.

Other costs include skyrocketing re-enlistment bonuses (up to $150,000 - their alternative is personal safety or much higher-paid private security work), the extra costs of using reserve and guard troops, up to $1,222/day for private security guards to replace servicemen paid less than one-sixth that, lost billions to reconstruct Iraq and spent in non-competitive bidding, and massive equipment replacement costs.

Then there are the opportunity costs associated with spending the money overseas, with no return to the American economy, increased pressure on the dollar, and the likely increased cost of oil. Finally, what about the interest costs of financing this war with debt, and our increased reliance on foreign nations holding that debt?

Supposedly this war is being fought to promote democracy. Yet, as Stiglitz points out, it is being mostly sold and funded through hiding the costs from the public. Continuing our presence in Iraq may, with interest, raise the total to $6-7 trillion. Meanwhile, bin Laden roams free, and even more Islamicists hate us.

"The Three Trillion Dollar War" is MUST reading.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 19, 2008 6:14:54 AM PDT
K. Nieves says:
The author's name is Stiglitz.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2008 1:47:01 PM PDT
George Bush says:
Thanks and apologies - corrected.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2008 3:25:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 2, 2008 3:26:39 PM PDT
John says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2008 10:11:17 AM PDT
Yoda says:

The maintenance of the force level required to contain Sadam is nowhere close to that required to administer and occupay Iraq. Even The Economist article you cite states that. The Economist article only stated that Stiglitz did not take into account the opportunity cost of maintaining the "containment".

Posted on Sep 15, 2008 4:28:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 15, 2008 4:57:47 PM PDT
those sloppy nobel prize winners from harvard and columbia do not produce a full discussion of opportunity costs. you're right that a comprehensive analysis of opportunity costs of our not being in iraq was not presented and ought to have been! our toppling of saddam, nasty dictator that he was who tried to "hurt my daddy" (GHWB), he kept the peace, which, the usa and soon iraq by itself, will not be able to do. we've provided the opportunity for tens of thousands of potential terrorists to develop the passion and skills to terrorize us and who, when opportunities are voided in iraq, will find gazillions of dollars / gold from wealth oil-producing states to live and think creatively about western destruction. we've provided the powder keg, 3 sects of islamists who will attempt to destroy one another and us and israel while they're at it. the us presence has actually resulted, at least in afghanistan, in something like an 8000% increase in the production of opium poppies!!! that means that for afghanistani farmers, they'll be paid more than, i think $8 billion dollars more than if they'd grown wheat. i didn't see the opportunity costs of having kept the taliban in power, provided them with fiscal incentives AND not bombs, so that the taliban would continue its policy of discouraging opium production - what's the cost to the usa and its insurance companies and treatment centers for opium addicts to use, steal, rob ... in order to gain means to purchase the opium? we can go on for days, i bet, you and me and the economist writers and the nobel-winner ivy league economists ... we can all talk in circles until we get dizzy and faint. i haven't seen a logical, comprehensive, ethical approach to cost or expense analysis. i'll tell you one thing, for every $3 trillion that the authors identified as costs to the us, i can come up with $3 billion more in such costs OR i can come up with $6 billion in opportunity costs of doing it (AND, remember, that we need to include indirect opportunity costs of the war). just to agree with you, gadz, after all that, it's not likely that the actual costs would approach $3 trillion. it will be the most expensive war in the history of the world, i bet, even when adjusted for inflation ...

those pesky opportunity costs that no one can ever agree on - i might choose to not eat a can of tomato soup for lunch, but, then i'd be at 4.8% greater risk of having a heart attack that, where i live, bypass surgery is $120,000 and the actual (not proportionately relative) is 0.0014%. there'd also be disability and recovery costs of, on average, $40,000, bringing the opportunity cost of not eating tomato soup near $224. of course, the 8 economists in the next group will argue that it is more or less, depending not on facts but political philosophy. of course, not eating the tomato soup at lunch, so that i can go swimming, results in pool membership expenses, reduced likelihood of needing an antidepressant or committing suicide or having depression-related sick days, reduced likelihood of divorce and associated costs, but a lengthier life that reduces annualized life insurance costs but also increases annualized health insurance, but, then again, i use 0.2 gallons of gasoline per trip which is 73 gallons a year or, here, $280 a year, so, i proffer $224 as the opportunity cost of skipping my can of tomato soup this afternoon. (i guess eating 2 quarter-pounders with cheese will make up for it, right? again, there are so many unforeseen opportunity costs that i just can't see around the, gulp, quarter pounders!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 16, 2008 9:29:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 16, 2008 9:31:11 PM PDT
Oh I agree with you! Saddam was the ONLY one that could keep the peace there. And the stupid "texan",
Bushie..."He tried to kill my daddy"...typical Texan...I can say that...I know...I'm a southerner!
Anyway, revenge...@ a HUGE cost!!! Didn't any of these "so called" the "White House" understand
the COSTS...let alone the "HISTORY" of the region????????
We should have befriended Saddam...kept him "on the payroll" so to speak...kept him and his "sons" with all
the "dancing girls" they wanted...STAYED in Afganistan...BUT TOO LATE NOW!!!!!!
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$GONE!!! and we taxpayers are the LOSERS!!!!!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 29, 2008 9:27:01 PM PDT
Yoda says:
Tech Holler:

Was not Saddam a good friend of the U.S. in the past? Who could forget that picture of Rumsfeld and Saddam hugging in Bagdad!!

Posted on Jan 21, 2011 5:58:31 AM PST
Outstanding review, Loyd. I'm reading the book now.
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