30 January 2006

What could you do with Two Hundred and Fifty Billion Dollars?

Over on the right hand side of my blog, you can see a handy little counter that I found which estimates the cost of the war in Iraq, based on Congressional Appropriations. It is set to hit $250 billion in March 2006. It is really quite staggering to think about why that money was spent, and what else it could have been used for.

First, let's address why the money is being spent. The honest answer, of course, is that the war is about oil. Not only does Iraq produce tons of the stuff (or at least it did before the US bombed it flat), Saddam Hussein was in a position to threaten oil shipments throughout the Persian Gulf. The calculation went something like this: a significant disruption of oil supplies would mortally wound the US economy. As a result, removing Saddam from power was deemed to be worth the political and economic cost of removing him from power. Other explanations (weapons of mass destruction, building democracy, etc.) are convenient, but frankly, they are a load of horse manure.

Let us assume for a moment that Saddam's threat was real. The unsophisticated response is what we have seen: utilize the power of the military to secure the Persian Gulf. The more nuanced response would have been to seize the moment and launch a massive project to develop alternative energy sources. Imagine what $250B would buy in terms of research and development. Not only would the money have provided the only realistic opportunity to identify alternative energy sources that might come on line as cheap oil became a distant memory, but it also would have provided a much needed boost to the US economy.

Yes, that's right, the same US economy that the Bush gang invaded Iraq to defend. Two hundred and fifty billion dollars later, and what do we have to show for it?

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