Money: The costs of this war will be huge--we're talking a trillion or two by the time the last bills come in (many of these decades in the future). Last winter, the estimates said that the total cost would soon pass that of Vietnam (in adjusted dollar values). Only counting what we've spent so far, the money could have bought:
- Over 4 million housing units. (Imagine getting a free lottery tickets for yourself and each of your family members with a 1 in 100 chance of winning a free house.)
- Over 8 million school teachers for a year.
- 61.5 million children's costs to attend Head Start (Does the U.S. even have this many kids? Spread out over time, this would probably fund the program for at least a decade, don't you think?)
- Insurance for almost 30 million kids for the next ten years (In other words, we could give free health care to all kids up to a fairly advanced age for the next decade.)
- 22.5 million scholarships. (I'd estimate that everyone entering college next year, undergraduates in 4-year schools and graduate students, could be given a scholarship.)
In a clever move, the Bush administration has funded the war completely through borrowing so the problem has been passed down to our children and grandchildren to deal with. Since most Americans can't imagine time existing beyond the football game on Monday night, money probably won't be a factor unless people start making the connection between the war and their pocketbooks, which could happen if the country enters recession.
Body Bags: John Mueller, an expert on wartime public opinion, has noted (see his previous Foreign Affairs article) that the Iraq War has had abysmal support from the beginning so a much smaller number of fence sitters need to see the light for this debacle to finally be over. Mueller points out, however, that these things tend to drag on painfully for years long after the public has grown disillusioned. Disapproval of Shrub's War had reached Tet Offensive levels in early 2005; yet Congress (a new Democratic Congress!) still somehow supports this mess. Of course, there's a great deal of oil underfoot so big money is going to keep funding the politicians who support the war until the very end. The reduction in U.S. casualties will make it hard for the advocates of withdrawal to get much traction on the issue (the fence-sitters don't seem to be concerned in the least about Iraqi casualties). Barring some spectacular offensive (that the fractured Iraqi groups don't seem to be up to), I don't see withdrawal on the horizon. The U.S. political machinery is solidly in support of the war--in spite of U.S. opinion, a fact that speaks volumes about the sad state of American democracy.