I found this on Robert Sharp's blog:
Since the The Independent newspaper today asks what happened to the $1bn Iraqi defence budget, it seems a good time to mention some research by an old lecturer of mine, Professor Keith Hartley. Professor Hartley estimates that the total cost of the war in Iraq will be US$1.25 trillion. This bill will be picked up by the US and UK taxpayers, and the new Iraqi state. “If, at the outset, the Americans anticipated the Iraq operation would cost $100 billion, they could have given Saddam Hussein and his family $20 billion to go, $50 billion to Iraq and still have had $30 billion left over. The UK would not have been involved, no-one would have died and no buildings would have been destroyed.
What Robert fails to mention is that this wouldn't have accomplished the same objectives. (Halliburton, as just one example, wouldn't have gotten any war booty and Shrub's cronies would all have been irritated enough to get a different puppet to do their bidding come election time.)
Even so, I find this sort of thought experiment useful. One blogger points out the obvious fact that in Vietnam: "We speculated that, considering the great number of rounds we fired, the United States could easily have instead built each Vietnamese a beautiful suburban house complete with swimming pool instead of spending the money trying to kill them."
Let's think about this for a second. What if the U.S. had told the Vietnamese they could choose any system they chose. They simply wanted to create a wonderful first-world infrastructure for the country. Can anyone imagine the Vietnamese remaining anti-American or allying themselves with our then-enemies? But instead, we dropped more bombs on this tiny country than we did in all of WWII, killing off a significant portion of the entire population while leaving behind a legacy of Agent Orange and deformed children.
If a trillion will be spent in Iraq (and this probably doesn't even begin to take into account the money lost to the U.S. economy due to National Guard mobilizations and other factors), you'd think there'd be some bright and shiny new country being built up with Iraqis tossing flowers on every American walking by. This ain't happening? Evidently, the money's being spent on guns, not butter.