Saturday, September 25, 2004

Cost-Benefit of Iraq

One side of all the analysis I have not heard much about is a cost-benefit analysis of the war in Iraq.

So first let's think about the goals of the action:
1. Get rid of a very bad man.
2. Make the world safer for America and Americans by a. removing weapons of mass destruction and b. removing Iraq's financing of terrorism.
3. Help secure a source of oil?
4. Send a message to the terrorists.

So of those reasons, which of them would have a direct benefit to the US? Make the world safer and help secure a source of oil would certainly have a benefits. Knocking a bad guy out of office is less clear. Sending a message to the terrorists would also be a good thing.

So, if those are in fact true, what would be the value of those? If in fact Iraq had had WMDs, what was the danger to the US? Saddam certainly did not have the means to deliver significant WMDs to the US, so that has very limited direct value. Iraq appears to have been a relatively minor player in world terrorism, so that doesn't seem like a strong value.

The oil side was never really an issue and actions have demonstrated that. Iraq has large reserves and even more waiting to be discovered, but it will be years before that can be tapped to its potential and that supply would be no more secure than any other.

Finally, concerning the message to the terrorists. I'm afraid that the only message we have sent is that we are big and can beat up any country in a frontal war. We have taught them that covert and terrorist means are their best bet and that we are not particularly interested in diplomacy.

So all I can think s that we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars for no particular reason.


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