Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"The Sinews of War...

Still the cheapest element in modern warfare

... are infinite money," said Cicero. And time hasn't proved him wrong.

A few weeks ago I came up with a figure of over $2,800 a second for the cost of modern warfare. It was a rough calculation based on data published by the US government on its war expenditure in Iraq to date, divided by the number of days since the US invasion in March 2003. I said it was rough.

A far more sophisticated estimate, including many other costs, can be found in Joseph Stiglitz's and Linda Bilmes's new book The Three Trillion Dollar War. I haven't, and won't have time to read it, so this book review by Sam Leith for the Daily Telegraph is useful.

The sentence that caught my eye was this one:

The operating costs of the war in Iraq are now $12.5 billion a month; which rises to $16 billion if you include Afghanistan.

By my arithmetic that works out at $4,760 per second. No wonder then that a committee of British MPs has just announced that it expects the costs of Britain's engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan to double.

The question is how long the British taxpayer will indulge this level of expenditure (and lack of evidence of results) - particularly as the UK's economic prospects worsen.

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