Return on our Iraq Investment

As the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war comes and goes, the Bush administration touts the success of the “surge” in American force levels begun last year, while those opposed to the war point to a litany of failures to denounce the entire enterprise. Both the administration and presidential hopeful John McCain contend that success in Iraq will pay huge dividends for future generations. Which side is right, and how can we measure the true cost (and benefits) of our Iraq engagement?

An estimate of the Iraq War’s return on investment can measured by weighing estimates of its total cost against its current and projected future benefits. On the cost front, the most conservative measure of the cost of the war is $600 Billion, roughly the amount directly spent on the war over its first five years. The benefits of the war can be measured in terms of its effects on US national security, US political relations, US energy security, and potential social and economic benefits for Iraq.
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