The high cost of war

War is expensive. We’re engaged in two of the longest running wars in our nation’s history. To give an idea of how much our current conflicts will cost us, I’ll break down the costs of a three-year engagement: the Korean War. These figures come from a book by Richard M. Miller, Jr. titled “Funding Extended Conflicts: Korea, Vietnam, and the War on Terror.”

The reason for this is simple; we’re in the midst of an economic crisis. There is clouded judgment in Washington regarding how to get us out of our economic morass. It is a situation they created, we supported, and now both groups seem content to ubiquitously brush this budget dust bunny under the proverbial rug of rhetoric. Yet like the Pythonian rabbit of yore, this rabbit’s got fangs.

The Korean conflict began June 25, 1950 when the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea. American involvement began two days later. The Korean War Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, with the fighting ending 12 hours later. Remains of fallen soldiers are still being recovered for identification almost 60 years after fighting ceased.

The initial amount appropriated for war operations was just under $108 billion in today’s dollars. As of 2000, the cost of this conflict has exceeded $1 trillion. A three-year war has a tenfold increase in costs over the lifetime of the troops involved in the fighting. Here’s a breakdown of costs:

  •  Directly linked to Korea: $390 billion
  •  Mixed costs (Korea & the general defense buildup): $216 billion
  •  Indirect/Related Costs: $72 billion
  •  Excess Manpower: $156 billion
  •  Debt Servicing: $19 billion
  •  Veterans Compensation and Pensions: $148 billion (through 2000)

What will be the final price tag for today’s two conflicts that have already exceeded $1 trillion in costs, 18 years in combined length, and are still far from over? With the Korean figures in mind, it is foreseeable that the costs of these conflicts will easily exceed $10 trillion dollars over the lifetime of the troops currently involved in the quarrel on these two fronts. The most unsettling aspect of this is that I believe this is a conservative estimate. Our troops are serving admirably and deserve nothing less than our full support. We must honor their sacrifice.

This doesn’t take into consideration the necessary support costs of rebuilding two countries. That cost alone could easily exceed $500 billion by itself and will likely take decades to complete — decades after the echoes of the last shot fade into silence across a battle-scarred countryside.

There’s a time when war is necessary, but often war is a tool of political opportunism implemented by chicken-hawks using vacuous rhetoric that is oftentimes purposely misleading, such as an eminent threat of harm. Does this sound familiar?

Our misleaders must swim in an ocean filled with the blood of the dead and damaged, permanently staining them red. They have created a lasting legacy of blood, betrayal and fiscal incompetence. It will be a burden borne on the backs of those who have already sacrificed too much.

It is time to say enough is enough.

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