By Jerry Bowyer
Critics of the war in Iraq often complain about the “escalating cost of the war.” Listening to them, you’d never know that the war is one of the least expensive in American history.
Robert Whaples, professor of economics at Wake Forest University, has measured the cost of each major American war up through the first Gulf War. We took these costs and compared them to the cost of the Iraq war and found that the Iraq experience has consumed a smaller percentage of GDP (just 2 percent of one year’s wealth creation) than every other American war except the first Gulf War (which measured just 1 percent of GDP).
This stands in stark contrast to the Vietnam experience, which opponents have often attempted to liken to the Iraq war. Vietnam comprised a much heartier 12 percent of GDP at the time. Other conflicts, such as World War II, took a remarkable 130 percent of a year’s GDP to see through to success.
The work is not done in Iraq, and the financial costs will grow beyond the $251 billion we have spent so far. The real cost, of course, is in human lives, manifested in the debate about whether it is worth losing a few thousand American lives in order to liberate 23 million people. But the data are clear; any attempt to discredit this war based on its effect on the U.S. economy is an unnecessary distraction.