How it could have been done if the preachers of the free market had stuck to their principles instead of launching a moronic war

[Originally posted here.]

In my post a moment ago I mentioned how I’d once heard that, for the money the US spent on the war in Vietnam, we could have paid for the installation of an in-ground swimming pool for each and every Vietnamese family instead. What a great way to win the hearts and minds of our enemies, eh? So I decided to try out the math for this stupid, awful, and infuriating Iraq war. What if we had tried to bribe the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein and install a working democracy instead of imposing these things (rather: trying futilely to do so) by force?

Cost of war to US taxpayers as of March 28, 2008: a bit over $506,359,000,000. Source.

Population of Iraq in July 2008, according to the CIA World Factbook: 27,499,638.

I threw in 2,000,000 extra people to account for the dead and refugees, so the numbers below are based on an estimated population 29.5 million people.

Cost per Iraqi (each man, woman, and child) paid so far by US taxpayers on the war: $17,767.21.

First of all, what if we’d just offered Saddam Hussein and his top leadership only, say, half the total that we’ve spent”“roughly $253 billion”“to leave Iraq and go live in the Bahamas? Well, if he’d refused but the so-called free market loving leadership in the US had pursued this market line of thinking, we could have had Hussein overthrown”“without the loss of a single American life”“by offering each man, woman, and child in Iraq any of the following.

There you have it. The Iraqi people could have had a Saddam Hussein-free Iraq and eaten their apple pie, too. But that’s not the way we did it, because, as usual, the American government tried to do it on the cheap. Haven’t any of these people heard “penny wise, pound foolish” before? And now Bush/Cheney and McCain have got their sights set on going double-or-nothing broke in Iran as well. Will you buy that?


  • Another thing to take note of is that Iraq’s GNP per capita in 2001 was about $2300. So, for the cost of the war we could have hired each and every citizen of Iraq and paid them twice the mean income per year for almost four years to build their own hospitals, schools, mosques, roads, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. They’d have to bear the costs of the materials and equipment themselves, but of course they could take a page out of the US playbook and borrow against the future tax revenues of an economy that’s instantly twice as big!

  • Yes well, I’ve done similar kinds of back-of-the-envelope sums many times in the past for all sorts of things, including wars.

    And come to pretty similar conclusions, as in, why not bomb them with happiness?

    Problem I guess, is that for newspapers ‘good news is bad news; bad news is good news’ in terms of copy sales and dramatic headlines that is.

    So long as teen-level testosterone rules (and it’s not going to stop anytime soon) we’re truly stuffed. And of course let’s not roll in too much liberal guilt here, because you can say the same thing of al-Quaeda & Co ““- why not build a sand castle instead of knocking it down?

    But congrats anyway for posting your conclusions. Maybe there’s a way we could sow a commonsense-and-kindness gene — just keep on posting I guess!

    Best wishes from a UK hilltop.

  • I’ve said the same thing from the beginning.

    If we dropped air conditioners and fridges with big american flag stickers on them instead of bombs we could have saved a lot of money.

    It is amazing that destruction is so expensive. and that the Bush administration is so moronic.

  • Well Duh! If we had done that, how would all of W’s buddies lined their pockets? People think W is stupid – he is one of the most successful criminals of all time!