The War in Iraq…Is It Worth It?

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the war in Iraq is currently costing Americans nine billion dollars a month on top of the thirteen billion dollars it costs to deploy our troops about a year and a half ago. On top of that, it is going to cost five to seven billion dollars just to come home. A lot of people all over the world say we have no right or reason to be in Iraq because we can’t link Saddam Hussein to nine-eleven and we haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction. The world is looking at us like we are the biggest and meanest bully of all! Is this really worth it?
Have we forgotten what Saddam Hussein has done to us? What he has done to his neighboring countries? What he has done to his own people? (The rape rooms, tortures, massacres, and massive shallow graves.)
Our media and the other medias around the globe are constantly telling us that we are not doing any good over there and that the people in Iraq don’t even want us there. I am so tired of the liberal news we are getting because it is only telling us one side of the story and that is even skewed! They refuse to tell us about anything positive going on over there.
Since we went into Iraq, we not only removed the murdering dictator and cohorts, we have also:

Increased school attendance as much as 80% from pre war levels, some of which are girls, who are not allowed to receive an education before.

The media claimed we bombed or sabotaged power plants, but refuses to tell us that Iraq now has more electrical power than it did before the war.

Textbooks that don't mention Saddam are in the schools for the first time in 30 years.

Over 400,000 kids have up-to-date immunizations.

Over 1,500 schools have been renovated and rid of the weapons stored there so education can occur.

The port of Uhm Qasar was renovated so grain can be off-loaded from ships faster.

The country had its first 2 billion barrel export of oil in August.

Over 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for the first time ever in Iraq.

100% of the hospitals are open and fully staffed, compared to 35% before the war.

Elections are taking place in every major city, and city councils are in place.

Sewer and water lines are installed in every major city.

Over 60,000 police are patrolling the streets.

Over 100,000 Iraqi civil defense police are securing the country.

Over 80,000 Iraqi soldiers are patrolling the streets side by side with US soldiers.

Over 400,000 people have telephones for the first time ever.

Students are taught field sanitation and hand washing techniques to prevent the spread of germs.

An interim constitution has been signed

Saddam Hussein could have done all of these things and more, had he not been too busy building his palaces, murdering thousands of people, and communicating with leaders of Al-Qaeda. We are in Iraq for a reason and that reason is so that we can give Iraq back to the people and allow them to enjoy the economic prosperity that we enjoy here in the United States. If we have to fork out a few billion dollars causing us to pay more in taxes, I say it is well worth the money. We are not only helping those who are less fortunate than us, we are making the world a safer place for everyone and greatly reducing our chances of another attack on our homeland.


Lizzie said...

There is no question in my mind that the USA is doing a great service over in Iraq. We are very spoiled in this country with the freedoms and rights that we enjoy for the mere fact of being born in this great land. Last semester we watched a movie clip called “Greed” by the producers of 20/20, everybody agreed that the rich people should give a little of what they have to the less fortunate/ poor. Nobody was asking them to give up all of their money. My point is that we are a very rich (both in material wealth and freedoms) and why not share a little with a country that doesn’t have as much as we have? Even the poor people in this country are a lot better off than a lot of people in other countries, so paying a little extra in taxes to help out another human being is not asking too much of you. I believe our tax money comes back to each of us ten-fold. Just look around you.

Anonymous said...

"and communicating with leaders of Al-Qaeda"

Government's propaganda does not have its place on an economic weblog.

An european reader.

Dr. Tufte said...

Before even commenting on this post, let me tell you that there is an active blog community in Iraq, of both Iraqi citizens and U.S. soldiers. A good one to check out is Hammorabi, which links to many others. Perhaps we all ought to go and read about what Iraqi's say about the situation before passing judgement.

Now then. Hmmm. I'm inclined to agree that this doesn't belong in an economics class blog, but part of blogging is talking about the issues that people think are important (so I won't take off any points).

What is really going on in this post is a cost-benefit analysis. The costs are pretty well known, the benefits less so. But here is an alternative way of looking at it. There is a concept in risk analysis called statistical murder. It is the idea that a human life is worth about $10 million (that's a ballpark figure that is debatable, but let's run with it anyways), and if you are going to spend a certain amount to save lives that should be the figure you should use. So, if we are spending $9billion/per month, that is equivalent to $9,000million/per month. Dividing that by $10million per life, and we get a figure of 900 lives per month. So, the question is, the coalition efforts are costing 900 lives plus all the deaths on the ground each month. Would Hussein have killed more? There seems to be an awful lot of evidence that the answer is yes. This makes our intervention beneficial on cost-benefit grounds, without even considering all of the items listed in Micah's post.

As to the communication with Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorists, keep in mind that most of this information is coming from the intelligence services of other governments, and that they are not backing off of those allegations. Those countries trust their own intelligence services more than they trust the U.S. media or government officials.

micahnay said...

The following is a letter from Sarmad Faraj, an Iraqi citizen. It is long, but good. It gives us a good idea of how these people feel about us being in Iraq.
It seems like yesterday, can we list together what was good and bad in this decision? I mean the decision of war.

No one likes wars, and no one suffered as we did, from wars. I will speak the part which is related with Iraq as an Iraqi, and you can speak on behalf of yourself. Let me start with me, one year ago: an Iraqi person.

Life :(yes, I am a life:)
a body walking. Don't think. Don't feel. Don't see. Don't hear.
Just living. Live until my expiration day,

Who am I? Where am I? Why me?
Many questions, but no answers,
The same dark tone,

Then, "48 hours"--- the time offered for saddam and his two sons to leave Iraq. This was the first shock to our live bodies and dead minds, but it wasn't enough to bring us life, the whole world hoped that saddam will take the right decision, That's what the world hoped, but who knows? This man knows how much he loves war and fighting. It was his favorite hobby.

The operation starts, can this operation bring us life? This war was the fastest war in history. Also the cleanest war: 21 days, and the marines are in Baghdad. Now, one believes. Look at how all these armies just collapsed. We look about us, and think "Where did they go? Where is the nightmare which we used to see all the time? Where are our jailers? Where are our life-stealers?"

It's the 9th of April, It's a historical moment when we see the statue of saddam falling down: the statue of fear and anger, and punishment, is falling down!
I am alive now! I can feel!
I cried when I saw those historical moments,
I can see, I see all that fear collapsing,
I can hear, I hear the voice of joy and happiness,
I am back to life!

One year has passed, what did this war offer to us? For the first time, war offered something good. This war, which is, to me, as to many Iraqis (and not all) is a liberation. It's a victory of good over evil.

I will be exaggerating if I say the whole issue was related with, or because of, just one person. That means that we didn't understand any of what was happening. Yes, saddam was responsible for a large part of what was happening, but here were also people who assisted him and were helping him. Also, there was the perfect environment and circumstances for him to do so, from one side.

From the other side, there was the part which was related to us, the people of Iraq. We didn't do anything to help ourselves, we were only thinking of ourselves, concerned for "only me"... But, to be HONEST with you, I was always blaming the regime and his wrong way of dealing with things, and we are getting the results of all those years of the wrong way of living, and it will take a long time before we can understand and realize the meaning, of many things. Words, and feelings, and much else.

"Democracy is a behavior."
We can't sell it or export it. We must learn it and live with it and feel it, I lived all my life away from something called democracy, and I may be one of many people who didn't feel this gift. I lived a life that was full of pain and suffering and fear. A world full of wars and violence. I didn't know peace, and I learned that wars never bring peace, violence never brings anything but being only more violent, and hate brings hate.

To me, this war has good sides, but it also has side effects. Let me begin with good things: The 9th of April is my birthday, or like rising from a grave, back to life. I can't describe it. It's a mix of feelings, as it is to many other people (...and not all). I was born, and I am one year old, I am learning as a child is learning, discovering a new, different world. I try to walk, I am armed with "hope." A very interesting feeling! I have hope, I am looking forward, I've got my dignity. I can say yes; I can say no. The important issue is, I am "free". Maybe all these words are just a madman's dreams, kept inside him, and it came out as a reaction, but these wishes and dreams could be our solid, basic future. These were some of good achievements, to me, and others, of example.

But there are also bad things. My land is now the place for terrorists to fight the coalition, since here they are able to attack their number one enemy.

Trying hard to make their own space, many people are now without jobs--and they've got families. They want them to live with at least a minimum of earning a living , and more people are asking "when will the operation of rebuilding Iraq start? The 9th of April is in the past, it was a year ago! What have we got for the future? Why is this process delaying?"

Security, they told me. There is no place secure in this world! The example is Madrid. And after all, north and south Iraq are some kind of secure, why, then?

Maybe it is us, who are very much in a hurry to do everything we lost. To be fair, on the other side, the soldiers also are in a difficult situation. They are in a new spot of the world, with a completely different environment. Everything's different, and they've got to learn many things so they can communicate with the NATIVES. It's hard work, and the Iraqis themselves can't accept this, which makes a glass wall between the two sides. And as I saw, many of those solders want to get back home to their families, to home sweet home, and they wouldn't do all this, and go through such a horrible time, if they didn't believe and love their country.

I hope that gives you some idea about how we feel, after one year. And can we, as Iraqis, know how you feel?

On another subject:
We have also our temporary constitution, I am very proud with how it came out, There are a lot of bright sides in it, although the items in it are not the problem, but the application of these items correctly.

I was in college when they told me that we were having demonstrations, I asked them, "about what?"
They told me, “about our new constitution.”
There was about 50 students demonstrating, I have had the chance to talk with some of them and I will show you the view as it is:

I asked them, "why you are demonstrating?"
They said ,"the new constitution."

I said, "what about it?"
They say, "It's not good."

I said, "How many of you read it?"
They told me, "We all read it,"

I said, "Which part didn't you like about it?"
They say, "The whole constitution."

I realized then, that many, if not all of them, didn't read it. This was obvious when I asked them "What was the first item in the constitution?"

This move shows that people didn't change in between night and day. They told me that the "mrjaya the spiritual leader" didn't agree on the constitution.

I told them "what about your self and your character?"
They told me "that he knows more than us and they can take the right

I asked them "Can't you decide what's good or bad for yourself?"
They couldn't answer.

I am aware that the regional, religionist side is taken over. I am not afraid of that issue if there is law and a good constitution, which shows the right way. I mean, simply, that if I elected someone to be president or prime Minister or what ever, if I didn't see him enact the reasons which moved me to elect him, I won't do it next time. Therefore, we must have a powerful constitution, but I am afraid that someone will take over again, and steal all our wishes and dreams-- and your hard work in helping us will be lost......
[For that reason] maybe the whole war issue *was* wrong-- but you start anyway, You cant
stop now, free Democracy in Iraq is better for all.

Sarmad Faraj,
Baghdad, Iraq

Anonymous said...

Dr. Tufte, my remark was just about the precise sentence I quoted, not the whole post.

Of course, the Iraq issue has its place in this blog !

The european reader

Kid said...

The rest of the world may not feel that we belong in Iraq, but they also weren’t the ones who had several plans hijacked and flown into places where thousands of their citizens were carrying on a normal days work. It may have not been Iraq directly that caused the attacks but we must now watch our backs and take care of our self. We cannot allow another September 11th to happen.
Are we really just watching out for our self or trying to give the people of Iraq a better chance in life? It seems to me that we are increasing the standard of living for the Iraqi people. By allowing the people to have a better chance at an education (human capital), as was mentioned in the blog, will cause people to be more productive.
Innocent people may have been hurt by our attacks on them but at least we are trying to help bust their economy by leaving newer technology and innovation with them. We could leave them devastated like Germany was left after both the World Wars.
It seems to me that when the rest of the world was being attacked and their standard of living was being threatened they wanted the Americans to come in and save them. Both World Wars were won because the Americans allied with the weaker party. Now our standard of living is being challenged and everyone thinks we should just blow it off like it’s no big deal. Well the truth is that if we do just blow it off it will happen again and again. Then who will run to the rescue of those other countries, which think we’ve stepped out of line, when they are the ones being attacked.

Anonymous said...

«It may have not been Iraq directly that caused the attacks»

IT IS NOT Iraq, neither directly nor indirectly. It seems you have no knowledge of the ideology of the former Iraq's dictatorship. Is there a brainwashing process in the US ?

The european reader

Dr. Tufte said...

I can assure Anonymous that there is no brainwashing process in the U.S.

If anything, the majority of what we hear through our media is very similar to the French/German view of the issues. I would even go so far as to say that what you hear in Europe about public perceptions in the U.S. probably overstates the anti-Bush/Iraq sentiment here.

One caveat to keep in mind that we are located in a conservative/Republican oriented state, so the students will reflect that.

So, where does this pro-Bush/Iraq sentiment come from? Hmmm. Are you Jeffersonian and regard the thinking of the public to be fundamentally smart (as in Surowiecki) or alternatively is the public collectively dumb (as in MacKay)? Personally, I think that Iraq is a polarizing issue, such that anyone's views about the situation there say more about how they view the world than about what the facts are on the ground.

Rolf Tiblin said...

It is a shame that that Micahnay’s blog has become more of a political forum than an economics one. Dr. Tufte has managed to keep the tone of the comments within the objective of the class.
There are many different econmic forces involved with this war. There are also many econmic outcomes that can be affected by this war. This is why there are so many different groups trying to gain control of the leadership of Iraq. The most important outcome that I believe the world would like to see is a stable and prosperous economy for the citizens of Iraq. Iraq has a resource that the world relies on, oil. Until the world can reduce its dependency on oil, free markets will be able to capitalize from their supply of this high demand good. Up until now only a few people have benfitted from Iraqhaving a valuable resource that the world depends on (many countries have this same problem). Now that Iraq is in a rebuilding process it only seems logical that the world allow and encourage every citizen to benefit from an economic market that promotes growth and prosperity for all.
Clearly history has proven the benefits of a capitalist society in relation to others that oppress individuals and are controlled by a centralized command.
Only looking back from the future will allow economists to determine whether the economic decisions of today have worked for this fragile economic society.
Whether the war was right or wrong is almost irrelevant now. The question now becomes, can free Iraqi’s make the most of the opportunity they’ve been given to better themselves and their economy.

kavindavis said...

To me this is a touchy topick. I was activated to go to Iraq, and we helped the people over there alot. I have a lot of comments on this, but to look at it as a macro idea, we need to compare Iraq to being maybe a possible Germany. I've always personaly felt that we could help Iraq to become the big brother of the middle east, and what big brother does maybe the rest will follow.

Anonymous said...

"It is a shame that that Micahnay’s blog has become more of a political forum than an economics one"

When someone lies, it's not "political", but just a lie.

Dr. Tufte said...

Spelling mistakes in Rolf Tiblin's and Kavindavis' comments.

Frankly .... I'm glad this post has quieted down a bit.