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What will this war cost?

By Alan Caruba
web posted March 17, 2003

A friend of mine raised the question, what will this war cost? He meant in pure dollars, not lives, and my reply that was that neither peace nor war is cheap. Freedom, however, is priceless.

The Pentagon spends a billion dollars a day in peacetime, so a few days or a month of war is a relatively small additional expenditure. Think about it; the troops would still exist, the ammo, the weaponry. We maintain a mighty military to be used when it is needed.

We maintain a mighty military because we live in a dangerous world, filled with nations run by despots. While democracy is spreading worldwide, there are still many nations throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia that fall short of representative government. There are nations in South America still threatened by Communism. There is still Red China, Cuba, and North Korea. There is still the Balkan tinderbox.

Americans, always reluctant to go to war, always prove themselves supremely good at it. Every enemy has deemed us weak and every one has discovered our talent for wreaking havoc. (And, yes, we have learned the lessons of Vietnam, Desert Storm, and all the beaches we ever stormed, every city in which we ever fought. We don't make the same mistakes twice.)

Every war involves casualties. Americans gave their lives in World War I leaving behind 53,513 dead. Barely a generation later, World War II cost 292,131 American lives. Over 33,667 Americans died to deter North Korean aggression in the 1950s. In Vietnam, the cost was 47,393. By contrast, the Persian Gulf War in 1991 cost 148 lives.

More than 3,000 non-combatants and Pentagon personnel died on American soil on 9-11.

Those Americans who protest war against Iraq have no idea how many of their countrymen would die if the threat of al-Qaida and the nations who support this network of terrorists are not deterred. The war has come to America and now the war has been taken to the enemy in Afghanistan. For years now, we have paid the price with American lives lost in attacks on our troops in Lebanon and Somalia, our diplomats in our embassies in African nations, and our sailors in Yemen.

This is what astonishes me about Saddam Hussein, stalemated in his eight year war with Iran and defeated in his invasion of Kuwait, or Kim Jong Il who has to be truly mad to even contemplate war with us. What level of delusion does it take to think they can take on the greatest military power in the world?

This, I think, is one of the reasons President Bush is going to war. He is not only empowered to do so. He is required to do so. He is letting the rest of the world know that he will not allow our nation to be attacked without our enemies paying a price for it. The price is called surrender. The price is to be hunted, captured or killed.

It's called change.

It's called progress.

It's called freedom.

We are the only nation on earth that goes to war for an idea called freedom. We want it for ourselves and we want it for everyone else too.

The cost? The attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is estimated to have sucked $120 billion dollars out of our economy, approximately twice the cost of the 1991 Gulf War. The attack didn't just destroy two buildings and damage a third, it played havoc with the airline industry, hotels, resorts, restaurants, rippling out to undermine the earnings of countless other elements of the economy. Right now, we are totally stagnant as investment and hiring decisions are delayed as we wait for the permission of the world to finish the job of the Gulf War.

Hell is going to come to Iraq and the hell in which Iraqis have lived for over two decades is going to end.

And, afterward, Iraqis will dance in the streets and throw flowers at their liberators.

Alan Caruba is the author of "Warning Signs", published by Merril Press. His weekly columns of the same name are posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, 2003.

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