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The Devastating Human & Economic Costs of Post-9/11 Wars

The Devastating Human & Economic Costs of Post-9/11 Wars

Context:

A new report from Brown University’s Cost of War project provides updated estimates on the devastating human and economic costs of the United State’s post 9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.   

In the News:

Human Costs:

“Brown University’s Costs of War Project this month released a new estimate of the total death toll from the U.S. wars in three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The numbers, while conservatively estimated, are staggering. Brown’s researchers estimate that at least 480,000 people have been directly killed by violence over the course of these conflicts, more than 244,000 of them civilians. In addition to those killed by direct acts violence, the number of indirect deaths — those resulting from disease, displacement, and the loss of critical infrastructure — is believed to be several times higher, running into the millions. The report, which uses data spanning from October 2001 to October 2018, compiles previous analysis from nongovernmental organizations, U.S. and foreign government data, and media reports. In a statement, the report authors said the figures still just “scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war.” Due to challenges in data collection, their total estimate is an undercount, they added. The study also focuses on only the three countries where the United States launched its so-called war on terror. If the conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, or Syria — where the U.S. has conducted major military operations in recent years — had been included, the death toll would likely be significantly higher.”

Economic Costs:

“The United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $5.9 trillion on the war on terror through Fiscal Year 2019, including direct war and war-related spending and obligations for future spending on post-9/11 war veterans. This number differs substantially from the Pentagon’s estimates of the costs of the post-9/11 wars because it includes not only war appropriations made to the Department of Defense – spending in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in other places the government designates as sites of “overseas contingency operations,” – but also includes spending across the federal government that is a consequence of these wars. Specifically, this is war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security. If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow. The Pentagon currently projects $80 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending through FY2023. Even if the wars are ended by 2023, the US would still be on track to spend an additional $808 billion (see Table 2) to total at least $6.7 trillion, not including future interest costs. Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the US immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow. Veterans benefits and disability spending, and the cost of interest on borrowing to pay for the wars, will comprise an increasingly large share of the costs of the US post-9/11 wars.”

Insight from Peace Science:

  • By highlighting civilian casualties and breaches of international law, international organizations can influence U.S. public opinion on military policies.
  • U.S. public opinion on military policy, particularly their drone program, is more influenced by international organizations citing legal principles than by their own government claiming drones are legal and effective.
  • Increased military spending leads to slower, and in some cases negative, economic growth.
  • Over a 20-year period, a 1% increase in military spending will decrease a country’s economic growth by 9%.
  • Increased military spending is especially detrimental to the economic growth of wealthier countries.

References:

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