The costs and political fallout from America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are and will continue to be enormous, somewhere between 4 and 6-trillion dollars. That could be almost as damaging to American security than if the U.S. suffered a nuclear attack.
Money, ultimately, is power. In context, it would take a nuclear strike
on the United States to inflict the kind of economic damage that the
wars have reaped. The only nations capable of inflicting such damage are
disinclined toward doing so; and no non-state actor will plausibly
obtain the capability to match such a threat. All of that damage is the
result not of what bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or the insurgencies that
began in their wake did to America, but because of how American
strategiests chose to respond. As Radiohead once sang, you do it to yourself, and that’s why it really hurts.
Linda J. Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School estimates that the wars
bin Laden provoked the U.S. into launching over the past decade have
cost “somewhere between $4 and $6 trillion.”
She reaches that staggeringly high total by calculating not just what
the U.S. spent on fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also what it will
spend on veterans’ health care and benefits; equipment refurbishment;
future commitments made to the Iraqi and Afghan governments the U.S.
sponsors; and the repayment of the debt incurred by financing the wars
through foreign borrowing. Notably, by Bilmes’ framework, the real costs of the wars will only manifest long after the troops have come home.
She’s also under-counting. The shadow wars in Yemen, Pakistan, east Africa and north-central Africa will not cost nearly as much as the Army-intensive wars of Iraq or Afghanistan. But they’ll still cost something,
either through leased infrastructure to base aircraft and
special-operations forces; political commitments to host governments; support to allied war efforts; and some personnel costs. All these wars have the same wellspring as Iraq and Afghanistan: U.S. overreaction to terrorism.
“One of the most significant challenges to future US national
security policy will not originate from any external threat,” Bilmes
writes. “Rather it is simply coping with the legacy of the conflicts we
have already fought in Iraq and Afghanistan”.
In the run-up to the invasion and conquest of Iraq, Rumsfeld's minions estimated (and budgeted) for a total cost of between $60- to 95-billion.