NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Costs and Benefits of Iraq War

April 4, 2003

Many economists have been trying to put a price tag on the war in Iraq. Estimates so far range from $44 billion to almost $2 trillion -- depending on its length and many other variables.

But some analysts have begun pointing out that the war may have certain benefits, which must also be considered -- including the fact that doing nothing to oust Saddam would also carry costs.

Here are a few of the benefits being discussed:

  • The largest benefit, a more stable Middle East, is huge but unquantifiable.
  • When postwar oil markets stabilize, the price of oil could drop back to around $20 a barrel -- saving the U.S. economy $55 billion to $60 billion a year.
  • Economists at the University of Chicago's business school point out that the alternative to war would be containment of Saddam -- and that would carry a price far in excessive of the current conflict.
  • They figure that if the United States followed a policy of containment for 33 years, the cost would be $380 billion.

Adding in homeland security costs over that period would bring the total to $630 billion.

Source: Editorial, "War, What Is It Good For?" Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2003.

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