Mark Kleiman, who supported the

Mark Kleiman, who supported the invasion of Iraq, today tries to put the costs of the operation in perspective, and his conclusions are depressing:

The Pentagon says the occupation of Iraq is going to cost about $50 billion per year, indefinitely. That’s not counting reconstruction costs. Keeping Afghanistan safe for its warlords is now costing about $10 billion per year. Can you imagine how much safer a world we’d have today if we’d been willing to spend half that much on rebuilding the fragments of the Soviet Empire in the years just after 1989? Or how much a tenth of that, well spent, could do for human and economic development in Africa? Or how big a horselaugh you would get if you proposed spending anything like those sums on an activity that didn’t also include killing people?

Everything about Iraq right now looks like a quagmire: the US is bleeding, in terms of both money and soldiers, the Iraqi public appears to have lost its enthusiasm of just a few weeks ago and the president is bogged down in scandals of his own making, the yellowcake uranium story dominating the news. Here in Asia it is hard to tell how people in the US feel right now. If what I’m hearing in the media is any indication, it looks like the whole thing is about to blow up in Bush’s face. Watching him squirm on CNN over the uranium scandal, it struck me just how shallow, and just how arrogant he really is, placing himself above the truth and above scrutiny in the wake of a duplicity that make Clinton look like an altar boy. The smugness he displayed was truly revolting. If it continues like this, he just may dig his own grave and give the Democrats a crack at winning, something that seemed literally inconceivable just eight weeks ago.

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