If Iraq becomes West Germany

Some people have argued that the occupation of Iraq could evolve into a West Germany type situation. CBO has assessed the costs of this eventuality.

From The Possible Costs to the United States of Maintaining a Long-Term Military Presence in Iraq (September 20, 2007):

If U.S. military operations in Iraq were to develop into a long-term presence, such
forces could differ substantially from those assumed in either of the scenarios
used in this analysis. Moreover, the two scenarios are not mutually exclusive over
time: The more intensive pace of combat operations could give way to the slower
pace of noncombat operations over some number of years. In any event, the
ultimate costs of any long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq would depend
heavily on the scale and pace of future operations.

Under the combat scenario that CBO considered, the United States would
maintain a long-term presence of approximately 55,000 military personnel in Iraq,
deploying military units and their associated personnel there for specific periods
and then returning them to their permanent bases either in the United States or
overseas. The scenario also incorporates the assumption that units deployed to
Iraq would operate at the same pace and conduct the same types of missions as the
forces currently deployed there. In CBO’s estimation, this scenario could have
one-time costs of $4 billion to $8 billion and annual costs of approximately
$25 billion. (All costs in this analysis are expressed as 2008 dollars; see Table 1.)

Under the noncombat scenario that CBO analyzed, the United States would
maintain a long-term presence of approximately 55,000 military personnel in Iraq
by indefinitely stationing specific units at established bases there in a manner
similar to the current practice of assigning personnel to units based in Korea or
Germany. The scenario incorporates the assumption of much less intense military
operations than those under the combat scenario. Under this noncombat
alternative, units stationed in Iraq would rarely, if ever, be engaged in combat
operations. Up-front costs (mainly for construction) under the noncombat scenario
would be approximately $8 billion, with annual costs of $10 billion or less, CBO

These points are illustrated by Table 1.


So one’s views of the costs of staying in Iraq depend upon whether one believes that one has a continuation of the current situation (albeit with lower US troop levels) or a transformation of the theater to West Germany like conditions. Assuming a social discount rate of 3%, the present discounted value of expenditures (in 2008$) is between 339 billion and 841 billion, on top of the 450 billion current dollars expended already. And in addition to the 27 to 40 billion (2010$) associated with VA costs (Iraq plus Afghanistan).

By the way, these are the direct fiscal costs. As an economist, I have to observe that there is an opportunity cost associated with having 55,000 troops mired in Iraq indefinitely.

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16 thoughts on “If Iraq becomes West Germany

  1. NoFate

    Are we an empire or not? That should be the question here IMO.

    Personally I think the US is REALLY good at killing people …and I mean that in a good way. We took Baghdad in a couple of weeks if I remember correctly.

    Our MO should not be occupation …it should be reverse-terror. Watch what’s going on from Satellite, spy planes, drones, etc. and just take them out. Let everyone know that if we see terrorists in their country we are going to take them out …period. Let these %^$##% wonder if their life will end every time they turn a corner or go to sleep at night.

    Occupation is always the downfall of empires though. They get spread too thin and they spend too much of their treasure. It’s just not cost effective …especially with today’s technology.

  2. General Specific

    I’m with NoFate. I think our occupation of Europe and Asia after WWII need not be the model for Iraq. Unlike WWII, the US can project force anywhere in the world. No other country can do that. So unless a country spills past its borders, like Iraq in the first Gulf War, I’m not sure we need to be occupiers.
    With the money wasted on Iraq, we probably could have built several more carrier groups, balistic/cruise missile submarines, and a few more satellites to improve intelligence further.
    The US has had complications due to force projection, e.g. the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy, the accidental downing of an Iranian airliner, etc. These are the down side of force projection, but we survive them and I think–eventually–minds and hearts move on.
    I think Iraq is going to leave an enormous stain on our reputation.

  3. Charles

    A West Germany… as in a place with major manufacturing?
    The view that the success in the European occupation can be repeated in Iraq is laughable, precisely for the reason that there is that unemployment in Iraq is a major cause of the insurgency. In Germany, there were skilled engineers, chemists, and so on who could be set to rebuilding. Iraq lacks anything like this. The closest analogy to German manufacturing is the oil industry, but because the insurgency is determined to keep it out of operation, the conditions required for occupation are not met.
    At the end of World War II– in which our participation was 3 1/2 years– Germany was pacified. There was no resistance. The occupation was well-planned, and massive loans to re-start business, under the Marshall Plan, succeeded in knocking down unemployment. The average German saw his/her plight improve dramatically from 1945 – 1949, the length of time of the Iraq occupation. The average Iraqi has an hour or so of electricity, erratic running water of questionable safety, poor sanitation, Third World medical care– the list is long. By any measure, life has not gotten better.
    If the United States had botched the European occupation as badly as it has botched the Iraqi occupation, communism would have achieved world dominance.

  4. NoFate

    It doesn’t have to stop with Terror either …we could include any group guilty of genocide also. Spend a few weeks bombing [insert African bad guy group] and then send in the UN with humanitarian aide.
    This kind of plan would require congressional oversight though. If it is just up to the President there is too much room for abuse. Remember Iran/Contra? In the Iran-Iraq war, the US supplied our buddies Iraq with weapons, Reagan supplied Iran and then sent the money to the Contras in South America. Anyway, this is why we need oversight.
    Would think make us the police of the world? To a point. We are playing that role already though …whenever there are US interests at stake. This would actually do it for the right reasons.

  5. General Specific

    I haven’t finished the whole paper, but I think this might be interesting to consider:
    America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq
    It’s from the rand corporation. Chapter two says the US, initially, had 1.6 million troops in Germany. And this is only for the US controlled region I believe. As the referenced book says, it was a complete occupation.
    Iraq was an occupation done on the cheap (let alone an unnecessary war). Now we’re paying the price. If we really thought we had to create democracy in the middle east, we should have drafted an enormous army to do the job right.
    Bush used to drill dry holes at his oil companies. Now he’s drilled a huge dry hole in the middle east.

  6. Rich Berger

    Why all the hyperventilating and pontificating? Just bring the troops home from Germany (73K in 2004) and we are even.

  7. Hansel Dunlop

    I think NoFate’s point of view is interesting. In that it is an honest representation of a particular American point of view that the rest of the world exists only to serve American interests, and should be punished if it decides not to perform this role.

    However this point of view is also clearly insane.

    If America truly decides to opt out of civil society and violate the entire world’s sovereignty in this manner then it becomes the moral imperative of the rest of the world to destroy it.

    In regards to the other comment by General Specific: eventually–minds and hearts move on. Try to imagine what it would be like to have half your family killed by an American bomb. I don’t think any amount of propaganda would make you feel anything other than hatred and contempt for the people that did that to you. And you would certainly pass those emotions onto your children. America has created a country whose people will probably be shooting Americans on sight for multiple generations to come.

  8. General Specific

    Hansel Dunlop: I understand what you are saying, but I think the world does move on. I think Korea has moved on, in a sense, after the Soviets shot down their passenger liner. The Koreans and the Russians do business together, for example. If anything, I think animosity is greater between the Koreans and the Japanese, and the Japanese and Chinese, because the Japanese were occupiers. As far as I can tell, the Soviets made a horrific mistake in shooting down that airliner.
    Similarly, the US accidently bombed the Chinese embassy while trying to deal with the situation in Belgrade, killing perhaps three people. There were obviously significant casualities in the first Gulf War. Even in the case of the US shooting down a passenger plane, which I found horrific, people can finally come to terms with the idea that it was an accident. I’m sure many people think otherwise. I hope it’s not otherwise. But I think people can move on.
    But these examples differ significantly from the CIA overthrowing an elected leader of Iran and supporting the Shah. And the same holds for the US occupation of Iraq. In these cases, the overthrow or occupation was the intent.
    One can question whether force should ever be used. In the case of Bin Laden, irrespective of blowback and US meddling in the middle east, the US had no alternative–in my mind–but to take the actions it did against Afghanistan.
    I’m not arguing for US hegemony. I don’t think NoFate was either. But there are significant differences between the first Gulf War against Iraq and the Second. And I think there is a big difference between the action taken by Israel against Saddam’s nuclear reactor–would anyone have liked Saddam to have nuclear weapons?–and the Israeli settlements. Big difference if you ask me.

  9. Dirk Nachbar

    I think the comparison between Germany and Iraq is useless. First of all, human capital is completely different. Second, although unstable, Germany actually had a short history of democracy, I still think it won’t work in Iraq. Germans were guilt-ridden after the war and obliged with the Western ideas, Iraq is resilient. I could go on …

  10. calmo

    Does anyone really believe that Germany is occupied in the same way that Iraq is? Do they slide from that position to ‘the 1946 Germany’? Do they believe that Iraq was conquered/defeated in the same way that Germany was?
    Puddin heads…not recognizing the size and weight of that congressional military industrial complex…possibly like Rich:

    Why all the hyperventilating and pontificating? Just bring the troops home from Germany (73K in 2004) and we are even.

    Thanks for reminding us that America is an empire, Menzie.

  11. NoFate

    Hansel Dunlop – In response to your points:

    First and foremost I am stating simply that occupation does not work. I don’t think anyone is disagreeing with that.

    Second I am saying that if we spot terrorist training camps or know the location of terrorists then we should go after them. If the government of the country complies great, but if not oh well (they are harboring terrorists). I think we have been doing this for years already via the CIA …often for the wrong reasons though.

    Further, I’m saying why not stop genocide while we are at it? When there are unspeakable atrocities being done in places like Darfur and Rwanda …and we are claiming to be in Iraq to give them Democracy …this is morally corrupt.

    Finally, these actions would mark a sea change in US Policy in that we would not be acting ONLY in US interest. Taking out terrorists and stopping genocide is acting in the best interest of the entire civilized world. The threat of this action alone would probably stop significant activity before it ever begins.

  12. Buzzcut

    Interesting to see those occupation costs. As I’ve said here before, a permanent occupation of Iraq, along the lines of Japan/ Germany/ Korea/ Serbia is where we shoulld be going. The strategic value of Iraq and Afghanistan are simply too valuable to give up.
    Does that make us an empire? Well, I’d be for “giving up” our “holdings” in Japan and Germany if that would satisfy liberal guilt. That should generate some cost savings to offset the costs of permanent occupation of Iraq, to satisfy the harder nosed libs like Menzie.

  13. NoFate

    Buzzcut – You state: The strategic value of Iraq and Afghanistan are simply too valuable to give up.
    What is the strategic goal of occupying Iraq?
    We know it’s not WMDs, Removing Cruel Dictator, Iraq ties to 9/11, Spreading Democracy, etc. …these are all lies. They were each manufactured as soon as the previous lie was no longer believable.
    – Is it to support Israel militarily in the region?
    – Is it to control the oil?
    – Is it to avoid allowing Iran control of Iraq via the majority Shiite government.
    – Is it something else??
    No one in the administration is telling the truth, so perhaps you can enlighten us.

  14. calmo

    You’ve gotta be kidding NoFate: so perhaps Buzzy can enlighten us? Perhaps the 2nd coming is this Friday…
    Rove tells us the truth: it is/was about oil…does the MSM run with this story? No, the GOP controlled media moves him off the stage.
    It is also a pretext for the MIC: the military needs an enemy to justify its size and strength (budget). The more I mull over Cheney’s role, the more it seems to me that it is his empire, not w’s.

  15. Buzzcut

    Greenspan said the Iraq war was because of oil. By that he meant that Sadaam started two wars in the region (vs. Iran and Kuwait), and had obvious designs on the Straits of Hormuz. Something like 25% of the world’s oil goes through those straits.
    I think that that is a pretty nuanced, reality based answer.
    With troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we literally have Iran surrounded. With Sadaam dead, our next most dangerous adversary in the world is Iran.
    Iraq also puts us on the border of Syria, another dangerous adversary.
    Strategically speaking, I think that you can make a case to be in South Korea. Japan is a stretch. There is no strategic justification to be in Germany or Serbia at this point in time. So I’d satisfy the Menzie critique that Iraq occupation is too expensive by pulling out of Europe.

  16. BobS

    I find Rich’s assertion that Iraqis will be unable to move from death of their family members at hands of US forces unsupported by history. The US firebombed almost every Japanese city. We bomb German cities almost every day and in a much more indiscrimate manner for 3 years. Both those populations moved on.
    I think the idea that Germany was transformed in 5 years is absolutely ridiculous. The Germans were anable to vote until 1951. The German standard of living did rise dramatically in late 40’s and 1950s but the scale and scope of devastation in 1945 dwarfs Iraq in 2003. The critical difference between Iraq and Germany or Japan is that Iraq lacks a civil society (rule of law) and a competent civil service. Never had either so its progress will be considerably slower.
    Still the biggest impediment may be the Iraqi population itself. I think we underestimate just how profoundly Saddam’s 30 year rule traumitized that society’s psyche.

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