Iraq Burn Rate > $12 billion per month?

That’s what’s implied by the graphic in today’s NYT article, based on CBO data.


Source: D. M. Herszenhorn, “Estimates of Iraq War Cost Were Not Close to Ballpark,” NYT, March 19, 2008.

Given approximately $150 billion spent in FY2008, the burn rate is $12.5 billion per month, which is even higher than the “Hi” estimate I calculated in this post.

The article is worth reading; one excerpt:

“Under reasonable scenarios, assuming we don’t pull out rapidly, we may only be halfway through,” said Steven M. Koziak, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, a nonpartisan research group. “Even in direct budgetary costs, it’s quite easy to get up on the order of $1 trillion for Iraq alone.”

If that comes to pass, then Mitch Daniels’ estimate of the cost of the Iraq war will only be off by a factor of 20, or 1900%. Note that interest costs are not included here. Some estimates are imbedded in this post’s graphics.

Fortunately, we can expect political progress soon…or maybe not (remember, the oil law’s passage was one of those critical “benchmarks” the President spoke of).

38 thoughts on “Iraq Burn Rate > $12 billion per month?

  1. DB

    If it’s any consolation, I think that even with those numbers, the US army propping up Iraq is still costing us less than the Federal Reserve propping up Wall Street.

  2. me

    DB Doesn’t the FED turn a profit? And what is the profit from Iraq besides a couple hundred thousand dead Iraquis and 4000 GIs? Cheap oil? Is that it?
    I always thought the Fed was the lender of last resort. It seems they are doing what they are supposed to do.
    No president was elected to lie us into war, invade and occupy a soverign nation, and blow trillions of dollars.

  3. Buzzcut

    When are you going to do another one of your posts on the number of American soldiers killed over time? It certainly seemed that the death rate had plunged since the surge kicked in, before last week anyway.

  4. oops

    no doubt iraq is a fiasco as far as money goes. even as someone on favor of it that is hard to argue. i do believe that the costs should be broken down so that we gain the most knowledge for the future and that we should also look at the benefits as well.
    additional attention should be given to the most costly mistake of assuming that once the regime was toppled rebuilding would be easy. this led to inept and inexperienced people being put in charge of the rebuilding (remember the young aei fraternity brothers given jobs that would have been tough for even a general). done correctly the security of iraq develops more rapidly and with much less loss of life.
    as soon as diplomacy with the neighbors was embraced (rove sent along his merry way and cheney’s saber rattling on iran shut down) things have become quite a bit more peaceful.
    al qaeda is no longer seen by muslim masses as heroic but rather as brutal and undesirable. that means any regional embrace and toppled regimes is now virtually impossible and the leading jihadist peddlers to the world (iran and the saudis) are now surrounded.
    our cold war legacy military trained to do nothing but destroy the enemy’s military is now putting rebuilding and peacekeeping on equal footing with tactical victory.
    like building a highway, there are future benefits to the up front costs. obviously the contracting was handled poorly on this highway but failing to look at the geopoitical benefits against the costs isn’t fruitful.

  5. Aeon

    Buzzcut – check this link for your answer on the number – that they ALLOW to show up…
    They don’t “count” if they die in Germany, by their own hand, by tainted Halliburton water, or a few years later by exposure to DEPLETED URANIUM.
    The people we have “liberated” don’t “count” either…
    Short Answer =
    U.S. Fatalities – 5 years: 3,990
    U.S. Casualties: 40,229
    Iraqi Fatalities: Unknown
    Iraqi Casualties: Unknown
    Cost: $504,000,000,000.00

  6. Buzzcut

    Aeon, Menzi has posts with graphs showing accumulated deaths over time, highlighting such things as “mission accomplished”, the elections, etc. His last post was just right after the surge started, and seemed like the rate was starting to go down.

  7. Menzie Chinn

    Buzzcut: I’ll post a set of graphs updating the various indicators after I’ve determined the elasticity of exchange rates with respect to order flow normalized by volume, after controlling for standard macro determinants (this is my day job).

    But for what it’s worth, you are correct that the KIA per month is down (statistics here). The end-February figures are now only 233 above the 2003-2006 trend described in this post.

  8. me

    Let’s see now, the surge is a success. Now, what is a surge? If I took and put an extra 30,000 cops downtown Atlanta, I wonder what would happen to the crime rate? Down, right. Bill Clinton put 90,000 extra cops on the street and the Limbaugh’s of the world excoriated him. Now 30,000 temporary cops is the answer.
    I can’t imagine one thing that would qualify this war as money well spent. My guess is the pro war crowd never served in Viet Nam either. Its real easy to support somebody else’s kid dying for nothing.
    Oh yeah, I forgot the sense of history. Is that the part where the Bush crowd ignored what happened to Britain in the 20s in Iraq? Or more recently the Russians in Afghanistan?

  9. Buzzcut

    I can’t imagine one thing that would qualify this war as money well spent.
    Sadaam is gone.
    Uday is gone.
    Hussey is gone.
    Libya gave up their nuke program.
    Allegedly, Iran has given up their nuke program shortyly after the invasion (there are no coincidences).
    Pakistan removed Dr. A. Q. Khan, the chief source of nuclear arms proliferation, from his position of influence withing the Pakistani government.
    We now have Iran surrounded.
    We are out of Saudi Arabia.
    You overreach when you say that there were no benefits for our $500B investment in Iraq.

  10. Footwedge

    We’ve got Iran surrounded? So what? Our military is so beat up and stretched that any thought of using it against Iran (a country twice as big as Iraq)is preposterous. I suppose one can think of this entire thing as an investment but it’s rather difficult for me having spent 28 years in the military with tours in most our great adventures of the last 35 years. And speaking of the surge, it is certainly been a good thing for the violence to go down but is the that the definition of success? I thought it was for the gov’t to get it’s act together. Very clearly the surge is becoming tenuous perhaps due in part to drawdawn but also because it is very hard to keep the lid on a situation like this in perpetuity. As we used to say in the flying business, we are starting to run out airspeed, altitude and ideas. (you could substitute people, money and time.)

  11. rfl

    something is wrong. why is it costing more now that the majority of fighting is over and the military is not expending high dollar assets like smart bombs and jdams. It seems that there is to much money floating around to be consumed by a war being waged at this level. Someone is getting greased.

  12. GK

    I see that whenever I post the Al Gore video, the hatemongering leftists steer clear of acknowledging it.
    Al Gore was the first person to make the case that Saddam was supporting terrorists and pursuing WMDs. This led to Bill Clinton attacking Saddam in 1998 for Saddam’s WMD programs (Operation Desert Fox).
    Facts are inconvenient to leftists who think world history began in March 2003.
    No wonder that despite the Iraq War, recession, low GOP popularity, and unabashedly Democrat media, Obama is STILL lagging McCain in the polls.
    If the Democrat’s can’t get above 50% now, when can they ever?

  13. GK

    Another thing that is bogus is the ‘cost’ of the war. Most of the cost is military personnel salaries, which we would have to pay in peacetime anyway. You cannot include them in the cost unless you think we would not be employing those troops if not for the war.
    The net cost of the war is much less than the gross cost.

  14. Menzie Chinn

    GK: CBO has taken into account the payments you spoke of. These identified costs are incremental costs. I highly recommend you read the underlying CBO (and CRS) documents, many of which are linked to in the various Iraq posts on the weblog.

  15. GK

    “My guess is the pro war crowd never served in Viet Nam either. Its real easy to support somebody else’s kid dying for nothing.”
    John McCain served in VietNam (and not just in a cosmetic sense like John Kerry).
    Plus, the military votes for the GOP in far greater numbers than Democrats. It is obvious why.
    And you do know that military service is voluntary, correct? Or did you not know that?

  16. CoRev

    Ands then we have this little jewel:

    BAGHDAD Iraqs three-member presidency council on Wednesday withdrew its objection to a law calling for provincial elections, temporarily defusing a dispute that erupted last month between the two largest Shiite factions here.
    The councils action, on the fifth anniversary of the American-led invasion, came two days after Vice President Dick Cheney had visited with Iraqi leaders here to press them to exploit a lull in violence and make progress in resolving their differences, including the impasse on the election law.

    Like it or not, even the political goals are slowly being met.

  17. Menzie Chinn

    CoRev: I certainly hope the law is implemented, so not a reason to like it or not. But you’ll excuse me if I reserve judgment to say implementation is achieved, and place this story in the same area where the WMDs are stored.

  18. GK

    The silence is still deafening regarding the YouTube video of Al Gore from 1992, regarding Saddam’s terrorism/WMD activities. Kudos to Gore for bringing attention to this so early.
    *crickets chirping….*
    The entire system of left-wing denial is fundamentally built on an attempt to erase all world history regarding Iraq before March 2003. Soon, leftists will try to make that be year zero in their new calendar.

  19. me

    Chicken Hawk GK? Did we hit a sensitive nerve?
    Your list is inaccurate at best, try $3 Trillion not $500 Billion. You mention the net cost of the war. so how much are 4000 dead Americans worth. Oh, sorry, nothing, they are volunteers. Maybe collateral damage?
    Which McBush leading in the polls is that? The one that doesn’t know anything about economics or the brilliant foreign policy expert that thinks Iran is training al Quieda?

  20. CoRev

    Menzie, we’ll know soon enough about the law. If it is actually acted upon, their elections will be held before ours.

  21. GK

    ‘me’ is what is known as a ‘Chickenterrorist’. He/she/it supports Al-Qaeda and other groups, but does not have the balls to join them.
    At any rate, I see the coward cannot even acknowledge the Al Gore video. Typical liberal/chickenterrorist cowardice.
    It is a well-known fact that Bush supporters are more intelligent than Bush opposers. But the words of ‘me’ already prove this.
    Less empirical but equally obvious is that leftists are much uglier than normal people.
    Now that I have sent ‘me’ into a lifetime of therapy, let’s see if those a bit more intelligent can acknowledge the Al Gore video….
    Tee hee…

  22. Game Cat

    There are still people thinking the Iraq war was a Good Idea? The mind boggles. Ah well, whatever.
    Hey US, can you bleed somewhat faster please, the world is waiting for your blood pressure to get back to pre-Empire levels. Thank you.

  23. Buzzcut

    Hey me, look at the graph that Menzie posted from the times. Break out your calculator. Add up the numbers.
    $500B is the number so far.
    Regardless, there have been benefits. You can say that the benefits have not outweighed the cost, but you can’t say that “there has not been one benefit”.
    And that’s not even saying that Iraq was a “Good Idea”.
    Regarding the 4000 deaths, add another $24B to the tab (each year of additional life is worth $100k, the life expectancy of someone at age 25 is 60 more years, the average age of KIA is 25, and there are 4000 KIAs). It’s a gruesome calculation, I know.

  24. me

    “Regarding the 4000 deaths, add another $24B to the tab (each year of additional life is worth $100k, the life expectancy of someone at age 25 is 60 more years, ”
    Unless its your kid.
    “I see the coward cannot even acknowledge the Al Gore video.”
    I’ll consider it when you bring up Pap Bush saying going on to Baghdad would involve us in a quagmire. And when you bring up Cheney and they will welcome us with open arms. And Bush with his Mission Accomplished.
    Look, we can debate the cost but your I doubt your figures include the cos of 1/6 the population being displace. I doubt your figures include the cost of teachers, doctors and any other educated groups fleeing Iraq.
    You haven’t sent me anything tee hee except to show how out of touch your are with reality. try reading the editorial in the Financial Times today and you will see the “success” of the surge is contributed to 5 things, all temporary, and nothing to do with Bush.

  25. Buzzcut

    Look, we can debate the cost but your I doubt your figures include the cos of 1/6 the population being displace. I doubt your figures include the cost of teachers, doctors and any other educated groups fleeing Iraq.
    You want those costs added, estimate the costs and add it to the tab.
    This is an economics blog, after all.
    I can find and post where the hell I got that $100k per year of life, but I got it from memory from a reference in Arnold Kling’s “Crisis of Abundance” (on page 26, I see from the index on

  26. atheo

    The Rhetoric of Al Gore: Not to Be Trusted
    by Joshua Frank
    …Despite all the lofty rhetoric, Al Gore’s record on Iraq is anything
    but dovish. During the autumn of 1998 Gore pressured President
    Clinton’s advisors to embrace Operation Desert Fox, and
    eventually they did. From December 16 to the 18 of the same year, Iraq
    was ravaged with US bombs and cruise missiles. Hundreds of sites were
    hit. The goal was to diminish Saddam Hussein’s efforts to develop
    weapons of mass destruction, with the hope that weakening his military
    capacity would lead to his demise. It didn’t work and Saddam only
    became more entrenched. Iraqi officials confirmed hundreds of injuries
    and dozens of civilian deaths. The Vice President’s endorsed bombing
    wasn’t the only killer in Iraq; Gore also embraced the horrific UN
    sanctions, which accounted for at least a half a million deaths,
    mostly poor women and children.
    Al Gore was certainly no peacenik during his days serving under Bill
    Clinton. He supported NATO’s intervention in Bosnia and bombing of the
    Sudan. Up until George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion Gore was even
    delivering stump speeches highlighting Saddam’s potential threat.
    “Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible
    to deter,” Gore said on September 23, 2002. “[W]e should assume that
    it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”
    It may be comforting for some to think Al Gore’s has had a change of
    heart on Iraq. But Gore will still not delve into any of the deeper
    issues that influence US foreign policy. As the Bushites shift their
    wanton attention to Iran, Gore remains unwilling and unable to
    recognize one of the primary perpetrators of another war in the
    region: Israel.
    During a talk at the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia last week,
    Al Gore pontificated about US policy in the Middle East. When pressed
    by the largely Saudi audience as to whether or not America’s
    allegiance to Israel was heightening the chance of a war on Iran, Gore
    remained evasive. “We can’t solve that long [Palestine/Israel]
    conflict in exchanges here,” he said.
    In other words, he won’t go there…

  27. me

    I can find and post where the hell I got that $100k per year of life,
    If an American life is only worth $100K to die in a stupid, worthless war, based on lies and deceit, then I truly feel sorry for you.
    As far as the true cost of the war and its associated costs, I am sure that Stieglitz is light years ahead of you.

  28. JD

    Folks, it is about oil, our lifeblood like it or not.
    1991 – Saddam invades Kuwait from Iraq for oil.
    2003 – The U.S. invades Iraq by air and sea for oil.
    2012 – The U.S. “protects” Kuwait from bases in Iraq; for oil (which is almost funny).
    2016 – The U.S. “protects” Saudi Arabia from bases in Kuwait…
    We will have the largest State Department facility in the world in Iraq. The largest airbase(s), etc.
    We will be there, but I do not see how anyone is going to like us very much. As for terrorists, there will always be terrorists. At the bottom line they are individuals, not countries or political parties. A terrorist “group” does not put on an explosive vest, a highly dissatisfied and motivated individual does.
    From long ago – “Tax the rich, feed the poor, ’til there ain’t no rich no more.” There are more people than dollars.

  29. markg

    How much money did we save by cutting defense/national security spending in the 1990s. Was it worth the 4000+ dead Americans of 9/11? We could have spent extra and still had 9/11. Or not. Fact is you will never know how history could have changed. What if Iraq did acquire a nuke and managed to use it on U.S. soil? Would it have been worth the money and lives fighting the Iraq war to prevent such an attack? Was it worth the lives/money fighting Japan and Germany? Just like the money we didn’t spend in 1990s – history will never tell us the alternate outcome. I think the resources used on Iraq would have been better spent here. But I would sure hate to be wrong.

  30. Anonymous

    Adam Smith wrote in “Wealth of Nations” in 1776, “In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.”
    He was right except for the part about the increased taxes which they pay on account of the war. They don’t even pay that anymore.

  31. Buzzcut

    If an American life is only worth $100K to die in a stupid
    $100k per year lost, not $100k per life.
    For a 25 year old who expects to live to 85 otherwise, that’s a cool $6M per life.

  32. james petras writes

    The apparently radical slogans against the oil industry by some leading intellectual critics of the war has served as a cover to avoid the much more challenging task of taking on the powerful, Zionist lobby. There are several reasons for the failure of the leaders of the peace movement to confront the militant Zionist lobby. One is fear of the powerful propaganda and smear campaign which the pro-Israel lobby is expert at mounting, with its aggressive accusations of anti-Semitism and its capacity to blacklist critics, leading to job loss, career destruction, public abuse and death threats.
    The second reason that peace leaders fail to criticize the leading pro-war lobby is because of the influence of pro-Israel progressives in the movement. These progressives condition their support of peace in Iraq only if the movement does not criticize the pro-war Israel lobby in and outside the US government, the role of Israel as a belligerent partner to the US in Lebanon, Palestine and Kurdish Northern Iraq. A movement claiming to be in favor of peace, which refuses to attack the main proponents of war, is pursuing irrelevance: it deflects attention from the pro-Israel high officials in the government and the lobbyists in Congress who back the war and set the White Houses Middle East agenda. By focusing attention exclusively on President Bush, the peace leaders failed to confront the majority pro-Israel Democratic congress people who fund Bushs war, back his escalation of troops and give unconditional support to Israels military option for Iran.”

  33. Stiglitz

    There is no such thing as a war for free
    By J. E. Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes
    March 20, 2008:
    “The death benefit for a soldier is at $500,000 far less than any economic measure of the value of life (including those used by the Bush administration itself in determining whether an environmental regulation is worth the cost). Disability pay, too, does not cover the economic loss including the cost of care.”
    Joseph E. Stiglitz, recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, is a professor at Columbia University and was chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank from 1997 to 2000. Linda Bilmes teaches at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She was an assistant secretary and chief financial officer of the Department of Commerce. They are the co-authors of “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict.”,0,86527.story

  34. True Blue

    Lot of naiveties here! For God’s sake do your research. Checkout ICH where you can get the real news, not some namby pamby propaganda.
    Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered Since The U.S. Invaded Iraq “1,185,800”
    Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America’sWar On Iraq 3,992
    The War in Iraq Costs
    Nunber of displaced Iraqi’s… Well over 2 million.
    Arn’t you just proud to be American… Bastards!

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