27 March 2008

Two More Years In Iraq

It is clear that President Bush is not going to significant draw down troop levels from Iraq while he is in office. Both Obama and Clinton would withdraw our troops from Iraq but this would take something on the order of 14 months (Obama identifies this time period expressly but Clintons plan for withdrawal suggests a similar pace of troop drawdowns). McCain, of course, doesn't want to leave Iraq at all.

As a result, the Iraq War, which just had its fifth anniversary, is almost certain to last at least seven years, i.e. two more years. At current casualty rates this means that something on the order of 1000 more U.S. troops are likely to die in the conflict and that more than 10,000 more U.S. troops are likely to suffer serious non-mortal wounds before the conflict is over. The cost to U.S. taxpayers, probably on the order of a trillion dollars, and the costs to world oil consumers as a result of elevated oil prices due in part to the conflict (oil was at $106 a barrel this week) during that time period are likewise immense.

It is also unlikely that troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan any sooner than that time frame. Thus, we are likely to have troops in Afghanistan for a total of nine years or more. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, however, is only about 10% of the number of troops in Iraq. Also, while our coalition allies have faded away in Iraq leaving the U.S. holding the bag there, there is continued strong international coalition support for the military action in Afghanistan. This week France announced its intent to increase its involvement in that conflict and Britain showed its commitment earlier this year by sending one of the crown prince's sons to serve in that action.

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