Opportunity Costs

The L.A. Times asks the fundamental question:

The president will ask the nation to pay for the next 11 months in Iraq with billions of dollars and hundreds of lives. We think this sacrifice will be in vain, because only Iraqis can heal their national wounds. And so we ask instead: What else could the United States do with a guesstimated $100 billion to reduce the strength and the appeal of Islamist terrorist groups worldwide?

That’s $100B just for the next 11 months. We’re going to be in Iraq for at least another 5 years. Probably 10. So after we spend the first $100B reducing the appeal of terrorism, we could spend the next trillion or so: ending global poverty ($60B), providing clean drinking water to the entire African subcontinent ($16B/yr), and maybe even have enough left over to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure ($120B/yr?) or, y’know, educate its children so they grow up smart enough not to elect people like our current President.

Instead, though, we’re going to spend it building bridges by day that Charlie insurgents will blow up by night, and designing state-of-the-art, armor-plated vehicles that are so strong that it will take insurgents 6 whole months to figure out how to blow them up with a steel pipe and a piece of chewing gum.