” The United States in August and September began considering in earnest whether or not to become militarily involved in Syria. There are many tough and contentious questions about that decision, but one fact is undeniable: It would be expensive.
In a 2010 paper, Stephen Daggett of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimated the costs of all major U.S. wars expressed in contemporary dollars, from the American Revolution through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the caveat that comparing war costs over a 230-year period is “inherently problematic” because the definition of war has varied and official numbers have included and measured different things over time, and also “because of the difficulties in comparing prices from one vastly different era to another,” Daggett nonetheless concludes that the trend is clear: Wars aren’t cheap.
According to his estimates, the American Revolution cost $2.4 billion (all numbers are in constant FY2011 dollars), World War I cost $334 billion, World War II cost $4.1 trillion, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined have cost around $1.1 trillion and growing.
The price tag on the proposed intervention in Syria is unclear. According to a Congressional Research Service report published in September, “the cost of any military intervention could range widely depending on the type and length of U.S. military actions, the participation of U.S. allies, and Syrian and Syrian-allied responses.” Estimates range from $500 million initially to train, advise, and assist opposition forces in a safe area outside Syria, to as much as $12 billion dollars a year to use military force to establish either a no-fly zone that would prevent the regime from using its aircraft or a buffer zone to protect border areas next to Turkey or Jordan.
If history is any guide we can expect that direct military spending will be grossly underestimated.”
Grossly underestimated indeed … as with the costs of any government action.