Unacceptable cost of a McCain presidency

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2008, 12:00am

John McCain's attempt to sell his US presidential candidacy on the basis that he backed the troop surge initiated last year is comical - or tragic. He supported an unnecessary and disastrous war. He backed the administration's misguided occupation policies for years. And he wants to keep troops in Iraq for 100 years or more.

Yes, things in Iraq finally got better after they got worse - much worse than Senator McCain ever imagined. But thousands of Americans and tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead. Tens of thousands in both nations are injured or maimed.

Millions of Iraqis are refugees. Iran has been greatly strengthened. America's international reputation has been savaged. And the US Treasury will bleed for decades to come. Yet he believes that his support for the Iraq war is a reason to vote for him!

This demonstrates Senator McCain's lack of sound strategic judgment. Indeed, we should not be surprised when he thoughtlessly jokes about bombing Iran, blithely proposes attacking North Korea and cheerfully pushes for confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia over peripheral issues in the Caucasus.

Further evidence of his poor judgment is the fact he believed in the free lunch promised by the Bush administration. Former deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz predicted the war would pay for itself.

Yet, the Congressional Research Service believes the Iraq war is now costing about US$9.8 billion a month. So far, Congress has authorised total expenditure of US$656 billion for the Iraq imbroglio. The cost will soon outpace that of Vietnam, currently second only to the second world war.

The long-term cost estimates are truly frightening. Last year, the Congressional Budget Office figured the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq together, in 2007, to be US$604 billion, while outlays between 2008 and 2017 would range from US$570 billion to US$1.05 trillion, assuming major troop reductions. After tossing in interest payments, it has been estimated that total expenditure for both wars might run to about US$2.4 trillion, with US$1.9 trillion attributable to Iraq.

This will be the legacy of George W. Bush, John McCain, and others who carelessly took their nation into war in Iraq. Even after the conflict ends, Americans will continue to pay, and pay dearly.

Military families will forever mourn lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers. Wounded soldiers and their families will forever cope with debilitating injuries. Iraqis will forever be scarred by the transformation of their society into a national charnel house. America will forever suffer a loss in respect and awe abroad.

The improved situation in Iraq is good news, but does not salvage a war gone bad. The most important decision the current president had to make was whether to go to war in the first place. He failed to make the right decision.

Also wrong was Senator McCain. Because of this disastrous decision, Americans are going be paying the costs of the Iraq war for decades to come. But that could end up being just one of many expensive wars with Senator McCain as commander-in-chief.

Doug Bandow is a Fellow with the American Conservative Defence Alliance and a former special assistant to president Ronald Reagan