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Jewish World Review March 24, 2003 / 20 Adar II, 5763

Roger Simon

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There is only one certainty about this war


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | While I agree with the joke that going to war without the French is like going duck hunting without your accordion, there are certain costs to going it essentially alone that must be faced.

Let us quickly examine the bill from last time: In 1991, we sent 467,539 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf, sustained 760 casualties -- including 148 battlefield deaths -- and spent $7.4 billion of our own money, plus $53.7 billion of our allies' money, to fight Saddam Hussein.

This time, Larry Lindsay, the chief White House economist, estimates that a scaled back force of only about 200,000 to 250,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq -- in other words about half of what we sent in 1991 -- will cost $100 billion to $200 billion in the first year with, presumably, the United States paying all of it.

That is merely the cost of waging war, however. The cost of waging peace may be considerably higher.

Deep in The New York Times last week there was an article that put the cost of reconstructing Iraq at $20 billion per year and requiring the long-term deployment of 75,000 to 200,000 American troops to prevent "widespread instability and violence." And some think we will be there for 10 years or more.

The panel that came up with these figures is made up of senior American officials from Republican and Democratic administrations. It was chaired by James Schlesinger, secretary of defense in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and Thomas Pickering, ambassador to the United Nations under George H.W. Bush. Also on the panel were Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the joint chiefs, and Jeane Kirkpatrick, who served in the Reagan administration.

This was not, in other words, some left-wing think tank chaired by Barbra Streisand and Sean Penn. These were people seeking a hard-headed assessment of the true cost of the aftermath of an Iraq war.

Consider first the upper number of U.S. troops needed for an occupation: 200,000. That's roughly the same number, supplemented by 40,000 British troops, of our planned invasion force.

It seems to me that if it takes the same number of troops to maintain the peace in a country that it took to invade it, we are talking about a very difficult peace.

According to one panel member, James F. Dobbins, who served as special envoy to Afghanistan under President Bush, "Even the lowest suggested requirement of 75,000 troops" to stabilize Iraq would mean "that every infantryman in the U.S. Army" -- not just every infantryman in the occupying force, but every infantryman in the entire U.S. Army -- "spend 6 months in Iraq out of every 18 to 24."

If the higher number of 200,000 troops is needed to keep peace in Iraq, a figure endorsed by Gen. Eric K. Shinski, the Army chief of staff, then obviously the troops would have to spend more time and the cost of occupation would be considerably more than $20 billion per year.

This envisions, by the way, a largely peaceful occupation. It does not envision our troops becoming targets, say, of suicide bombers, or of a guerilla war fought by troops loyal to Saddam, or the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq declaring an independent Kurdistan, which would invite an invasion by Turkey and put the United States in a difficult position.

There has been some talk of renewing a military draft in this country to maintain this war. That will not, almost everybody agrees, be necessary. It may be necessary, however, to renew the draft to maintain the peace, especially if nuclear weapons production by North Korea and Iran puts an even greater burden on our volunteer military.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said last week that the Bush administration is planning to pay the salaries of more than 2 million Iraqi civil servants to help rebuild the country.

Consider: At a time in which states in this country are laying off civil servants and even some school teachers because of huge deficits, America is going to pay the salaries of 2 million Iraqis.

You can imagine how this would make you feel if you were recently laid off from a job and read that news. And you can imagine how some Democrats running for president intend to make use of that next fall.

I am not saying the price of removing Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction is not worth it. I am saying that worth it or not, we are going to pay it.

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