Pretty soon, you’re talking about real money

The Pentagon says the occupation of Iraq is going to cost about $50 billion per year, indefinitely. That’s not counting reconstruction costs. Keeping Afghanistan safe for its warlords is now costing about $10 billion per year. Can you imagine how much safer a world we’d have today if we’d been willing to spend half that much on rebuilding the fragments of the Soviet Empire in the years just after 1989? Or how much a tenth of that, well spent, could do for human and economic development in Africa? Or how big a horselaugh you would get if you proposed spending anything like those sums on an activity that didn’t also include killing people?

I still think that the Iraq invasion was, on balance, probably better than the alternatives. I just wish that the people who call themselves “conservatives” were as willing to support non-military approaches to making the world safer and the inhabitants of poor countries less miserable as they are to support sending in the troops.

Oh, and speaking of cost-effectiveness analysis, what would it cost to produce and stockpile enough smallpox vaccine to inoculate the entire world population in case there is a bioterrorist attack?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com