The True Cost of War
by Abby Scher
Resist newsletter, July / August 1999
When Congress decided to spend $12 billion to pay for the
bombing of Serbia, what did we get-and what didn't we get-for
our tax dollars?
NATO's bombing of Serbia cost about $7.5 billion total on
top of the usual military spending of allied countries. The U.S.
share of the bill for just the first 71 days of bombing is an
estimated $2 billion-and could be as high as $2.6 billion, according
to rough calculations by Steven Kosiak of the Center for Strategic
and Budgetary Assessments in Washington D.C. That paid for 750
combat aircraft that flew some 21,000 missions, support aircraft,
24 Apache attack helicopters, 18 high-tech missile launchers and
the 5,500 troops sent to nearby Albania.
The Army's deployment of the Apache helicopters alone cost
as much as $140 million, says Kosiak.
* Navy ships launched perhaps 430 Tomahawk cruise missiles
costing $1 million each. Air Force B-52 bombers launched about
90 cruise missiles, costing $2 million each.
* Resettling 2 million refugees will cost about $ 10 billion.
* Reconstructing Yugoslavia, both Serbia and Kosovo, may cost
$ 13 billion.
* Between fighting the war, reconstructing Serbia and resettling
the refugees, the United States will spend some $25 billion.
What could have been bought instead:
* $ 16 billion would provide debt relief to all 41 countries
eligible under the World Bank and International Monetary Fund's
* $2 billion would hire 100,000 teachers to reduce class sizes
across the country.
* $8.6 billion would enroll all eligible children in Head
Start, the national education program for preschoolers living
in poverty only one out of three of those eligible is now enrolled.
* The $25 billion would pay for almost half the $62 billion
that the Republicans plan to cut from the federal budget for the
year 2000 an 18% cut from 1999.
Economist Dean Baker estimates that for $95 billion only four
times the cost of the war and its aftermath-the United States
could provide all the public investment the country needs-in Head
Start, mass transit, higher education, public schools, water and
sewage systems, bridges, etc. Since the late 1970s, says Baker,
"federal spending on public investment, measured as a share
of total economic output, has fallen by more than a third, and
it will fall another 35% over the next 10 years on the current
spending path" devised by Congress in the 1997 balanced budget
Resources: Global Weekly Economic Monitor (Lehman Brothers,
May 7,1999); "Cost of Allied Force Air Campaign: Day 71,"
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, June 3,1999) csbahome.com;
Robert Greenstein, "The Republican Budget Proposals,"
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (March 19, 1999); Dean
Baker, "The Public Investment Deficit: Two Decades of Neglect
Threaten 21st Century Economy," Economic Policy Institute
Reprinted with permission from Dollars & Sense, where
Abby Scher is editor.