CHART – The Cost Of War: Iraq Versus Libya

Our guest blogger is Ken Sofer, special assistant with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center for American Progress.

President Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight will reportedly focus on the economy, jobs and what he calls a “return to American values.” But as the Council on Foreign Relations’ James Lindsay notes in a CNN column today, “What the president says about foreign policy, however, will be equally important.”

Indeed, the last year saw the end to two very different wars and two competing visions of American power. One war, in Iraq, finally came to end in December after a series of poor policy choices and overzealous neoconservative thinking cost the U.S. nearly a trillion dollars and 4,500 American lives over the course of eight and a half years.

The other war, in Libya, accomplished nearly the exact same objectives as the war in Iraq, but the selective application of American power and the diplomatic efforts to gain the support of both NATO and the U.N. Security Council allowed the U.S. to accomplish its goals for just over $1 billion and not one lost American life.

A new infographic from the Center for American Progress compares the costs of the two wars:

Libya may not be a model for every future American conflict, just as the lessons of Iraq do not preclude the use of American force in every scenario. But as the country looks back on 2011 and looks forward to the international challenges we face in 2012 and beyond, Iraq and Libya present us with two different visions of American power. As CAP’s Peter Juul writes, President Obama’s actions over the past three years have reaffirmed the credibility of American military power; credibility that President Bush put into question.

Looking at the comparative costs of war in Iraq and Libya, what do you want American power to look like in 2012 and beyond?