Via Jim Henley, Kevin Hall and David Montgomery tally up the price of war in ways you might neglect. To make a long story short, for all the billions that have been appropriated for Iraq, those appropriations don’t actually cover the bills. That means cutbacks elsewhere. Specifically, services (janitorial, mail, bill payment) at military bases, it means that equipment isn’t being procured for training purposes, it means that not all the equipment damaged in Iraq is getting repaired, etc. What’s more, the thousands of dead soldiers are the least of the human toll: “More than 73,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . . . Internet blogs written by soldiers or their wives tell of suicide attempts by soldiers haunted by the horror of combat, civilian careers of reservists who’ve been harmed by deployment and redeployment, and marriages broken by distance and the trauma of war.”
All the Senators seemed very pleased with Robert Gates yesterday. And as John Judis says, Gates really does seem less eager to buy into geopolitical madness than many of his Republican predecessors. Still, Gates seems to be part of the “mainstream” elite consensus which holds that Iraq is almost certainly doomed, but that we should sort of keep on prosecuting the war for years and years just because it would be embarrassing to give up and, hell, who knows maybe a pony will come along. That sort of thing works, I think, if and only if you regard the war as a total abstraction, rather than actual events happening to actual people.