In his 1999 book, A Charge To Keep, President Bush said he had “learned the lessons of Vietnam” about “never again ask[ing] the military to fight a political war.” After launching the Iraq war, in April 2004, Bush rejected the analogy that Iraq was turning into a quagmire like Vietnam:
Q: How do you answer the Vietnam comparison?
BUSH: I think the analogy is false.
Last August, however, President Bush reversed course and embraced the Vietnam analogy, stating Vietnam taught us that “the price of America’s withdrawal” is steep and painful.
In a new report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reveals that the real similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is in the price of staying. In constant FY2008 dollars, the Vietnam war cost the U.S. $686 billion. The Iraq war, at just over five years old, is priced at $648 billion:
CRS notes, “All estimates are of the costs of military operations only and do not reflect costs of veterans benefits, interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies.” Thus, the actual costs of the Iraq war are likely much greater, as Nobel Prize economist Joe Stiglitz reported in his book, The Three Trillion Dollar War.
It is unlikely, however, that the White House is concerned about these mounting costs. In October, the CBO conservatively said the wars may cost $2 trillion over the next decade. “I’m not worried about the number,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said in response, calling the estimate “pure speculation.”
Indeed, “the price of America’s withdrawal” from Iraq may be an alternative that Bush should strongly consider.