A lie halfway fulfilled

Excerpt of Bush adds $80 billion to wars’ costs Afghanistan, Iraq tally would pass $300 billion if OKd from yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle:

Before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, estimates of the war’s cost were $50 billion, with assurances from administration officials that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for much of the effort.

Asked Tuesday how the administration’s estimates could be so far off, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “you have to be prepared for the unexpected, and you have to be flexible enough to adapt to circumstances on the ground. And it’s important that you give the commanders on the ground the flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances. And that’s what we will always do. That’s how you are able to succeed and complete the mission.”

As I’ve noted previously, this happens with every war. There’s nothing unexpected in things going not according to plan in war. There’s nothing unexpected in politicians underestimating costs by an order of magnitude as they make a hard sell for war (or whatever).

We’re near the halfway mark. Expect U.S. taxpayers to be on the hook for one half trillion dollars plus interest by the time the U.S. government declares victory, goes down to ignominious defeat, or otherwise winds down fighting in Iraq.

When an experienced programmer gives you an estimate on a routine software project, double the estimate. When a politician estimates the cost of a pet project, multiply by ten, then double that number (in order to be prepared for the unexpected).

[Via Thomas Knapp.]

5 Responses

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  2. Trillion dollar fraud

    Linda Bilmes in a recent New York Times column estimates the total outlay for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan will come to $1.3 trillion. Christopher Westley cites a 2002 study by William Nordhaus estimating the ten year cost of an Iraq inv…

  3. [...] US$1.5 trillion is entirely plausible, given the systematic underestimation by politicians of wars and public works. Ritholtz’s upcoming book on bailouts will presumably have data on the [...]

  4. […] Financial costs of war routinely underestimated by a factor of ten. […]

  5. […] A lie halfway fulfilled. Lie? Politicians can’t predict the future either. They have to protect their jurisdiction. Massive overruns in war spending are justified by even a tiny chance that barbarians sack the land, in which case all is lost! Our protectors realize that the people want defense on the cheap and have to state that it will be cheap and suffer criticism when it is not. The bravery of our leaders! […]

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