Saturday, August 26, 2017

impossible war cost comparisons

In the martial arts, students are often taught to use the force of an opponent to attain victory. Just go with the prevalent flow.

The prevalent flow in the United States is merchandising: Everything has a dollar-amount value. And who better to oversee such operations than the Merchandiser-in-Chief, Donald Trump, a man whose supportive hounds yap with delight as he dispenses bits and scraps of optimism if not money.

So if dollar amounts might count, I wondered today how much a single air sortie might cost in the much-bombed Syria or other places where American hardware does its best and civilians often pay the price. The answer is that there is no answer. Or, if there is an answer, it is so complicated by factors attending on an air strike that it is almost meaningless. What sorts of planes, what sorts of armaments, what aircraft carriers employed, how much it costs to train pilots, etc. etc.

What I wanted to do was lay that figure next to what it cost to build a school or a hospital ... which is another realm that ended me up in the weeds of particulars -- how big, how many beds or desks, what staffing, what supplies, etc. Weeds heaped on weeds.

Planes and war missions seem to run into the millions. Schools and hospitals do the same. But the war missions seem to exceed the schools and hospitals by quite a lot.

Politicians and defense contractors and other war-minded officials will say it's a ridiculous comparison -- apples and oranges. But a price tag is a price tag in our merchandising era. And so, without the numbers to back myself up, I still wonder how many schools or hospitals might be underwritten if a couple of air sorties simply did not occur. Yes, I'm one of those liberal wimps, but maybe it's something to think about.

Back before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were analyses that suggested that if America had no clearly-stated end game -- no goal in mind -- then the result would be tribal infighting that knew no end.

Dead Americans. Dead children. Dead civilians. And a lot of tribal infighting.


  1. The the average strike cost during the past few months of operations in Syria and northern Iraq against the Islamic State is $2.5 million. This comes from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments report “Estimating the Cost of Operations Against ISIL.” Here's what it includes (these are all averages):

    Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, 75 percent of which is provided by UAVs
    Most strikes are carried out by F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s, with the AV-8Bs, B-1s, and F-22s doing a little here and there. The strikers will carry three weapons and drop two.
    Gas for strikers, ISR birds, and tankers
    If the number of strikes increase very much, another carrier is going to be needed, which will up the cost by about $200,000 per strike

    Each Tomahawk missile, made by Raytheon Co. RTN, +0.02% likely cost $1 million, according to experts.

    The U.S. used 59 of them on a Syrian air base in response to the Syrian government’s chemical-weapons attack that killed scores of civilians earlier this week.

  2. Thanks, Charlie. I got stuck in the same quagmire as I looked around but lacked your patience in the end.

  3. A similar notion hit me when a retired general was questioning why the Texas Govenor isn't sending more of Texas'' National Guard into the coastal area to assist with recovery from Hurricane Harvey. During the broadcast the numbers being thrown around was 800 of the approximately 15,000 guardsmen were being called into deal with Hurricane Harvey.

    For no particular reason I began answering the general with an array of possible costs starting with the cost of feeding the guards. As soon as I did so I began rejecting using those costs as valid reasons for not sending in more guardsmen. Then I began to think that the Texas Governor should be sending in about 65% of the 19,000 odd troops.

    Later in the day I found myself wondering again about Texan competence when I heard that NYS Governor Cuomo was send some 100 Air National Guard to Texas along with a couple of helicopters.

    1. BTW - Not sure if the original 15,000 total guards mentioned or a later quoted number of 19,000 is the correct number of Texas National Guards.