A colleague, Orrin Schwab, wrote the following tongue-in-cheek response to the apparent congressional eagerness to start a new war in the Middle East. Good satire often makes a serious point; in this case, it highlights the very real potential costs of a war with Iran. That is something you seldom hear from the war hawks, who want you to believe that it will be quick, bloodless, and cost-free to us.
If there is near unanimity in the Congress to go to war with Iran I say lets go. Lets do it! They are the duly elected representatives of the people of the United States and they have determined that war with Iran is in the best interests of the country. We should initiate hostilities as soon as practicable.
Here are some parameters to consider for our war:
1. Iran is 1.6 million square kilometers and has approximately 80 million
inhabitants (77-78 million plus).
2. That makes Iran four times the area of Iraq and three times the
population of Iraq.
3. The Iraq War was completed very quickly, and very easily. But the
occupation, i.e. the reduction of resistance lasted ten years and has
produced a relatively weak state.
4. In order to do things right this time, we need sufficient ground
forces to secure a mountainous multiethnic country with more than two
thousand years of national history. We may be welcomed as liberators
but coalition forces ultimately met with armed resistance from
numerous groups many of whom practiced deadly suicide attacks.
5. We need a long term occupational force for Iran. I think an effective
occupation of 80 million people spread over 1.6 million square
kilometers should require well over 1 million well trained troops for
at least 5 years maybe 10 years if things go badly.
6. The only way we can provide this level of forces is through a return to
the Draft. The Selective Service system needs to activated
All military reserves needed to be recalled to active duty while we
begin the process of training millions of young male and female
draftees for service in Iran. A five year occupation should require,
ballpark, 5 million draftees. Of course, we have the manpower.
According to the CIA, the U.S. has 120 million males and females
between the ages of 18 and 49 who are fit for military service.
7. The direct financial cost of the war should be a multiple of the Iraq
War which was 800 billion from 2003 through 2011. The cost of
deploying troops to Afghanistan averages about one million dollars per
troop. If we plan on 1 million troops for five years that would mean
5 trillion in direct costs financed by the U.S. Treasury through
2016-2017 and then undetermined costs thereafter.
8. The economic benefits of this exercise in military Keynesian economics
should be huge. Unemployment should disappear. War related
manufacturing should be a virtual renaissance for domestic industry.
The financing of the war will significantly increase the public debt, anathema to Republicans, but they are spoilsports. They reject military Keynesianism, which worked wonders for Japan and Germany in the 1930s and 1940s as well as the United States and the Soviet Union.
9. No whining about casualties. The U.S. could sustain hundreds of
thousands or more total casualties, including deaths from combat,
disabling wounds, and huge numbers of psychiatric losses related to
combat and the effect of concussive injuries to the brain.
Orrin Schwab is an independent scholar living in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has a Ph.D. in U.S. international history from the University of Chicago where he studied under Bruce Cumings and Akira Iriye.