Aggiornamento: Un paper dell’American Enterprise Institute sullo stesso argomento
War in Iraq versus Containment
di Davis, Murphy, Topel ( http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.23916/pub_detail.asp )
Prior to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the United States, Britain and their allies pursued a policy of containment authorized by the United Nations Security Council. Major elements of the policy included economic sanctions on Iraq, disarmament requirements, weapons inspections, Northern and Southern no-fly zones within Iraq, and maritime interdiction to enforce trade restrictions. Continued containment was the leading option to war and forcible regime change. We analyze these two policy options, war and containment, with attention to three questions:
In terms of military resources and expenditures for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, is war more or less costly for the United States than a policy of continued containment?
Compared to war and forcible regime change, would a continuation of the containment policy have saved Iraqi lives?
Is war likely to bring about an improvement or deterioration in the economic well-being of Iraqis?
We address these questions largely from an ex ante perspective. That is, we premise the analysis on data and facts that were known, or reasonably knowable, as of early 2003. This perspective is the one that confronts decision makers faced with the question of how to deal with “tyrants, rogue states and terrorists who threaten not only their own people but also others.” In this regard, one of our goals is to show how basic economic principles and a quantitative approach can inform analyses of national security and humanitarian concerns presented by rogue states.
We rely on a variety of historical data to estimate the economic cost of U.S. military inputs–capital, labor and materials. To assess the costliness of the Iraq intervention, we then apply our cost estimates for military inputs to a wide range of scenarios for the war in Iraq and the postwar occupation. We factor in additional costs for the economic value of fatalities and casualties sustained by U.S. military personnel, lifetime medical costs for the treatment of injuries suffered by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and U.S. outlays for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction aid.
Forcible regime change in Iraq has proved to be a costly undertaking. As of January 2006, it appears likely that the Iraq intervention will ultimately unfold along a path that implies present value costs for the United States in the range of 410 to 630 billion in 2003 dollars. These figures reflect a 2 percent annual discount rate. They capture the estimated economic costs of U.S. military resources deployed in the war and postwar occupation, the value of lost lives and injuries sustained by U.S. soldiers, the lifetime medical costs of treating injured soldiers, and U.S. outlays for humanitarian assistance and postwar reconstruction. Pre-invasion views about the likely course of the Iraq intervention imply present value costs in the range of $100 to $870 billion. Military resources devoted to postwar occupation account for more than half of the total costs except in optimistic scenarios that envision a short occupation, little postwar conflict and a smooth reconstruction effort.
The high cost of the Iraq intervention is sometimes seen as a compelling argument against the decision to forcibly overthrow the ruling order and install a new regime. This argument is deficient because it ignores the costs of alternative responses to the national security and humanitarian concerns presented by the pre-war Iraqi regime. A well-founded verdict on the Iraq intervention requires, at a minimum, an evaluation of what these alternatives would cost. We tackle this issue by assessing the costs of sticking with the pre-war containment policy.
Containment required the continuous engagement of a potent U.S. military force in southern Turkey, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The United States devoted roughly 28,000 troops, 30 naval vessels, 200 military aircraft and other equipment to Iraqi containment efforts prior to the pre-war buildup. We estimate the economic cost of these military resources to be about $14.5 billion per year. Based on our assessment of the likely duration of a dangerous regime in Iraq, absent external intervention, this annual flow translates into an expected present value of nearly $300 billion. Hence, containment was also a costly option for the United States, even under the favorable assumption that it would be completely effective in achieving its national security goals.
Advocates for forcible regime change in Iraq expressed several concerns about the pre-war containment policy. Some stressed an erosion of political support for the containment policy that threatened to undermine its effectiveness and lead to a much costlier conflict with Iraq in the future. Others stressed the difficulty of compelling Iraqi compliance with a rigorous process of weapons inspections and disarmament, widely seen as a critical element of containment. And others stressed the potential for Iraqi collaboration with international terrorist groups. To evaluate these concerns, we model the possibility that an effective containment policy might require the mounting of costly threats and might lead to a limited war or a full-scale regime-changing war against Iraq at a later date. We also consider the possibility that the survival of a hostile Iraqi regime raises the probability of a major terrorist attack on the United States. We draw on our empirical analysis to assess the potential costs of these contingencies, but their probabilities are especially difficult to assess with confidence.
We show that any one of these contingencies can sharply raise the expected cost of the containment policy. We also develop an integrated analysis that simultaneously captures several possible contingencies under a policy of containment. The integrated analysis focuses on three scenarios chosen to capture a range of views about the likelihood and cost of the contingencies. Factoring the contingencies into the analysis yields present value costs for the containment policy in the range of $350 to $700 billion. These large sums are in the same ballpark as the likely costs of the Iraq intervention seen from the vantage point of early 2006. Thus, even with the benefit of partial hindsight, it is difficult to gauge whether the Iraq intervention is more costly than containment.
We also consider the consequences of the war-versus containment choice in two other respects: the economic well-being of Iraqis, and the loss of Iraqi lives. Based on our analysis, we conclude that the war will lead to large improvements in the economic well-being of most Iraqis relative to their prospects under the policy of containment. This conclusion follows from some basic observations. First, the Iraqi economy was in terrible condition before the war, and it would have remained in a sorry state under the policy of containment. Second, the regime of Saddam Hussein was an economic failure of tremendous proportions. The available evidence suggests that real income per capita fell by roughly 75 percent as a consequence of Saddam’s misrule. In addition, much of Iraq’s greatly diminished output was diverted to an oversized military, an apparatus of terror and repression and the relentless glorification of Saddam. Third, the removal of sanctions, the expansion of petroleum exports, large-scale reconstruction aid, and the reintegration of Iraq’s economy into the world economy provide a strong basis for economic gains–even in a society with serious institutional weaknesses. If, over the course of a generation, Iraqis recover even half of the economic losses they suffered under Saddam Hussein, then they will be significantly better off in material terms as a consequence of forcible regime change.
The economic failures of the Saddam Hussein regime were not its greatest crimes. The regime brought torture, repression, displacement and death to huge numbers of Iraqis and others. We review some of the evidence in this regard, drawing heavily on work by others. All told, the regime killed or caused the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqis. Under the policy of containment after the 1991 Gulf War, a reasonable estimate is that at least 200,000 Iraqis died prematurely at the hands of the regime or as a direct consequence of its policies, including its refusal to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions and its diversion of oil revenues and other resources to palaces and monuments. Had containment remained in effect, the historical record suggests that premature Iraqi deaths would have continued indefinitely at the rate of 10,000 to 30,000 per year. There is, of course, a great deal of uncertainty about the number of premature Iraqi deaths under either war or containment, but we think the weight of evidence points to a greater Iraqi death toll from a continuation of the pre-war containment policy. Perhaps the strongest reason to question this assessment is the possibility that a post-war Iraq could devolve into an extended and large-scale civil war. This possibility cannot be ruled out. What can be ruled out in light of the evidence is that the leading alternative to war involved little loss of Iraqi lives.
The question of how to deal with "tyrants, rogue states and terrorists who threaten not only their own people but also others" is a profoundly difficult one. The stakes, human and economic, are enormous. The policy options are complex and fraught with uncertainty. And sound decision-making requires a daunting range of inputs and analysis. Yet, precisely because the stakes are so high and the decisions are so difficult, it is essential to systematically evaluate alternatives as an input to decision making and the formulation of national security policy. Our study is an effort to apply a systematic approach to the evaluation of the two leading policy options on the table prior to the Iraq war.