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US Papers Sun: The Economic Cost of War
Opinions Galore on President Obama's Iraq Timetable Speech
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/01/2009 02:00 AM ET
Being Sunday, we have only the New York Times and the Washington Post to draw from. Neither has a big day of Iraq news, and there’s nothing from Baghdad. The Times talks about how war affects the US economy, and if you need help forming an opinion on the withdrawal timetable, you’re in luck. The Washington Post has experts!

In the New York Times, James Glanz waxes economic on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possible effects they have on the economy. He uses congressional reports, research groups, and books to challenge conventional thinking. Much of the notion seems to have come from Robert Higgs, a senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. “It’s more complicated than the war got us out of the Depression, the way most people think it did,” he said.
Beyond all those numbers, the assertion that a war’s end has had a direct economic effect in lifting the United States out of its fiscal doldrums in the past becomes weaker the more it is analyzed. ...An economic blooming, Mr. Higgs said, often is due as much to an outburst of confidence and optimism with the end of hostilities as to any particular element of industrial or economic rearrangement.
The idea that a drawdown of US troops in Iraq will mean piles of extra cash sitting around is challenged as well. Several budgetary figures are given, with an unnerving amount of commas. If confidence is a major factor, Glanz says, then bring out the Sousa parades.

The Washington Post asked some foreign policy mucky-mucks for brief impressions of President Obama's speech at Camp Lejeune on Friday. Here are the respective gists.

Randy Scheunemann, who founded the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq” in 2002; and was director of foreign policy and national security for the McCain-Palin campaign (not hard to imagine what he’s going to say), says Obama is right to make “those committed to retreat and defeat in Iraq” upset by not pulling the troops right out.
National security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, applauds Obama for his focus on diplomacy, and suggests a conference on regional security as part of the drawdown, to help facilitate U.S.-Iranian dialogue.

Meghan O’Sullivan, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School and former deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, calls the move away from the stringent 16-month timetable “welcome and reasonable.” She goes on to ask “Does the Obama administration view Iraq's stability as fundamental to U.S. interests?” and warns against an attempt at a grand simple fix for the issues still facing Iraq.

President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Jessica Mathews writes that, “After six years, it makes no difference whether U.S. troops leave in 16 months or 18,” and argues that the larger picture is that we’ll have to leave sometime, and no matter when that happens, there is likely to be complications. “There is no substitute for Iraqis sorting out their own political future. But after so much sacrifice and bloodshed, it may not feel much like a victory.”

Qubad J. Talabani, a Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government to the United States, says, “No doubt the security situation in Iraq has improved, but the country has made little progress toward reaching political accommodation.” It is a warning against pulling out to quickly and thus leaving “to chance” such an important country to regional stability.

Professor of history and international relations at Boston University and author of "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism" Andrew J. Bacevich calls for an end to the “open-ended military endeavor” and says that its continuation is incompatible with the political reform that Obama promised. “Lost in the shuffling of troops is any clear understanding of that endeavor's strategic rationale. ...To imagine that simply trying harder in Afghanistan and Pakistan will produce a happier outcome is surely a fantasy.”

Douglass J.Feith, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former undersecretary of defense for policy, lauds Obama for accentuating the positive elements of the war, even though “he presumably still thinks the war should not have been fought.” Calling the speech “the defeat of the defeatists” seems a bit dramatic, though.

Vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute Danielle Pletka doesn’t like timetable politicking. “The real question that the plan elicits is: What's the strategy? Wars, after all, do not end; they are won or lost.”

And in case you still want opinions in the Washington Post, the editorial staff gives its own, about the lifting of the ban on media coverage of returning slain US soldiers' coffins. It calls Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ decision to include the families of those returning in the decision, on an individual basis, and make their point with more patriotic fervor than one might expect.
The only people with any business making that choice are the mothers and fathers, wives and husbands and children of the servicemen and women who gave their lives in noble service to country.
Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, no Sunday editions.


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