“War: the frugal option?”(“Investigations,” June/03) was a political statement masquerading as economics. It should never have been published in the Magazine.
Were you to consult any traditional economic analysis of a past war, you would see that premature death played a major role in the estimated costs. Death had no place in this analysis. Yet messy violent death is a fact of war. Why was it excluded?
There are other problems as well. Homeland security is a large cost in the “containment circle.” Has there been any reduction in these costs now that the war is over? No. This suggests that the $200 billion cost was pure imagination.
Why was an additional 9/11–style attack included in the containment side when there is no credible evidence to link Iraq to the first one? It could have been more appropriately placed on the war side as an act of revenge. The $380 billion military costs on the containment side assume that U.S. military forces will be reduced now that the war is over. What evidence is there that they will be?
I could continue but I trust the point is clear. The article was pure political propaganda and not economic analysis.
Robert Evans Jr., PhD’59
I was “shocked and awed” by the sophomoric nature of “War: the frugal option?”—it is something I would never expect from the University of Chicago.
The “guestimations” are of such dubious nature that even a high-school student could refute them. The assumption that the “war” scenario has none of the “containment” costs deserves scrutiny. I see the war as having no indication of elimination (or reduction) in homeland security or occupation troops or 9/11–style attack costs. The economists also suggest that occupation/nation-building costs are offset by increased living standards and fewer deaths. This is preposterous. Regarding standard of living, I offer the Afghan experience as a model in which war has not produced an increased standard of living. About deaths, U.S. occupation forces currently suffer roughly one death per day and inflict unreported numbers of Iraqi deaths—it is impossible to quantify how much better this is versus hypothetical deaths under the containment scenario.
I can only conclude that the piece was not refereed in an academic, objective sense but merely represents the Magazine’s opinion on the war.
Bruce Maison, MBA’86
El Cerrito, California