Study: Iraq, Afghan wars cost $4 trillion

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have likely cost the United States $4 trillion, and have sent damaging “ripple effects” across the American economy, according to researchers at Brown University.

While President Obama recently put the price tag for the wars at $1 trillion, researchers at the nonpartisan Watson Institute for International Studies says they will cost up to four times as much.

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“While most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet,” the researchers wrote.

“Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars,” they found. “A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.”

The “human and economic costs,” however, will stretch for decades, with “some costs not peaking until mid-century,” the report concludes, pointing to the care of war veterans. “Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed.”

While top Pentagon officials downplay the role the wars’ costs and the size of the annual Defense Department budget have had in the nation’s economic downturn, the researchers see a connection.

“The ripple effects on the U.S. economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases,” the Brown scholars found, “and those effects have been underappreciated.”