Saturday, June 21, 2014

America First

In Vox, Dylan Matthews presents 6 numbers that show the costs of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. They are at least 126,000 civilian deaths, 4486 US servicemember deaths, 2 million refugees, trillions in total budgetary costs, an Iraq no freer than Iran, and 0 WMDs.

That's all true. But Syria -- the multi-sect multi-ethnic Baathist dictatorship where the US has not intervened -- is worse in all aspects that don't pertain to costs to Americans. There are more civilian deaths, more refugees, more political repression, and WMDs have not only been identified, but used. And that's before trying to put a number on the existential threat the Syria crisis poses to 4 countries: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan.

So the costs of Iraq as documented are certainly relevant to a US decision whether or not to intervene somewhere again. But they're only part of a global calculation of when an intervention might be worth it.