Interventions often cost more than their budgetary estimates. Some might argue that there are also unforeseen benefits to interventions, and perhaps that is also often the case. However, accurate cost-benefit analysis of war will include all the economic costs of that war and not just the war budget. These costs include debt interest costs, additional healthcare costs, displaced spending, etc. Two case studies show that these costs are much more than politicians would lead people to believe.
First, the United States’ 2001 Iraq intervention costs were drastically underestimated. Bush administration Economist Larry Lindsey found that the costs of the Iraq War might range between $100 and $200 billion. However, Nobel Laureate in economics, Joseph E. Stiglitz, found that the costs of the war are $1 trillion with a conservative estimate and $2 trillion with a moderate estimate. The Congressional Budget Office openly admits to spending $500 billion. Still, this figure does not account for several important factors, such as the disability and healthcare bills of the 16,000 veterans who have returned severely wounded. Additionally, it is unforeseeable what the result would have been if this $1-2 trillion was spent in alternate ways.
A second example where the costs of intervention were dramatically underestimated by a government, is the German participation in the Afghanistan War. Researchers from the Journal of Peace Research estimate that the costs of German involvement in the war were between 2.5 and 3 billion euro on an annual basis. However, this contrasts with the official budget, which estimated just over a billion euros yearly. The study found that total government costs of the war were between 17 and 32 billion euros. Yet, other economic costs, which include war financing and societal costs at large, were between six and 15 billion euros.
These two examples demonstrate that the costs of war go far beyond the money budgeted by a government. Further prices are likely to include veteran healthcare bills and increased debt. There are also additional costs that are not really quantifiable. The cost of death cannot be accurately stated, and it will never be known what the result would have been if the money was spent in alternate ways.