$700 million and counting, Re: U.S. pledges $25M to Libyan rebels, POLITICO.com, April 20, 2011

The United States spent $608 million on operations in Libya as of April 4 according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also told the House of Representatives that operations will cost approximately $40 million per month if they remain at planned levels. What Gates didn’t say is that they most assuredly will not given the nature of war and the limitations of forecasting military expenditures in times of conflict. Everything always costs more than one might think, planned levels never remain static and unexpected, spur of the moment expenditures crop up regularly. Already in April an additional $25 million has been committed to assist Libyan rebels and the use of Predator drones targeting Gaddaffi’s forces has begun, neither of which were included in the $40 million monthly estimate. Expenditures have nowhere to go but straight up and you can rest assured that is exactly where they will go.

And for what, taxpayers might well ask? Nothing actually is the answer, unless you want to count self-inflicted harm. Libya under Gaddafi represented no strategic, economic or military threat to the U.S. at all when President Obama began bombing the country. There were no reasons for America to use its military against Gaddafi, none that had anything to do with self-interest anyway. In fact, sober consideration of self-interest would have kept the United States out of the war altogether. Any student of history with even a rudimentary knowledge of the Middle East in general and Libya in particular would have known that. The U.S. cannot possibly be in a stronger position in the Middle East because of its intervention when the war ends. It will in reality be in a much weaker one because it intervened, whether Gaddafi remains in power or is replaced. That was a foregone conclusion and should have served to keep America from entering the fray. At the very least it would have saved what must now amount to roughly $700 million. And counting.

That’s just the financial cost. The political costs, including the loss of stature and credibility, are incalculable. In the Middle East fools are taken advantage of and crushed and the United States acted, and is acting, very foolishly indeed in Libya. It really should know better.

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