All the money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan represents resources
destroyed. As of September, 2021, a study from Brown University
estimates the US has spent $8 Trillion on the 'War on terror.
But, that's just money. How much, in terms of real resources, does $8 Trillion US, $8000 Billion US, represent?
Let's do residential. Median value of a house in the United States is (these days) $275K Say $300K US per house, on average.
That's about 24 million houses. The equivalent value of 24 million houses which is not being invested, rather is being destroyed in warfare. 24 million houses which are not being built. With 24 million houses figure 3 persons per house, housing for 72 million people. So the residential equivalent of a several very large cities has being leveled. This kind of calculation has been done, more accurately and in greater detail, both nationally and for the share of one's locality, and can be found by searching in say: 'cost of the war in Afghanistan'.
Nobody is being hurt though. But: Let's look at it in terms of man lives. Average GDP per worker is roughly, $23T/160M in the labor force, these days gives almost $150K per worker per year. So the cost is about 50M man years. Figure 40 years productive life: So,at current dollar value about $6M per life. So: $8000B/$6M = 1.25 Million lives. So the war on Terror has destroyed the lifetime production of 1 and a quarter million American men and women. Economically speaking, these are the casualties the US has sustained.
Let's check the nuclear option. When you nuke a city, you destroy only half the lifetime productive capacity of the population (half has already been contributed) so DOUBLE the number of people killed. So we get 2.5 Million. Note we are now considering everyone in our city as labor or potential labor.
Now the total capital of the US is about $70T. Divide by total people (330M) and you get about $210K per person, of physical capital, that is houses, factories, offices, roads, utilities, etc. these people occupy and use. An interesting number in its own right. But we'll use $200K. So that's $ 500B worth of capital our 2.5 Million people occupy and use. (200K x 2.5 M.) Figure $500B to be the equivalent of 125K man lives. ($500B/$6M = 83K man lives.) We subtract 83K man lives because we're blowing up their productive lives equivalent in material destruction, giving 2.4 million man lives. We're subtracting it because we don't want to count it twice. But we see that counting the actual material that is blown up is just a small correction. We can just as well ignore it, given the approximate nature of all our numbers
So, roughly, the War on Terror has, so far, cost the economic equivalent
of the total destruction of a city of 2.5 million people. Give or
That's everyone and everything in it. So that's somewhere between Chicago (Pop 2.7 million,) and Houston (Pop 2.3 million) So: Take the city of Houston, kill all the people, level it. replace it with waste: The cost to the United States of its 'War on Terror.'
That's a lot of economic terror the United States has inflicted on its own people to prosecute the "War on Terror. " Of course ‘economic equivalent’ does not include pain and suffering. Or cleanup.
Most of the numbers we've used understate the answer. One can argue that
we understate the earnings per man life, but don't forget capital is
spent on the individual at both the beginning and end of his life, so
the net contribution of a person to society is probably considerably
less than 40 years of labor.
By our calculations 9/11 resulted in the destruction of something under 5
thousand man lives of production. The War on Terror is, it seems, a
rather disproportionate response. The City of Houston for a couple of tall office towers.
But then, one can always claim the US actions in WWII were a disproportionate response to Pearl Harbor.