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On the Record

Listener Questions on Iraq

HOST: Earlier this week, we asked you to call in with your questions about a possible war with Iraq, and today we’ll try our best to answer them. Helping to
provide the answers today are NPR’s national security correspondent, Tom Gjelten. And Ivo Daalder. He’s a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at
The Brookings Institution. Welcome.

CALLER: So far, what is the cost of the deployment of the troops to the Middle East, and what is the expected estimated
cost for the first strike?

GJELTEN: People are really wondering what this is going to cost. The cost of
the deployment so far is impossible to say with any precision, in part because
the Pentagon won’t say exactly where people are. We know that there are more
than 200,000 troops already deployed. That’s counting sailors on board ships in
the region as well as Air Force personnel and soldiers and Marines. We have
seen some round figures that the overall cost of the war, including the
deployments, could be as high as a hundred billion dollars. As far as the cost
of the first strike, the first couple days are going to be, according to
everything we’ve heard, very intense and could be as much as $500 million per
day. Now there is a couple of figures that we could just throw out. Much of
this actually would be jet fuel and munitions. Cruise missiles cost a million
dollars apiece. Some of the big laser-guided bombs cost about $80,000 apiece.
We’ve heard that there could be as many as 3,000 bombs and missiles dropped in
the first day alone, so do the math. You can see that it adds up very quickly.

HOST: Ivo, some in Congress are also saying you should factor into that any
pledges of loan guarantees or financial support to governments that the US might
be making.

DAALDER: Absolutely. And if the Turks, for example, are to vote again and vote this time to allow US troops to deploy, that’s $15 billion right there just for Turkey. And, of course, when you start a war, it doesn’t end the day
the fighting stops. In fact, there’s a lot going on after that. We’re going to have many, many troops for many, many years in this part of the world, and that
ought to be part of the cost. And then a hundred billion dollars all of a sudden looks cheap rather than expensive.

Listen to the full interview (RealOne Player is needed).

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