Bush's obsession with Iraq is going to be an albatross around the neck of the U.S. military (and the U.S. budget) lonnnnggggg after he leaves office.
A recently released Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate, generated at the request of Sen. Kent Conrad (D - ND), places the costs of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq at $10 billion (non-combat situation; think Korea or Germany) to $25 billion (combat) per year.
The estimate for each scenario assumes an occupation force level of 55,000 troops, less than 1/3 of the current level of 168,000.
More than $800 million per month for a peaceful situation? And more the $2 billion per month if there is fighting? That's a lot of money and lives spent to protect oil company profits for the next couple of generations. The figures also appear to be conservative ones, as the current estimated monthly cost for the war in Iraq is $12 billion.
Oh, and when you wonder what "long-term" means in this context, remember that as recently as 2004, 50 years after the end of the Korean War, the U.S. had more than 41,000 servicemen and women stationed in South Korea, the model cited by the White House as their goal for the Iraq force.
Current troop levels are estimated to be somewhat lower (25K or so), mostly due to the pressing need for replacements in Iraq.
At least South Korea was invaded by a country not named 'The United States," so the force presence could be justified; a circumstance that isn't true in Iraq.
A Korea-like occupation of Iraq could cost more than 2 trillion dollars and thousands more lives of American troops (and the lives of hundred of thousands of Iraqis.)
Bush's legacy - dead U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians, generations of budget shortfalls, and secured oil profits.
W's grandfather Prescott Bush would be so proud.
Let your Congresscritter know - *real* troop withdrawal (not token withdrawals to 'pre-surge' levels) by spring, and complete withdrawal by the end of Bush's term.
A Reuters story on the CBO estimate is here.
Note: I heartily recommend bookmarking the CBO webpage; it's non-partisan and it's an incredible source of information and analysis on just about every issue that comes before Congress.
Better yet, sign up for their email service; whenever the CBO publishes a new document, a link to the .pdf file is sent to your inbox.
Have a good rest of the weekend!