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Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Much Does It Cost To Kill a Terrorist/Insurgent/Whatever?

Art Buchwald wrote a column during the Vietnam War in which he calculated the cost of killing a Viet Cong soldier- something like $300 in 1960s dollars, which works out to around $2000 in current dollars. He arrived at this figure by dividing the monthly cost of the war by the monthly enemy body count.

I thought it would be interesting to repeat this exercise for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see if the military has found more cost-effective ways of killing over the past 40 years.

One difficulty is that the military has not been keeping track of how many enemy fighters they have killed, so I decided to estimate the enemy killed at 100,000. The total cost of the wars to date is approximately $1.5 trillion. This means that it costs approximately $15 million dollars to kill one bad guy. Keep in mind that the bounty on Osama Bin Laden was $25 million.

40 years since Vietnam and it costs more to kill? I think this figure best summarizes what is wrong with the strategy in these wars. If it costs the US $15 million to kill one guy, the US is going to run out of money way before the Taliban runs out of men.

For a few thousand dollars, most of these guys could be bribed into giving Americans foot massages.

1 comment:

Alan said...

I wonder how your numbers would work out if you included the number of casualties (KIA and WIA) suffered during previous conflicts vs. enemy killed per dollar spent, and compared that to the current ratio of modern conflicts (1980-present).

I'm just guessing, but I suspect that it is much more cost effective now. I could be wrong though, I'm just speculating.