Instead of Going to War in Iraq, the U.S. Could Have Paid for Four Years’ Free University Education
Yesterday, I noted that the 21st Century war in Iraq has cost the United States 818 billion dollars, in addition to the loss of life, the loss of health, the loss of stability and the loss of trust. Forget all the unquantifiable losses for a moment and focus on the money. This is a lot of spent money: stacked in $1 bills, $818 billion would reach 55,514 miles high.
These aren’t just dollar bills we’re talking about, either. They’re squandered opportunities. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics on the most recent year available (2011), 21 million Americans are enrolled in college or university education. Also according to the NCES for the same year, public university tuition costs are $7,701 per year on average. Instead of going to war in Iraq, leading to a third of a million people dead and a situation worse than before, the United States could have paid the entire cost of tuition of a public university education for four years for every one of those 21 million enrolled Americans. After accomplishing this feat, there would still be $171 billion left over, enough to offer a tuition-free four-year American public university education to 5.5 million accomplished students from around the world, generating enormous good will toward the United States, making the world a less desperate and more stable place.
We could have done this instead. We didn’t. That’s just one of many opportunities we squandered when the United States dashed into war in Iraq.