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Is America Addicted to War?

Paul Solman answers questions from NewsHour viewers and web users on business and economic news here on his Making Sen$e page. Here’s Monday’s query:

Name: Godwin Ohiwerei

Question: Are we addicted to war? How come we never actually bother about the cost of war in relationship to deficit?

Paul Solman: “Addicted to war”? It does seem to be a rather time-honored human activity. Jeffrey Klein, twice editor of Mother Jones magazine, among his many journalistic stewardships, has been working on a theory about group bellicosity as an especially human trait. Klein hypothesizes that this may explain the extinction of our close hominid relatives, the Neanderthals. In a word: genocide. See this Time magazine article for a similar argument. And here’s one on organized violence among chimpanzees:

But what do you mean that we never actually bother about the cost? Many people have pointed out that the tab for post-9/11 wars has grown to the size of a king’s ransom, and added significantly to the outsized annual deficits we’ve run ever since Bill Clinton left office. This is a story we’ve been covering since before the Iraq War even began, when Yale economist William Nordhaus did an estimate of such a conflict’s prospective costs.

We then followed up twice, in 2007 and again on the war’s fifth anniversary in 2008. And here’s a story we did with Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats and Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz, among others, about the war’s economic toll in human terms.

The NewsHour, at least, has bothered about the cost. Both in relationship to the deficit and independent of it. And so have others.

Photo at top of U.S. Marines in Trikh Nawar on the northeastern outskirts of Marjah, Afghanistan by Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images.

This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown– NewsHour’s blog of news and insight. Follow Paul on Twitter.

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