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The Path to War?

Yuval Rosenberg, Michael Rainey

Is the U.S. on a path to war with Iran? Neither side may want it, but fears of a new war in the Middle East have surged after President Trump ordered the targeted military strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who commanded the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and reportedly was the architect behind nearly every major Iranian intelligence and military operation over the course of two decades.

“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said Friday. “We did not take action to start a war.” He added that the U.S. is not seeking regime change in Iran.

Trump and the Pentagon said the strike was aimed at deterring imminent Iranian attacks, though they did not provide further details. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly said Friday that a Soleimani-planned attack against Americans “might still happen.” The Pentagon said that it will deploy about 3,000 more troops to the Middle East after Iran vowed “harsh retaliation.”

Republicans and Democrats alike called Soleimani a terrorist, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “no one should shed a tear” over his death. But Schumer and other Democrats said that congressional leaders should have been notified about the strike, and Democrats warned that the Soleimani’s killing could lead to a further escalation of hostilities that would put American lives at risk.

The fiscal factor: While other considerations — human life, national security and Americans’ faith in their government — all take precedence, the fiscal impact of a potential full-scale war with Iran can’t be entirely ignored. “Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said.

So here’s a reminder of how much the post-9/11 wars are expected to cost in the long run. According to an annual report published in November by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the U.S. will have spent $5.4 trillion by the end of this year on what was once called the “global war on terror” – a nearly two-decade conflict that has involved operations in more than 80 countries. Add another $1 trillion for the care of military veterans over the coming decades, and the total cost comes to an estimated $6.4 trillion.

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