On this Veterans Day, we’re taking a few moments to think about the cost of war, in terms of money, lives, and bravery. One thing we’re grateful for are technological innovations that put soldiers, marines, air corps and sailors a little less out of harm’s way. Although these machines increase the monetary cost of battle, they reduce the real cost of war, in terms of casualties.
For example, the Civil War cost nearly $80 billion in today’s dollars, whereas the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have so far cost $321 billion and $784 billion, respectively. All the same, to the extent that it’s fair to compare the Civil War to the sum of these two modern wars, we estimate that roughly 354,000 lives have been saved thanks to improvements in technology and war strategy. This technology has a hefty price tag, certainly: One single fighter jet costs about $143 million, and a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle costs $1.4 million on its own. Nonetheless, the lives they save simply can’t be assigned a number value.
Today, we take our hats off to the men and women who have risked their lives for their—our—country. Expensive though war may be, we seek to remember always that the most important things can’t be quantified in dollars: Life, bravery, freedom.
Costs Of American Wars (inflation-adjusted)
American Revolution, $2.41 billion
War of 1812, $1.55 billion
Mexican War, $2.38 billion
Civil War, $79.7 billion for both sides
Spanish American War, $9.03 billion
World War I, $334 billion
World War II, $4,104 billion
Korean War, $341 billion
Vietnam, $738 billion
Persian Gulf War, $102 billion
Afghanistan war, $321 billion
Iraq war, $784 billion
Tell us in the comments: Do you know a veteran? Are you a veteran?