Lesley Stahl Interview With Last Surviving Nuremberg Prosecutor, Benjamin Ferencz

This entire 60 Minutes interview with Benjamin Ferencz is well worth watching.

Lesley Stahl: We’ve had Rwanda, we’ve had Bosnia. You’re not getting very far.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, don’t say that. People get discouraged. They should remember, from me, it takes courage not to be discouraged.

Lesley Stahl: Did anybody ever say that you’re naive?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course. Some people say I’m crazy.

Lesley Stahl: Are you naive here?

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.

Rudyard Kipling’s “Epitaphs of the War”


If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.


I could not dig: I dared not rob: 
Therefore I lied to please the mob. 
Now all my lies are proved untrue 
And I must face the men I slew. 
What tale shall serve me here among 
Mine angry and defrauded young?

(via The Poetry Foundation)

Total Cost of America’s Wars

The other day I ran across a story about government spending that made me wonder how much the United States has spent on the numerous wars it has waged over the last couple centuries. Well, it turns out that in 2010 Stephen Daggett of the Congressional Research Service prepared a report (155k PDF) estimating the military costs of all American Wars beginning with the Revolutionary War and extending to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Based on Daggett’s estimates, U.S. war spending looks something like this:


Military Costs of U.S. Wars, 1775-2010

WarYearsTotal Cost (2011 Constant $)Peak Year of War SpendingWar Cost as % of GDP
in Peak Year of War Spending
American Revolution1775-17832,407 millionNA
War of 18121812-18151,553 million18132.2%
Mexican War1846-18492,376 million18471.4%
Civil War: Union1861-186559,631 million186511.3%
Civil War: Confederacy1861-186520,111 millionNA
Spanish American War1898-18999,034 million18991.1%
World War I1917-1921334 billion191913.6%
World War II1941-19454,104 billion194535.8%
Korea1950-1953341 billion19524.2%
Vietnam1965-1975738 billion19682.3%
Persian Gulf War1990-1991102 billion19910.3%
Afghanistan (includes all Operation Freedom actions)2001-20101,147 billion20081.2%
Iraq2003-2010784 billion20081.0%

Daggett notes a number of challenges with estimating total war costs. Although the costs are expressed in FY 2011 dollars, comparing costs accurately over such a long period of time is difficult at best. With more recent wars, what counts as a direct war expenditure has changed over time and so earlier wars such as Vietnam likely underreport their true cost.

On the other hand, even for current wars the dollar estimate is for ongoing combat and support actions and does “not reflect costs of veterans’ benefits, interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies.” With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, some studies estimate that total veteran benefits costs will actually be large than the cost of the wars themselves.