The Obama Administration is seeking to avoid any discussion of the massive costs of the new war on ISIS, with the White House pointedly refusing to provide any estimates on what the war has cost so far, or what it will cost in the future.
An unbudgeted war, the administration has so-far been paying for the airstrikes out of the Overseas Contingency Operations budget. That’s an $85 billion pool to draw from, but could end up being a drop in the bucket.
The refusal to provide estimates isn’t simply stubbornness about not wanting to have a debate on the war, of course. As the administration keeps announcing new escalations of the conflicts seemingly multiple times a week, exactly how big of a war we’re going to end up with might not even be clear to the war planners.
The last Iraq War, which spanned 2003-2010, cost over $2 trillion. The new war aims to not only target ISIS inside Iraq, but in neighboring Syria as well, and as the war goals continue to mount, so does the unfunded liability that is this new, open-ended war.
President Obama has been honest about the length of the war in recent comments, saying ending the conflict is something that will be up to the president after him, or likely the one after that. It’s another decade-long war, and we’re unlikely to get a glimpse of the true cost until it is too late to prevent.