Saturday 16 December 2017

U.S. vs. North Korea: How Much Money Would a War With Kim Jong Un Cost?

The rhetoric between President Donald Trump’s administration and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is continuing to ramp up, and a Korean War feels closer than it has since, well, the first one.
The details of such a war are difficult to predict, and few people know what might cause either man to blink first and escalate a war of words into a full-blown war. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in October that he “cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power.” 
It is unclear what Trump intends to do if North Korea does get closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon, but if his past statements are any hint, war is very much on his mind. In September, Trump, who has referred to Kim as “Little Rocket Man,” threatenedto “totally destroy” North Korea in a speech at the United Nations, and also tweeted, "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” 

Assuming President Trump is weighing the possibility of declaring war on North Korea, how much would it cost America?
report out from John Feffer, president of the progressive think tank Foreign Policy in Focus, looks into the potential economic toll. In search for a comparison, Feffer examines the cost of military operations in Iraq, which an analysis by the Congressional Research Service put at $815 billion between 2003 and 2015. But that total may not fully evaluate the costs of a conflict with North Korea. 
“In terms of military operations, the United States is up against, on paper, a North Korean army three times what Saddam Hussein fielded in 2003,” Feffer writes. “North Korea has more sophisticated weaponry as well.” 
However, Feffer does draw a parallel to Iraq in raising the likelihood that the North Korean people would not greet U.S. troops as heroes, regardless of the brutality by which Kim has maintained power. Much in the same way the U.S. was forced to spend billions more after troops faced an Iraqi insurgency following its initial operation, Feffer anticipates the same could happen should the U.S. find early success in a war with North Korea. However, should such an insurgency fail to materialize, America would still not be off the hook.
“Even in the absence of an insurgency, the costs of the military operation will be dwarfed by the costs of reconstruction,” Feffer writes, pointing to “the monumental costs of rehabilitating North Korea, which under the best circumstances would cost at least $1 trillion...but which would balloon up to $3 trillion in the aftermath of a devastating war.” 
Such a calculation doesn’t even take into account the inevitable negative impact such a conflict would have on the global economy. South Korea is the 12th largest economy in the world and had a 2016 GDP of $1.411 trillion. The disappearance of such an economic power from the global market would likely drop global GDP up to a full point, costing the U.S. billions more. 
Economically speaking, Donald Trump is playing a dangerous game by threatening war with North Korea. If he’s not careful, he might get caught up in a war that sends the federal debt into orbit and brings the U.S. economy to its knees.

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