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Is the Tomahawk worth well over $1 million a shot?
March 25, 2011 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Cruise Missiles: The Million-Dollar Weapon (SLHP) In the opening days of the assault on Libya, the United States and the United Kingdom launched a barrage of at least 161 Tomahawk cruise missiles to flatten Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses and pave the way for coalition aircraft. In fiscal terms, at a time when Congress is fighting over every dollar, the cruise missile show of military might was an expenditure of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. Each missile cost $1.41 million, close to three times the cost listed on the Navy's website.
posted by Dragonness (113 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
"How do you value not putting a bunch of pilots in harm's way?"

Oh, I'm sure they've had multiple independent teams of auditors do just that when comparing the dollar cost of missiles versus pilot training and manned aircraft.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:08 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thinking that every cruise missile fired at an enemy location ends up as a net loss of $1.41 million is a really odd way of interpreting how the US military budget works. If they weren't being used to blow stuff up in Libya they'd be fired off in the US desert somewhere as part of a training exercise. The military budget is out of control and unrestrained. As a result, we have gobs of weapons and need to do something with them. Shooting them at easy targets in a (for now) slightly popular scuffle with a known "bad dude" is, I'm guessing, exactly the kind of dynamic public display of techno-superiority that a lot of our military brass goes boners over. But let's not confuse our conditional argument here. Firing cruise missiles at some tanks outside Benghazi does not cause an increase in expenditure; rather, because we spend too much on the military, it costs us nothing extra to fire cruise missiles at Libya.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:19 AM on March 25, 2011 [34 favorites]


I've always wondered this.. what's the marginal cost of one unit of a major weapons system? Is it anywhere close to the average cost? Could I get a cruise missile they make at the factory after hours for say.. $200k? How about jets, or tanks?
posted by skewed at 8:19 AM on March 25, 2011


Let the OIL WARS continue.
posted by Flood at 8:20 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you, it costs way more than 1.4 million to train a fighter pilot...
posted by SweetJesus at 8:22 AM on March 25, 2011


> If they weren't being used to blow stuff up in Libya they'd be fired off in the US desert somewhere as part of a training exercise.

I don't think they pop off Tomahawks as readily as other ordnance, though. They might do occasional live fire tests, but they don't rotate their inventories like that.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:23 AM on March 25, 2011


Let the OIL WARS continue.

Something else I'm confused over. Keeping Gaddafi in power would have kept oil prices down and immigrants on the shores of North Africa. Supporting the rebels and prolonging the conflict has spiked oil prices and nothing I've read or seen has indicated how the current or future situations will necessarily benefit US and Euro economies more than the one already established with Gaddafi. If anything, if this were about oil, we would have kept our guns holstered or possibly even sided with the status quo. What am I missing?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:24 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Huh. Y'know, I had looked this up on Wikipedia last week when the strikes started, and it said $3.5 mil. Now it looks like it has been changed to much closer to $1.4 mil. I'm starting to think this is a bargain!

(As an aside: it's not just the value of not putting a pilot in harm's way. It's also the value of what you blow up, like that Surface-to-Air Missile site...or the tank...or the, um, broken down bus...)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:25 AM on March 25, 2011


Correction: $1.066 mil! This just keeps getting better! It's like Crazy Eddie's Discount Tomahawk Emporium!
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


> it's not just the value of not putting a pilot in harm's way. It's also the value of what you blow up, like that Surface-to-Air Missile site..

Well, in the latter case the strategic value would trump dollar value, at least as far as military planners go. In the former case, then yes you can be sure there are clear numbers for justifying the cost of the missiles versus the cost of fresh pilots.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2011


Well, there's also the cost of the planes the pilots would be flying, which are likely orders of magnitude more expensive than the cost of missiles or fresh pilots or even those things combined.
posted by hippybear at 8:30 AM on March 25, 2011


Wars like this are why I did not vote for McCain.
posted by buzzman at 8:31 AM on March 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


"How do you value not putting a bunch of pilots in harm's way?"

Negatively. If you are not willing to risk the lives of your pilots, then you probably shouldn't be ordering them to kill other people. Sorry pilots, but using cruise missiles and drones makes killing too easy.

It should be a law that if the American President wants to kill enemies on the other side of the world, he should also have to put his own soldiers, sailors, and marines at risk. If killing isn't worth dying for, it shouldn't be done.
posted by three blind mice at 8:32 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wars like this are why I did not vote for McCain.

Agreed! Obama waited for a coalition to form, shot 150 cruise missiles, then stepped back and is letting NATO take over logistical operations. McCain would have sent in 100,000 troops and the Merchant Marines on the first of March.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


The thing that I really appreciated was Secretary Gates saying, at the outset, that a "no-fly zone" was going to require great big ugly airstrikes at the beginning. It's really cute how often the military will tell everyone up front, "We can do this, but it's going to be ugly," and then they're told to do it, and then everyone screams about what horrible people the military is for doing the thing they warned everyone would be ugly.

Or, at least in the case of this particular topic, kind of expensive.

And, Three Blind Mice: If we were to make that law, then we should only elect people who have served, and in particular people who have served in combat. Much as I personally respect military service, I'm not sure I would be comfortable making that an actual requirement.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:34 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


> It should be a law

Well, if you're going to make laws about insanity like wars you might as well just outlaw it altogether. But, asymmetrical warfare has been going on since the first proto-hominids were using buffalo femur when the others were just biting.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:36 AM on March 25, 2011


According to wikipedia, an F-22 costs about $150 million dollars. Just as an FYI.
posted by antifuse at 8:36 AM on March 25, 2011


...now I'm wondering what the cost of a buffalo femur would be adjusted for 2011 dollars.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:37 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


> an F-22 costs about $150 million dollars.

I don't think the F-22 has seen any combat yet, though. It's a glamor project. F-18s and F-15s have been doing the work in this operation.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:38 AM on March 25, 2011


Weapons must be used, otherwise they go rusty (or heaven forfend, OBSOLETE!) , and no-one sees how good they are, and they might not buy any more.

So we invent wars to keep the money flowing to the really important people who keep us in our jobs.

(See also: crimes/prison industrial complex).
posted by lalochezia at 8:39 AM on March 25, 2011


might do occasional live fire tests, but they don't rotate their inventories like that.
posted by Burhanistan

you are wrong.
posted by clavdivs at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2011


Let me tell you, it costs way more than 1.4 million to train a fighter pilot...

It costs, what, 60 bucks to learn how to use one of them drone controllers?
posted by mikelieman at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


F-18s and F-15s have been doing the work in this operation.

Ok, then we're at a much more reasonable (?) US$29–57 million (2006) and US$29.9 million (1998). Likely more in current dollars. Still significantly more than the cost of a Tomahawk, not including pilot training costs.
posted by antifuse at 8:42 AM on March 25, 2011


clavdivs: Source? I wouldn't be surprised, but throwing out "you are wrong" doesn't exactly make much of a case.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:43 AM on March 25, 2011


Yes but we save by buying in bulk.
posted by Legomancer at 8:43 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

-Dwight D. Eisenhower
posted by hippybear at 8:45 AM on March 25, 2011 [85 favorites]


Love that Eisenhower quote everytime I see it. Thank you.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:49 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The price-per-round varies depending on how you do your accounting.

The big question is how you build the R&D and startup costs into the units ordered. For instance, do you say that the first one is a billion dollars, and then subsequent ones are $700k each (I'm making that number up)? Or do you distribute the fixed costs over the first 100, or however many the government orders at first?

It gets even messier when you use the "sticker price" that's used when selling the item overseas, to other countries. (Which is often what gets used in newspaper reports about weapons systems, because it's a relatively easy number to come up with; it gets mentioned in a lot of reports that make their way into the Congressional Record.) That might seem like the closest to the actual marginal cost per unit, but in reality Uncle Sam likes to make foreign buyers foot part of the bill for R&D as well, so generally there's some tacked on. Except when there isn't, due to some sort of prior arrangement.

So it's probably true, depending on who you talk to, that the price of a Tomahawk is anywhere between $1 and $3 million, in the sense that at various times the government has probably paid anywhere between those two numbers for them. My guess is that the higher number was probably when the program was new, and the lower number is getting close to the cost per unit to sustain the program and purchase replacements when they shoot one off. Just a guess.

Also, the Tomahawk is what's called a "wooden round" meaning that it doesn't really need much in the way of maintenance or rotation, and lasts a long time. (This is in comparison to some earlier cruise missile systems that did have a fixed shelf life and had to be rotated and maintained quite intensively.) So there probably is a cost to shooting them off, but it's a bit of a sunk cost ... it's hard to say whether shooting them off at the Libyans will actually result in more contracts getting signed for replacements, or whether those contracts were already signed anyway, and what will happen is that units will be moved from a warehouse somewhere, and in the end a couple fewer Tomahawks will end up getting cut up for scrap when the system is EOLed. Wouldn't be possible to say without knowing a lot about the details of that program.

And just as a general point, the training for the users of weapons systems typically costs more than the weapons themselves. I'm not sure how you'd get at the numbers in the US defense budget, but it's pretty clear if you look at foreign militaries who buy both equipment and training from the US; one piece of artillery (or whatever) might seem expensive, but it's typically a lot less than the cost of training all the people who are needed to keep it in operation. Without even putting a value on the pilot's life in the abstract, training is really expensive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:49 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


F-22 has not engaged in air-to air that i have read. It has been used in support and other roles.
Hint-when was the last time an american jet engaged another countries jet in a dog fight. Now thast a question.

All arms are rotated when needed, it is common knowledge. The 'resident expert' needs the cite, not I.
posted by clavdivs at 8:49 AM on March 25, 2011


Two things on the F-22: It's got much more air-superiority than ground-attack capability and it doesn't talk to other military assets well enough to be useful for this op. [source]
posted by BeerFilter at 8:52 AM on March 25, 2011


If killing isn't worth dying for, it shouldn't be done

It's vain to insist on a fair fight in battle.
posted by eeeeeez at 8:53 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


"By 2011, the upgrade bill for the F-22 fleet had grown to $16 billion or almost $100 million per aircraft"
(wiki)
wow, hell of a sterio system.
posted by clavdivs at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2011


Fun anecdote, but I once toured a navy ship in San Diego. The XO (or whoever it was giving the tour, one of the ship's officers) pointed out some fancy ship-to-ship missile system they had, and talked about what it could do, and then specifically said they wouldn't use it to shoot at little runabout type boats because the missiles cost more than the targets did. I don't remember his exact words, but the impression he gave was of a target something like what you'd expect a Somali pirate ship to look like -- an old worn-out boat with half a dozen guys with AK-47s on it. They wouldn't waste their expensive missiles on targets like this, and then he pointed out some machine gun they' use instead.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2011


but they don't rotate their inventories like that.

Who's to know? It's not like Raytheon is a freelancer billing out for time and materials. To date and according to the wiki the program is over $11B already and with this latest inventory dump, I'm sure they're high-fiving each other in the executive washroom over in Waltham.

From their perspective, they're in best business: ammo. I see hardware sitting all over the place and in working condition many years after it's become obsolete. Those M-60 tanks the Egyptian army paraded on tv all those weeks back? We "sold" them out of USMC inventory after the Gulf War, right from Saudi Arabia. I helped deliver them. Not a great market for 40-year old inventory. Ammo on the other hand, now there's a moneymaker.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2011


Yeah, gotta be bass to die for.
posted by buzzman at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2011


It costs, what, 60 bucks to learn how to use one of them drone controllers?

They are using Xbox controllers for the drones, so it's more like $300 plus 500 hours on Call of Duty.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've got a couple of major questions about the whole Libya thing:

1) Why did Obama pull a Bush and declare that he had the power to go to war without Congress acting? Would it really have been that hard to ask for a vote? You know Congress would have fallen all over themselves to authorize a new war, they love that stuff. I can't imagine even the Teabaggers in the House voting against a new war.

2) How is this being paid for?

3) Anyone want to take bets on when Obama "reluctantly" sends in a few hundred thousand soldiers for "training"? I'm guessing less than 30 days before we're fighting our third simultaneous middle eastern ground war.

4) What is the real motive here?

To elaborate on the last point: I think it is self evident that claims from the US government that it is expending military force for humanitarian reasons are blatant lies. Not only is the US government completely apathetic about other equally bad if not worse humanitarian crises the world over, the US government is propping up and actively supporting dictators doing exactly what Qaddafi is doing. The argument that the motive is humanitarian is self evidently a lie.

So what's the real goal here?
posted by sotonohito at 8:57 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let me tell you, it costs way more than 1.4 million to train a fighter pilot...

Fighter pilots are designed to be re-usable.
posted by Mister_A at 9:01 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


> you are wrong.

Ok, then, you military genius. Show me how they are always just firing off their inventories of cruise missiles and how the cost of this current operation over Libya is somehow just contained within usual operating budgets.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:02 AM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


> The 'resident expert' needs the cite, not I.

That's horseshit. No one is an expert here. You're full of nonsense.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a really strong feeling that the only wars - humanitarian or not - that people engage in nowadays involve countries which have enough of a valuable raw material to cover eventual costs of 'reparation' in some way or another. There's probably some sort of secret agreement thingy to that effect which is rolled into place at the earliest opportunity, and before a shot is fired.
posted by Duug at 9:14 AM on March 25, 2011


sotonohito: To suggest that we should not intervene in country A's inhumane bullshit simply because we don't also intervene in country B's inhumane bullshit seems like a bullshit argument to me. There are issues of practicality and public opinion that weigh in heavily on something like this. We are intervening in Lybia in large part because we can get away with it; North Korea, not so much.

Airstrikes & a no-fly zone might not fix everything in Lybia, but if it gives the rebels some breathing room and a chance to get organized, I figure better that than nothing.

(My argument, admittedly, puts aside the issue of the US intervening in the US's OWN inhumane bullshit both domestically and abroad...)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:17 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


To elaborate on the last point: I think it is self evident that claims from the US government that it is expending military force for humanitarian reasons are blatant lies. Not only is the US government completely apathetic about other equally bad if not worse humanitarian crises the world over, the US government is propping up and actively supporting dictators doing exactly what Qaddafi is doing. The argument that the motive is humanitarian is self evidently a lie.

This reads like circular reasoning. Other than suspicion based on past policies promulgated by past administrations, what specific policy initiatives (read: not inherited) has Obama authorized that fit your description?

As far as I can tell this is the first ethically positive conflict the US has fought since WW2, and at a cost less than a single day of the Iraq occupation.

I have to admit I've been stunned by Metafilter's reaction thus far; the US military is being used to block tens of thousands from being tortured and raped to death for a pittance - and people are complaining about this?
posted by Ryvar at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


I was just thinking the other day on how the cost of a single shoulder launched Javelin missile (~$86k USD) is worth more than the entrusted operators yearly salary, and worth more than what the intended target it is fired at would see in his entire lifetime. Makes me think...weapons are a pretty violent way of "spreading the wealth" If we're going to spend it anyway, I wonder what 1/10th the cost of a Javelin missle would garner if it was given to an "enemy" without exploding. (Hypothetical what-if-tax-dollars-were-spent winning favor instead of blowing things up? Surely it would take a very long time and clost lots of money...but more time and money than the cost of war when you're creating new enemies everytime you fire a weapon?). ...this is probably why I'd never make it in the military...
posted by samsara at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


It costs, what, 60 bucks to learn how to use one of them drone controllers?

It costs far less than sending a F-15 pilot to school, yes. You can do the majority of UAV training in a simulator (which saves a lot of money compared to real world training) where as you can't do that for an F-15 pilot. Yes, an F-15 pilot (and RIO if it's an F-15E) is gonna log a lot of hours in a simulator too, but at some point you've got to put them in the air and run through trials. At that point you're paying for fuel, you're paying for munitions, you're paying for maintenance, you're paying all the people associated with maintenance, logistics, administration. And if something mechanical happens to the plane and the pilot is forced to bail, you just ate 30,000,000 for the plane (in 1998 dollars). It's an extremely expensive proposition to train a fighter pilot, which is exactly why you're seeing DOD move towards primarily unmanned vehicles like the X-47B.

Contrasty, it's much cheaper to train a drone pilot. You don't need the physical endurance to fly a drone that you need for a strike fighter (you're not gonna be pulling any G's sitting in front of a handful of monitors), so you've got a wider pool of people you can train to be pilots. The cost of the hardware less in the real world (4.5 million for a Predator vs 30 million for a F15) and the virtual world (the cost for a UAV trainer is far less than an any sort of strike aircraft trainer due to the decreased need for true cockpit fidelity. You don't need to put a UAV trainer on hydraulics and make it pitch and roll.). Granted, strike fighters and UAVs have different operational goals, but I think you can see my point.

And for what it's worth, the Tomahawk is pretty much a done in itself (the Tactical TLAM variant), just that the Navy doesn't expect it to return to base. It's got a camera, it talks over Link 16, it can go off and loiter somewhere for a while after it's been fired, if needed, before it goes and hits it's target. It's the absolute best munition to use in this kind of circumstance, where you want to hit some near-to-shore ground targets but don't want to put your pilots at risk of SA-2 and SA-3 fire. The Libyans don't have anything (so far as I know) that can hit a cruise missile.

Fighter pilots are designed to be re-usable.

Yeah, if nothing goes wrong. We just lost an F-15 over Libya a few days ago, and luckily the pilots made it out ok, but it could have gone a lot worse.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:20 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are two main reasons for our intervention in Libya : First, we've all been screaming bloody murder about Gaddafi bringing in mercenaries to butcher his own people. Second, all Libya arms are supplied by Russia and Italy, obviously a new regime might buy from the U.S., France, and U.K.

I'll remain content with Obama's handling of the Libyan situation so long as his involvement in their revolution's internal politics remains restricted to pushing for fair elections. I'm satisfied that the initial round of attacks primarily targeted the weapon systems that give Gaddafi an advantage over the reformers.

In Yugoslavia, there was no ground assault on Belgrade by American forced to collected Slobodan Milošević. Instead, we simply blew up his tanks when he tried to use them to murder people. As a result, the immediate humanitarian crisis was averted, and his authority was diminished. In fact, Milošević's transfer to the Hague was strictly an internal Serbian political move.

In Iraq otoh, we've cost ourselves trillions and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, all because moronic Republicans need to micro manage everything.

I'd imagine the high level U.S. opinion on Europe's immigrations policy amounts of simply : Just deport them if you don't want them! I doubt the U.K. suffers much from Europe's immigration issues either, given their stricter entry control, greater willingness to deport illegals, and a less xenophobic population. Yes, France might obviously suffer from Libya not accepting the return of illegals, but they could obviously just bite the bullet and deport the illegals they don't want as refugees, ala the U.S., U.K., etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:24 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell this is the first ethically positive conflict the US has fought since WW2, and at a cost less than a single day of the Iraq occupation.

I remember when the Iraq war was viewed like that too however. Topics such as "liberation" and bringing down an "oppressive tyrant." I don't think many of us saw Iraq turning into what it became, especially after many our allies backed away. Libya has a lot of the same themes as Iraq in its early days of conflict, we'll just have to see how this one pans out.
posted by samsara at 9:25 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Libya has a lot of the same themes as Iraq in its early days of conflict, we'll just have to see how this one pans out.

I'm hoping that the third times the charm. Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya.
posted by buzzman at 9:29 AM on March 25, 2011


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: If anything, if this were about oil, we would have kept our guns holstered or possibly even sided with the status quo. What am I missing?

I'd say long-term stability. Oust the unstable dictator who creates a situation where the people will rise up and try to take back the country, and you can help build a more stable platform.

And the cynic in me says "more direct control (and financial gain) in the oil extraction process."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2011


Ryvar Its based on past experience. We know that, as you point out, since WWII the US military has pretty much never been used for good, but rather has been an instrument of imperialism or a phallus substitute when the President feels less manly than he wants to (ie: Grenada).

Perhaps you are right, perhaps this is a good fight for a good cause and, for the first time in over 60 years, the US government is not lying about it's reasons for war.

But if that's the case, why didn't Obama make his case for war and get Congress to declare war? Why sneak around, crap on the Constitution, and further entrench Bush style imperial presidential powers if the cause is just? Do you think that any of the Republicans wouldn't have lunged for a chance to bomb some new Muslims? This is quite possibly the only thing Obama can do that the new House will ever vote for, war always gets enthusiastic bipartisan support, and he chose instead to go with Bush style maneuverings. Either he's devoted to the idea of imperial presidency (which seems likely), or there's something dirty here that he doesn't want to talk about.

I'm also quite doubtful that this will stay an air war. We'll see American soldiers deployed into Libya in next to no time.

If that sounds cynical, it is. But I don't think it's wrong.

scaryblackdeath As you allude to in your last sentence, it isn't the apathy in and of itself that makes me confident that the humanitarian justifications for the new war are blatant lies, it's the apathy coupled with active support for evil dictators who are slaughtering civilians. And that isn't just inherited, it's something Obama has done on his own too.

The USA condemns Qaddafi, but stands firm behind the government of Bahrain when it slaughters protesters.

It is simply not possible to believe that the US government is motivated by humanitarian concerns here. The last 60 years of history coupled with our current stance of supporting dictators makes that claim a blatant lie.

Which brings me back to wondering why we're starting a new war in Libya, and why Obama wanted this war so badly that he shat on the Constitution and pulled a Bush to start it?
posted by sotonohito at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2011


Hint-when was the last time an american jet engaged another countries jet in a dog fight.

Desert Storm had several, and there have been TV documentaries about them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:39 AM on March 25, 2011


According to wikipedia, an F-22 costs about $150 million dollars.

That's flyaway costs -- the cost to order one more plane. The total program cost was $65 billion USD, divide by the 187 planned (168 built so far) aircraft, and the actual cost -- that is, the money we spent to get 187 F-22 aircraft into USAF service is about $347 million per plane.
posted by eriko at 9:39 AM on March 25, 2011


So here's the problem: talking to Gadaffi wasn't going to work. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.

Assassinating him wasn't likely to happen. If that would've worked, he'd have almost certainly been taken out a long time ago.

So what's the moral thing to do? Intervene? Not intervene? Either we scream about how horrible it is for the West to step in as it has, or we scream about how horrible it is for the West to stand by and do nothing while Gadaffi slaughters thousands of his own people.

I would love to see the US pull its support from all these other crazy dictators, and to own up to its own historic (and ongoing) culpability. I totally would. But I'd rather see us do something about this one case rather than do nothing at all.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:40 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember when the Iraq war was viewed like that too however. Topics such as "liberation" and bringing down an "oppressive tyrant." I don't think many of us saw Iraq turning into what it became, especially after many our allies backed away. Libya has a lot of the same themes as Iraq in its early days of conflict, we'll just have to see how this one pans out.

This is not even remotely true. The war was sold to the American people on a pretext of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist and even a merely semi-interested observer such as myself could have told you that before the first day of Operation Iraqi "Freedom". A week before the start of that operation, Saddam Hussein caved and declared that the weapons inspectors could go wherever, whenever - and instead of actually bothering to do so, the Bush administration simply rolled in the tanks.

Additionally, oil was a factor to a degree that doesn't exist here - the second largest oil reserve in the world was occupied by a power directly hostile to our nation and more importantly a neighbor (Saudi Arabia) whose rulers were long-time cronies of the Bush family. Perhaps more tellingly, Iraq was moving ahead with plans to stop trading oil in dollars and instead shifting to euros.

There was never anything but the thinnest veneer of ethical justification for Iraq. Saddam's oppression of his people was a trickle of quiet disappearances into what was probably horrific torture followed by death. Terrible, but not on the same scale as the current situation where we've got a dictator actively using serious military hardware to indiscriminately slaughter his own citizens.

The war in Iraq and the current conflict in Libya are not even remotely alike, and people conflating the two just leaves me dumbfounded - do you honestly not remember events from just 8 years ago?
posted by Ryvar at 9:40 AM on March 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


You could easily argue that the first Iraq war was ethical because Bush v1 was smarter than your average Elephant and knew when to quit. In Yugoslavia, Clinton pursued an identical model but got even better results, purely by chance mind you.

Iraq and Afghanistan were invaded by morons who couldn't even articulate an honest sounding goal. It's trivial to arrive at immoral when you begin as stupid.

I'd hope simply that Libya works out like Yugoslavia with NATO restricting themselves to occasionally bombing Gaddafi's hardware and mercenaries.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:41 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Yugoslavia, there was no ground assault on Belgrade by American forced to collected Slobodan Milošević. Instead, we simply blew up his tanks when he tried to use them to murder people. As a result, the immediate humanitarian crisis was averted, and his authority was diminished. In fact, Milošević's transfer to the Hague was strictly an internal Serbian political move.

That was luck. Total, utter luck. We should never, ever expect to get that lucky twice in the same epoch. (Not to say that we shouldn't have intervened; it was the right thing to do. But we should call that spade a spade.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2011


We know that, as you point out, since WWII the US military has pretty much never been used for good, but rather has been an instrument of imperialism or a phallus substitute when the President feels less manly than he wants to.

USS Preble Contributes to Humanitarian Efforts in Japan
USS Carl Vinson Arrives in Haiti to Support Humanitarian Operations
USS McCampbell Heads to Indonesia for Humanitarian Mission

That's just the last 5 years. You can peruse a longer list here, which is coincidentally from 1951 on.

Or you can just make more dick analogies...
posted by SweetJesus at 9:43 AM on March 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Indeed it does depend on how you do your accounting. Factor in the cost of a carrier group as opposed to a single SSGN and cruise missiles can begin to look quite the bargain...
posted by jim in austin at 9:44 AM on March 25, 2011


> That was luck. Total, utter luck

Except for these people.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:44 AM on March 25, 2011


We know that, as you point out, since WWII the US military has pretty much never been used for good, but rather has been an instrument of imperialism or a phallus substitute when the President feels less manly than he wants to.

So all that time I spent in the Coast Guard pulling Cuban refugees out of the ocean in 1994 was me being an imperialist, or a substitute for Clinton's dick?

Seriously?

Kiss my ass.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2011 [12 favorites]



I have to admit I've been stunned by Metafilter's reaction thus far; the US military is being used to block tens of thousands from being tortured and raped to death for a pittance - and people are complaining about this?


How much food, medicine, and mosquito nets could we buy for this pittance?

We know that, as you point out, since WWII the US military has pretty much never been used for good, but rather has been an instrument of imperialism or a phallus substitute when the President feels less manly than he wants to.

USS Preble Contributes to Humanitarian Efforts in Japan
USS Carl Vinson Arrives in Haiti to Support Humanitarian Operations
USS McCampbell Heads to Indonesia for Humanitarian Mission


Heh, how many cruise missiles did they launch at Haiti? I think it's pretty clear that was meant as used in a combat role.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2011


But if that's the case, why didn't Obama make his case for war and get Congress to declare war?

Because, if you can't tell from the complete fuck-up that has been ongoing over who runs this show, the international negotiations weren't even finished when the Libyan army was at Benghazi's doorstep? Because by the time Congress finished drawing up the subcommittees the uprising would've been over and the perpetrators (and their families) imprison and killed at best?

Because with a Republican majority in the House that will do ANYTHING to fuck with the current administration and a (justifiably and correctly) pacifist opposing party the vote was far from a foregone conclusion?

Fuck, they (clearly) didn't even lock down the messaging on our goals before they had to decide whether to pull the trigger.

That's why. And boots on the ground would be political suicide at this point.
posted by Ryvar at 9:48 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Except for these people.

Burhanistan, my luck comment was in reference to the fact that the intervention helped lead to Milosevic's ouster without the use of ground troops. I would not want to see the Yugoslavia case used to justify the notion that air power alone can effect change on the ground. I certainly did not mean to make light of any of the other horrible things that happened in that war, and if I somehow gave that impression, I sincerely apologize.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:49 AM on March 25, 2011


How much food, medicine, and mosquito nets could we buy for this pittance?

How many brutal murders, tortures, and rapes by a resentful dictator's foreign mercenaries will food, medicine, and mosquito nets prevent?
posted by Ryvar at 9:50 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


> ... [dogfights] ... and there have been TV documentaries about them.

Hmmm. In season one they have an episode about biplanes versus a 50,000 ton ship. I suppose some battleships have pulled off a half barrel roll in the past but they're not generally known for their airborne maneuverability or dogfighting capability.
posted by vbfg at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2011


Two things on the F-22: It's got much more air-superiority than ground-attack capability and it doesn't talk to other military assets well enough to be useful for this op

Yeah -- the F-22 was built to be an air superiority fighter first, and you can't bolt bombs to the outside without ruining the stealth and supercruise -- and at that point, why bother? It's cheaper to build more F-15E, which can carry twelve times the air to ground ordinance, and will perform just as well otherwise. They're working on a smaller bomb and the guidance gear to let it carry 8 of them internally, probably for air defense suppression, but that's not ready yet.

The datalinks make sense -- the Raptor is supposed to be invisible, big data bursts are anything but. But the current US air strategy involves lots of data moving between all the aircraft -- and the F-22 can't play in that realm.

More and more, the F-22 looks to be built for a mission we simply don't have -- independent air superiority again a competent, modern, large enemy air force. It's flying cost per hour is extremely high, mission availability rates have been low, and it can only do one thing. If we needed that one thing, that might be worth it, but it seems pretty clear that we do not.
posted by eriko at 9:54 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


We know that, as you point out, since WWII the US military has pretty much never been used for good, but rather has been an instrument of imperialism or a phallus substitute when the President feels less manly than he wants to (ie: Grenada).

Also, I want to point out that this was not at all what I said. The US military has been used for good plenty of times since WW2. But there have been very, very few if any times when the decision to start killing people en masse was made for anything other than self-serving reasons.
posted by Ryvar at 9:54 AM on March 25, 2011


Heh, how many cruise missiles did they launch at Haiti? I think it's pretty clear that was meant as used in a combat role.

Yeah, I don't think it is pretty clear. The statement was "since WWII the US military has pretty much never been used for good". I disagree with that statement.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2011


How much food, medicine, and mosquito nets could we buy for this pittance?

How many brutal murders, tortures, and rapes by a resentful dictator's foreign mercenaries will food, medicine, and mosquito nets prevent?


Malaria kills 781,000 people a year. Undernourishment affects 925 million people. Cholera kills 100,000-130,000.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Malaria kills 781,000 people a year. Undernourishment affects 925 million people. Cholera kills 100,000-130,000.

All things that should be the focus of US gov't spending. Absolutely. However, that does not mean we should not also intervene here.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2011


How much food, medicine, and mosquito nets could we buy for this pittance?

How many brutal murders, tortures, and rapes by a resentful dictator's foreign mercenaries will food, medicine, and mosquito nets prevent?

Malaria kills 781,000 people a year. Undernourishment affects 925 million people. Cholera kills 100,000-130,000.


It's not a zero-sum game - we can, and do, both.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2011


Malaria kills 781,000 people a year. Undernourishment affects 925 million people. Cholera kills 100,000-130,000.

Correct. But those are separate problems from this one - if you're telling me that we shouldn't be appropriating our funds proportionately, you'll find no disagreement from me.

Or, similarly, if you're telling me that we shouldn't be prioritizing the problem of 40,000 deaths from auto accidents a year far more greatly than the 3,000 dead from terrorism in the past ten years, I'm completely agreeing.

But again, those have nothing to do with the current situation.
posted by Ryvar at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2011


I'd disagree that Milošević landing in the Hague was pure luck. There was a reformist government that wanted him prosecuted but doubted their own ability. Ergo, they washed their hands of the problem. Isn't that largely the point of the Hague court?

There are good chances that, if we deprive Gaddafi of his hardware, then internal Libyan politics will eventually arrive in a more equitable and democratic state, preferably prosecuting Gaddafi themselves, but maybe landing him in the Hague, or maybe reaching some other arrangement.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:04 AM on March 25, 2011


So, why was a F-15E tasked for Libya?

Perhaps they wanted to rotate the older planes.

Thanks Papa Cool Bell, I thought is was the gulf war.
posted by clavdivs at 10:04 AM on March 25, 2011


It's not a zero-sum game - we can, and do, both.

Foreign aid represents 1% of the US budget. The defense budget, is, let's say a lot more. If you want to justify a war as humanitarian you have to justify choosing to spend on blowing people up as a humanitarian mission rather than the alternatives.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:06 AM on March 25, 2011


I meant the military being used in it's core functions of killing people and blowing stuff up. Obviously using military vehicles to ship around goods falls into a different category, as do Coast Guard rescue operations.

I'm not even arguing that we shouldn't be in Libya, or that some humanitarian good might not be accomplished in addition to whatever the true motive of the US government is. I'm just not willing to be a sucker and believe the blatant lies from the Obama administration at this point.

I'm still unconvinced that humanitarian goals are the real objective here. Obama has done exactly nothing that demonstrated even a faint concern for humanitarian problems up until this point.

Ryvar The US Constitution doesn't have an exception for that. More to the point, all it takes is a simple vote that even the Teabaggers would support, and those can happen insanely fast. Congress has issued declarations of war quite quickly in the past. The declaration of war against Japan was out the door less than 24 hours after Pearl Harbor. No subcommittees needed for stuff like this.

You don't seriously think that the elected Teabaggers would vote against a measure that killed Muslims do you? They'd be desperate to brag that they voted for missiles against Muslims.
posted by sotonohito at 10:07 AM on March 25, 2011


Ryvar: The war in Iraq and the current conflict in Libya are not even remotely alike, and people conflating the two just leaves me dumbfounded - do you honestly not remember events from just 8 years ago?

Of course they're not exactly alike. The themes surounding them however are "similar." And similar as in...we were easily duped into Iraq thinking it'd be a quick operation limited to mostly air strikes...that was, before we found how complicated it'd become with then policing Shiite/Sunni aggression. If you remember 8 years ago, that's exactly how events started. And we had initial support with some of the European countries within NATO, and then they backed out when the mission became unclear, and the casualties began to mount.

I'm just trying to think ahead. What are the real implications of getting involved in this conflict? How will it hurt us if our allies back out again? What will we be stuck with trying to correct, especially if civil unrest occurs after toppling the regime (if it gets that far...).

What I'm implying is, it smells a lot like deja-vu so far. We'll just have to wait and see what happens, and hope that our administration does not fark up the ideals of what we're doing there. If it all goes south, if we get pulled into taking on the role of policing and rebuilding, we'll have another Iraq.
posted by samsara at 10:08 AM on March 25, 2011


Aren't we just going to bill NATO?
posted by Gungho at 10:08 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, why was a F-15E tasked for Libya?

The base F-15 (A/B/C/D variants) is an air superiority fighter. The F-15E is a two-seat variant who's primary purpose is that of a strike aircraft.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:08 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm not even arguing that we shouldn't be in Libya, or that some humanitarian good might not be accomplished in addition to whatever the true motive of the US government is. I'm just not willing to be a sucker and believe the blatant lies from the Obama administration at this point.

That much I can agree with. I, too, am certainly wary of the Obama admin's bullshit in general, and would not be at all shocked to find bullshit here, too.

Your invitation to kiss my ass is hereby rescinded.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:10 AM on March 25, 2011


Late-stage empire.
posted by telstar at 10:14 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Foreign aid represents 1% of the US budget. The defense budget, is, let's say a lot more. If you want to justify a war as humanitarian you have to justify choosing to spend on blowing people up as a humanitarian mission rather than the alternatives.

So you're saying the only way we can have a defense budget is if we make it have parity with our foreign aid budget? I'm not sure I understand your statement. Are you proposing we conduct a humanitarian mission to take out Lybia's SAM sites? There is a certain aspect to this conflict that can only be solved by military intervention, and that is the air war you see going on now. I have no problem with the US providing air support and interdiction on behalf of the rebels, because without that there is just no way in hell they can keep the fight going.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:21 AM on March 25, 2011


So you're saying the only way we can have a defense budget is if we make it have parity with our foreign aid budget? I'm not sure I understand your statement. Are you proposing we conduct a humanitarian mission to take out Lybia's SAM sites? There is a certain aspect to this conflict that can only be solved by military intervention, and that is the air war you see going on now. I have no problem with the US providing air support and interdiction on behalf of the rebels, because without that there is just no way in hell they can keep the fight going.

I'm fine with a DEFENSE budget, you know, to defend ourselves from attack. If we are talking about a humanitarian mission budget, blowing people up is not an efficient use of our limited funds.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:25 AM on March 25, 2011


And similar as in...we were easily duped into Iraq thinking it'd be a quick operation limited to mostly air strikes...

The operation started with over two hundred thousand troops rolling into Iraq. At that point it was fairly fucking obvious there would be permanent bases, and the corresponding logistical costs.

Nobody who was paying attention ever thought it was going to be a few quick airstrikes and done. When we start seeing boots on the ground in Libya - and bear in mind that news of the advance teams in Iraq was public knowledge months before the invasion - that's when it's time to call bullshit.
posted by Ryvar at 10:28 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm fine with a DEFENSE budget, you know, to defend ourselves from attack. If we are talking about a humanitarian mission budget, blowing people up is not an efficient use of our limited funds.

Yeah, but we're not blowing up the people we're attempting to help. We're blowing up the people who are repressing (or whatever other word you want to use) the people we are attempting to help. It's two separate sides of the same coin. I don't think we're gonna humanitarian-our-way through Gadhafi's mercenaries.

Look, I'm not a guy who advocates projecting force all around the world 'for good', but I think this is a pretty textbook case of a conflict in which we can intervene on the 'right' side and do some good militarily.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:31 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I highly recommend CDI's The Pentagon Labyrinth especially essay 7 which talks about why "defense" costs so much.
posted by R343L at 10:32 AM on March 25, 2011


Yeah, but we're not blowing up the people we're attempting to help.

Oh, we're gonna blow up some of them...

We're blowing up the people who are repressing (or whatever other word you want to use) the people we are attempting to help. It's two separate sides of the same coin. I don't think we're gonna humanitarian-our-way through Gadhafi's mercenaries.

...but I think you're missing my point. I don't value saving the lives of people in Libya more than saving the lives of people dying from malaria. If I have to choose between them as humanitarian missions I'll go with the route that gets more bang for the buck and has less chance of backfiring into an overall increase in human misery.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:36 AM on March 25, 2011


furiousxgeorge: But we can do both. Honestly, we SHOULD do both.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:40 AM on March 25, 2011


Hint-when was the last time an american jet engaged another countries jet in a dog fight.

USAF fighters dogfight foreign jets all the time -- they just don't get as far as actually firing a weapon.

Hell, the USAF has engaged MiG-29's in dogfights in the skies over New Mexico (or Nevada?). Probably Sukhoi 27s too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2011


Yeah, but we're not blowing up the people we're attempting to help.

Oh, we're gonna blow up some of them...


And if we don't intervene, how many people die at the hands of mercenaries then? Is the life of a victim of disease somehow more valuable than the life of a victim of political violence?

...but I think you're missing my point. I don't value saving the lives of people in Libya more than saving the lives of people dying from malaria.

I just don't understand your point. In my mind what you're saying is that we can't intervene in this particular conflict because we haven't yet fixed other, larger, harder global problems, such as malaria. Which in my mind is crazy, it reminds me of what Voltaire said about 'the better' being the enemy of 'the good'. Of course we could do better in helping to fight malaria and promoting humanitarianism, but that doesn't mean can't help in this specific circumstance and still work towards that goal. If everyone had that sort of attitude, nothing would ever get done for fear of overlooking some greater good.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:50 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: But we can do both.

Not on a global scale, military intervention is too expensive and crowds out the more efficient spending.

And if we don't intervene, how many people die at the hands of mercenaries then? Is the life of a victim of disease somehow more valuable than the life of a victim of political violence?

There are far more victims of malnutrition and disease than there are victims of violence in this civil war, you are the one choosing to value individual lives more highly rather than look at total numbers of victims.

In my mind what you're saying is that we can't intervene in this particular conflict because we haven't yet fixed other, larger, harder global problems, such as malaria.

Clearly we can, we are. I'm saying we shouldn't because it's far from the best way to be spending our money. Very very far, not "a smidge off perfect."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:56 AM on March 25, 2011


It's not like Raytheon is a freelancer billing out for time and materials.

Depends on what "contract vehicle" they have with DoD. Up until fairly recently, "cost-plus" was pretty common. What that means is that the contractor (Raytheon, in this case) bills the government for time and materials plus some agreed-to profit margin. The problem with cost-plus is basically the same as hiring a contractor for your house and paying an hourly rate; it's too easy to drag the program out and bilk the customer.

Nowadays, they're more likely to use some sort of fixed price contract. DoD really wants everything to be Firm Fixed Price now - I pay you $100 million and you give me 100 cruise missiles. There are other contract types that allow a little more flexibility, but I'm not really an expert.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:02 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think many of us saw Iraq turning into what it became

wat
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:04 AM on March 25, 2011


There are far more victims of malnutrition and disease than there are victims of violence in this civil war, you are the one choosing to value individual lives more highly rather than look at total numbers of victims.

Ah, so it's an economy of scale that's the issue. I guess no doing anything unless it helps everyone.

You're proposing a false choice. Should the Japanese not get any humanitarian aid for tsunami relief, since the number of people suffering there are less than the total number of people suffering from malaria worldwide? Should they and the Libyans just suck it up until malaria is eradicated?
posted by SweetJesus at 11:18 AM on March 25, 2011


I guess no doing anything unless it helps everyone.

No, the best bang for the buck aidwise. Helping everyone and bombing every dictator is never possible.

I would provide very little official aid to Japan. They are a rich nation capable of handling their own problems. However, earthquake aid is certainly more efficient than bombing campaigns and has less chance of blowback so I would help them before doing Libya.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:24 AM on March 25, 2011


Well, then I guess that you and I will have to disagree. I think your philosophy is way too idealistic, and has a warped perspective on meritocracy.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:30 AM on March 25, 2011


We feel the same way about each other. Thanks for the civil conversation.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:38 AM on March 25, 2011


we shouldn't because it's far from the best way to be spending our money

You're pretending that by cutting military spending, we'd suddenly start spending it on other stuff. It doesn't really work that way. We could fight malaria and fire cruise missiles at dictators at the same time, if we wanted to, but the US doesn't fund disease eradication very heavily, mostly because it's not sexy, doesn't make good TV, and doesn't create the sort of jobs in influential Congressional districts that military spending does.

The problem isn't really money per se, the problem is willingness and interest in spending money on various things. Curtailing military spending -- which isn't necessarily that hard a sell, just talk about $10,000 toilet seats and call it "government waste" -- doesn't translate into increased ability to spend money on other things. You'd still have to sell those ideas independently, and that's where most other ideas run into problems.

Find a way to make malaria eradication as sexy as a stealth fighter jet, in terms of appeal to the lumpen masses and de facto economic stimulus that can be easily spread around to buy votes, and you'll have the money for it regardless of what the military is doing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:52 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll take ten.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:08 PM on March 25, 2011


You're pretending that by cutting military spending, we'd suddenly start spending it on other stuff

No, I am saying we should do that. I am aware people don't agree with me, I can see the cruise missiles being launched as well as anyone. In general on these issues I base my position on what I feel is right, not what can be sold politically. Political concerns are for politicians who have to follow to get elected, the political landscape doesn't change if the people don't.

We could fight malaria and fire cruise missiles at dictators at the same time

We really can't do both, the military is too expensive to sustain. It doesn't help that the urge to go along with humanitarian bombings is so strong that people can get fooled into supporting things like Iraq.

Find a way to make malaria eradication as sexy as a stealth fighter jet, in terms of appeal to the lumpen masses and de facto economic stimulus that can be easily spread around to buy votes, and you'll have the money for it regardless of what the military is doing.

We understand each other fully, it's about the toys, not the humanitarianism.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:10 PM on March 25, 2011


I just don't understand this sort of economic argument. When we shoot a missile, we aren't stuffing it full of a million dollar bills and shooting it off at the enemy, are we? In other words, there is a cost of the materials in the missile (steel, wires, microchips, etc), but it is probably closer to a few thousand dollars. So, when we shoot a missile, the cost of those materials are effectively blown away since we probably aren't collecting the scrap metal in the field.

However, the cost of developing the technology, building factories to produce the weapons, transporting the missiles, the costs to train soldiers, etc, these are the things that make up the bulk of that cost. This money isn't disappearing, it is just being redistributed, and largely back within the U.S. if they are domestic suppliers and our soldiers, technicians, etc. This doesn't mean that war isn't expensive, it does mean that the money isn't disappearing it is just being redistributed (though most likely into the coffers of a few big well-connected companies). On top of that, these missiles probably weren't being created fresh for this conflict -- the money had already been spent. If we don't replace each missile shot, the cost of firing that Tomahawk is the cost of transporting it there and pressing the button, and the cost for any pins or medals for direct hits.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 12:30 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude, I typed the E, the ABCD is alphabet soup. What was it's role? It's spec are open source. I want pure speculation on already established and open sourced combat tactics concerning fighter aircraft, full write-up, three carbons.
posted by clavdivs at 12:33 PM on March 25, 2011


Dude, I typed the E, the ABCD is alphabet soup. What was it's role?

The A/B/C/D variants (F-15A, F-15C really, the B/D are training versions) are air superiority craft who's main job are to interdict other air craft and run CAP missions and the like. The E variant is a strike fighter, meaning it's main job is to drop munitions on ground targets and provide close air support for ground troops. It flies CAP missions as well, but you don't really use any of the other F-15 variants to attack ground targets - just the F-15E.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:44 PM on March 25, 2011




Gaddafi explicitly said, "We do not trust their firms, they have conspired against us ... Our oil contracts are going to Russian, Chinese and Indian firms." In other words: BRICS member countries.

This was after the UN vote and thus AFTER a decision had been taken to 'do something about Ghadaffi'. Thus his threat can not have been the reason to make a decision to 'do something about Ghadaffi'.
posted by Catfry at 2:23 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


In an article that examines the contribution of a single weapon system to a military action from a purely fiscal perspective, wouldn't a cost comparison of other means of achieving a similar result be pertinent? Accomplishing the same thing with strike aircraft wouldn't be cheap either.
posted by Strizh at 3:05 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just don't understand this sort of economic argument. When we shoot a missile, we aren't stuffing it full of a million dollar bills and shooting it off at the enemy, are we? In other words, there is a cost of the materials in the missile (steel, wires, microchips, etc), but it is probably closer to a few thousand dollars. So, when we shoot a missile, the cost of those materials are effectively blown away since we probably aren't collecting the scrap metal in the field.

However, the cost of developing the technology, building factories to produce the weapons, transporting the missiles, the costs to train soldiers, etc, these are the things that make up the bulk of that cost. This money isn't disappearing, it is just being redistributed, and largely back within the U.S. if they are domestic suppliers and our soldiers, technicians, etc. This doesn't mean that war isn't expensive, it does mean that the money isn't disappearing it is just being redistributed (though most likely into the coffers of a few big well-connected companies). On top of that, these missiles probably weren't being created fresh for this conflict -- the money had already been spent. If we don't replace each missile shot, the cost of firing that Tomahawk is the cost of transporting it there and pressing the button, and the cost for any pins or medals for direct hits.


It boils down to opportunity cost.

In some ways when we measure the cost of things in money we are actually obfuscating what happens economically. Taking your own list of the cost of "building factories", "transporting the missiles, "costs to train soldiers", "etc", instead of building missiles we could of built, say, new bridges, or a commuter train rail, or repaired our aging infrastructure, all these things would of required factories, transportation, training, in addition to the material costs and many other activities which would be required to occur (R&D, environmental impact reports, land requisition, etc). In many ways the money does vanish, it vanishes into the efforts of war.

Another way to imagine opportunity cost is to examine your day, or your time. What did you do today? You could of also spent that time whittling, learning Chinese, planning a conference, sunbathing, etc etc etc, people only have so much time and energy and focus and ability to learn, and right now, our government directs an enormous amount of human time, effort, labor, creativity, "human capital" into "defense", and yeah all those efforts could be radically readjusted.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:48 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


We're just better off sharing and caring than going to war.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:25 PM on March 25, 2011


Reading the comments, I started feeling all nostalgic for the peace dividend. Such exciting times . . . we would believe anything.
posted by cgk at 9:18 PM on March 25, 2011


"Each missile cost $1.41 million, close to three times the cost listed on the Navy's website."

That just makes this that much worse: How Many Teachers' Salaries or Years of Funding NPR Does Launching a Tomahawk Missile Cost Us?
posted by homunculus at 10:38 AM on March 26, 2011


since WWII the US military has pretty much never been used for good, but rather has been an instrument of imperialism or a phallus substitute when the President feels less manly than he wants to (ie: Grenada)

Hey now! Grenada's a huge country that was a major threat to the United States. Just check out these maps of Washington DC and Grenada at the same zoom level. It's just a coincidence that the US invaded Grenada two days after the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut.

The USA condemns Qaddafi, but stands firm behind the government of Bahrain when it slaughters protesters.

Libya is #10 on Wikipedia's list of countries by proven oil reserves. Bahrain is #65.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:18 PM on March 26, 2011






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