War will stimulate economy

Posted: Mar 19, 2003 12:00 AM

As the deadline for Iraq to disarm approaches, the public has been subjected to shrill cries that a war will undercut Bush's economic stimulus package and drag down the world economy. As Democratic fear-mongering goes, this is about par.

The reality is that war with Iraq would actually provide short- and long-term stimulus to the world economy.

Let us recap. In 1991, the Persian Gulf conflict cost roughly $60 billion and threw the economy into a recession. Then, Bush Sr. established a broad international coalition that helped to defray the costs of war. This time around, President George W. Bush seems intent on pursuing war without broad international support, meaning the United States would pick up the brunt of military and peacekeeping expenses. The high costs of debt forgiveness and nation building after the conflict could push the price tag for war well past $200 billion.

Predictably, Democrats regard these numbers with alarm. For obvious reasons, they fail to mention that our economy is significantly stronger than it was in 1991. In fact, even the highest war estimates comprise less than 2 percent of our gross domestic product. This the United States can easily navigate.

Of course, what matters most is our national security. As President Bush sagely noted, the cost of inaction in the face of Saddam's repeated attempts to amass weapons of mass destruction would be far more perilous. An attack by Iraq "would cripple our economy" warned the president recently.

By contrast, a short, preemptive attack on Iraq could actually provide a short-term stimulus to the global economy by bringing an end to the nagging uncertainty about war. Presently, that uncertainty has reduced consumer-spending. Markets were similarly depressed during the initial stages of the Desert Storm conflict, but consumer confidence quickly rebounded once ground troops were deployed.

There would be long-term economic benefit if the United States was successful in transforming Iraq into a progressive democratic state. That transformation could help normalize relations in the Middle East, thereby removing one of the major engines of uncertainty in the world economy.

Most importantly, a successful invasion would allow the United States to increase the amount of Iraq's oil production to the world supply. The administration has observed that regime change will add an extra "3 million to 5 million barrels per day of production to the world supply." The boost in supply would decrease worldwide oil prices. That's good news for the economies of all oil-consuming countries - United States, Europe, Japan and countless other developing countries - which are currently beholden to Iraq's, oil production. Over the long haul, U.S. technology could be utilized to build up Iraq's oil producing and exporting infrastructure, further reducing worldwide oil costs and finally allowing oil-consuming countries to deal with OPEC from a position of strength.

Over the next year, war will mean some heavy expenditures. But certainly not enough to make the U.S. economy run out of gas. Thereafter, the boost in cheap oil supplies to the world market will increase the economies of all oil-consuming nations while removing one of the real threats - Saddam's terrorism.