Robert Gates compares apples and cucumbers when claiming that $600bn+ spent on the “anti-terrorist” wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and minor operations is low compared to adjusted cost of wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. Those were real wars against real armies on really wide fronts. Saddam and Taliban would have sold their countries for a fraction of $600bn, paid politely. Sunnis would kill all Shiites or vice versa for much less. Northern Alliance would have dealt with Al Qaeda for a couple of billions at most. America can easily afford its wars, but why should it? Spending tens (Iraq) or hundreds (Afghanistan) of target’s GDP on war is bad strategy.

The expenses are sweet. Wages and benefits for approximately 150,000 troops run below $20bn annually. The rest is purchases. Many lobbying entities profit from war. Many sales are monopolist or non-competitive, other corruptly channeled to preferred contractors while competitive tenderers are suppressed.

Stopping the arms sales to hot regions is not impossible as claimed. Only five countries produce the entire range of cutting-edge weapons: America, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany. Chinese junk or piecemeal supplies from North Korea and Pakistan won’t equip a decent army. Russia overwhelmingly depends on foreign trade and would cow down to the threat of sanctions for arms exports. Russia would likely agree to the ban if major Western exporters follow the suit. Arms sales are detrimental to the US economy: Islamic wars cost America more than it gained in GDP from arms sales.

Small operation at removing Saddam won’t drive up the oil price. Protracted war creates the illusion of oil supply vulnerability. When oil, military industry, and media are happy about the bottom line, who else matters?

Big wars are senseless, but feasible. Big money is worth sending others to kill for.