It seems that the discussion about our efforts in Iraq can only be thought of in a single way by the media. Everybody likes to mention the "costs." The billions of dollars poured into the desert, and the number of soldiers who have lost their lives.
I am not an accountant, but I can see that this discussion is missing a great big part of the "cost/benefit analysis" process. Nobody ever wants to bring up the benefits. It is easy to understand why- the benefits are in many ways intangible and aren't that easy to put into a five minute video montage, but they do exist. It is a lot easier to point to the amount of money spent on a project than to show how much money didn't have to be spent on others as a result. So, I will try to temper the rhetoric about Iraq by adding to the "benefit" side of the analysis, hopefully without turning this thing into a cheap David Letterman top ten list.
First, Ghaddaffi has turned in his mass destruction programs. Any time that a dictator relinquishes a part of his arsenal like that is a good thing, and it came about directly as a result of the US leading a coalition into Iraq.
The old saw "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." What does that really mean? Allow me to personalize this for you- Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, aka Zarky, was, until his all to recent demise, the leader of al Quaeda in Iraq. This came about because he was being treated for an injury he received in Afghanistan in the Islamic Republic of Iraq (oh, by the way, if you don't believe this establishes that Iraq was a haven for terrorists before we invaaded, get your logic circuits checked) when France was unable to keep its promises to Saddam. So, if the US doesn't inundate the local area with soldiers how many people think that Zarky is going to sit around idly and sip tea for the next three years? Everybody who thinks that Zarky would have lived peacefully in the mid-East and not planned attcks on the US mainland, please raise your hands. Now, since you have your hands up already, use them to slap some sense into yourselves.
It is very likely that, even without the benefit of ridding the world of Saddam, the invasion of Iraq has prevented the deaths of American citizenbs in the US. But how many? It is impossible to know. I am guessing that it is somewhere between 2,000 and 7,000, but that is truly conjecture that I have no real way of defending logically. It would be just as valid to argue that the number is zero or 25,000, but I would think that just the sheer number of al Quaeda and other terrorist operatives that were too busy messing around in Iraq to plan anything in the US means that there were at least a few attacks that didn't materialize that very well might have if we were not in Iraq.
Preventing these attacks also means that soem of our industries, like travel, are much better off than they would have been without Operation Iraqi Freedom. True, I am not a follower of the oil industry, so I don't know if gas prices are higher or lower as a result of our actions. It copuld be that Iraq is actually able to export more becuase sanctions have been lifted, but I am not sure if oil production there is up to the same level that it was prior to the liberation.
There are other benefits that I have not even touched on, to include the goodwill we have received from many of the Iraqi people for their liberation. Many who claim that our actions have caused a great number of Muslims to become terrorists seem to forget that there are also those who see opportunity in their future, thus don't think that their best option is to splodeydope themselves sooner rather than later to get to meet Allah and the 72 virgins.