Let's do the numbers. Again.

March 21, 2011

Ok, ok, so we helped the “international community” bomb the shit out of Libya in service of the “no fly zone” set up to help the opposition get rid of international all time leader in the Nutcase Autocrat division, one Moammar Kadaffi. In the opening salvo, we apparently sent an asstonne of Tomahawk ship to surface missiles over to knock out various Libyan things. Go us.

Wikipedia claims that each tomahawk cruise missile costs $756,000 in FY2011 dollars. This article claims that we launched 112 of these bad boys, but also goes on to estimate the cost of the ‘long-range’ variant at a cool $1M, maybe $1.5M. NPR comes in with a $100M ballpark for that first salvo as well.

Round numbers, I likey. What I don’t so much likey is the following.

One standard 5-yr, full modular NIH research grant proposal runs $1.25M in direct costs. Add on the consensus state university 55% overhead and we’re talking just under $2M. For FIVE years of work. On a problem of lasting importance to human health or biological understanding. And we dropped FIFTY of those babies off on Libya all in the span of, what, an hour or so?

For what? mind, you, it ain’t like we knocked off Kaddaffi with this. Oh no. We just blunted his ability to knock our planes out of the sky as we enforce a no-fly zone. We’re just getting started in terms of expenses, my friends.

Here’s a thought. Why don’t we just randomly drop FIFTY R01-sized projects on dictatorial megalomania, social control and democratic grass roots revolution onto our social scientists? Hmm? It can’t help but be at least as productive as this.

No Responses Yet to “Let's do the numbers. Again.”

  1. Beaker Says:

    Near as I can tell, the military idea here is to use the superior forces of the USA to take down the Libyan air force–and then pull back and let the rebels and the French take down the dictator.

    In terms of cost/benefit analysis, if taking out the Libyan air force prevented genocide, should we weigh the value of lives saved (and the potential economic value of those productive lives) against the value of NIH grants funded (along with the long-term value of the discoveries these grants might generate)? That’s some right fancy cipherin’ for this Jethro.


  2. matt Says:

    I am on the bubble for my RO1 and I thought the exact same thing when I saw the tomahawk prices too! 2 missiles and I am funded for 5 years. Wish it worked out that easy.


  3. Runil Says:

    Heyy, on the bright side, you guys DID save thousands of innocent Libyans who just wanted democracy from being culled by their own government…Which until now, was behaving like a French King given the Divine Rights by Oil Production…


  4. BikeMonkey Says:

    ‘Nam. Iraq. Afghanistan. ….it ain’t that fancy a cipherin’


  5. BikeMonkey Says:

    Yours were two that missed. Feel better?


  6. Neuro-conservative Says:

    Runil — Get your priorities straight! Given the choice, I am sure that the rebels in Benghazi would have gladly laid down their lives so that DM’s next pending grant could hit the payline.


  7. DrugMonkey Says:

    Rawanda, N-c. That ship done sailed. I’m done with that crap. Pour the flash bang money into alternative energy and light rail boondoggles FFS. Better our rathole than foreign adventure ratholess which f-up shit worse than it was before.


  8. Neuro-conservative Says:

    So, let me see if I follow your logic:
    We should never act to prevent genocide because:
    1) we have not prevented all genocide in the past; and
    2) it might interfere with spending on political patronage projects.
    Do I have that right? Or does this only apply to Africans? Was it OK under your scheme to intervene in Kosovo?


  9. DrugMonkey Says:

    I’m done. Time to try some other big, supercallifragicallyexpensive expeditions. That other exploding stuff doesn’t appear to offer good ROI, time for a little R01 action.


  10. And while we’re at it, we should pay to rebuild Japan, Pakistan, and Indonesia from the tsunami’s they’ve suffered over the last few years.

    If I understand my United Nations correctly, there are 191 other countries who have membership*. Let them pick up some of the damn slack while we tend to the mess we have at home.

    *Oh yah, we pay for roughly 20% of the entire UN budget too.


  11. drugmonkey Says:

    aaaaand, scratch one F15 fighter jet….


    Wikipedia claims $28-29Million per copy in 1998 dollars. I’m sure this wasn’t the first mission for this particular one so we gotta amortize across some unknown prior number of uses but still. No doubt it is gonna get replaced with whatever the latest and greatest jet fighterz hardware is these days, the joint strike or whatnot.

    didn’t lose any pilots this time. but it brings up another cost. do you know anyone in the military on the point of this particular sword? suppose a tomahawk fucks up on launch and kills some dudes? suppose the next F15 is actually shot down? Is this shit worth losing your friends and neighbors over? I know what my answer is, but I can’t answer that for you…


  12. drugmonkey Says:


    The French WANT it???? FFFS, people…. LET THEM HAVE IT!!!!!!!!


  13. Those missiles have a shelf-life… they need major overhauls every few years. My guess is they’re letting them have the ones that are going to need maintenance soon.

    Similar the F-15s – aren’t those things, like, 30 years old?

    I don’t think the costs to the US are as great as being portrayed; and what about the international profile benefits of managing to get involved on the RIGHT SIDE of a war in an Arab country for once?


  14. drugmonkey Says:

    You can always find someone arguing we’re on the RIGHT SIDE. and then the next tribal warlord, autocrat, bad boy, theocratic wackaloon party, etc takes over and we’re just ooooh, so surprised it didn’t instantly turn into a Western style democracy…..I’m done. Let’s try something else.

    and like I noted, the cheese eating surrender monkeys actually WANT to take the lead on this one. This is a %”($&%(@$& no-brainer!!


  15. drugmonkey Says:

    oh, and like we aren’t going to buy new kit to replace the stuff we used / lost? get real….


  16. Dr. O Says:

    First the UAE wanted the international community to do something. Then they did. Now the UAE is saying that we’re doing too much. The UAE and most Arab leaders are spineless. Acting so that we can be on the “right side” is never a good idea. There is no “right side”.

    By the way, I’m totally for the international community doing something in Libya – it’s about time. But the rest of the world needs to get involved in these conflicts and stop depending on the US to take control/spend all their money.

    And the hypocritical standards used to choose which battles our waged (why not Sudan? and why are we letting Saudis shoot peaceful protesters in Bahrain?) are chicken shit. Our motivations are completely messed up in that area of the world, leading to things becoming more screwed up every time we intervene. It’s obvious to everyone why we’re acting now. Ghaddafi isn’t an ally, and Libya has oil.


  17. odyssey Says:

    But the rest of the world needs to get involved in these conflicts and stop depending on the US to take control/spend all their money.

    True enough, but why bother when the US is so willing to flex its military muscles?


  18. Beaker Says:

    We agreed to take out the air defenses because that is something that we can do better than anybody else with our super high-tech radar and R01-destroying weapons. That has to occur for whatever anti-Ghaddafi forces decide to do next. Obama has implied that we won’t be a part of whatever happens next. Let’s hope Obama is a man of his word because there is a serious risk of quagmire.


  19. FrauTech Says:

    To be fair we already bought all these missiles so the ones we’re shooting into Libya have already been paid for. True we’re probably go buy some more after this. I’m not sure it’s a sad thing we try to prevent total slaughter of pro-democracy forces in certain parts of the world along with a UN coalition that we didn’t take the lead on. Yes it’s a shame we completely underfund NIH, NFS, NASA, our public education system, our public transportation system, etc. But to be fair defense contractors are one of the last few private companies not outsoucing jobs and still doing R&D (just as technology NASA develops may come in useful later in another application, same goes for defense development). Not sure it’s necessary to pick one or the other if we could buckle down as a nation and let rich people pay taxes again.


  20. bikemonkey Says:

    Being a “man of his word” is completely and utterly beside the point when it comes to the President. There is always the excuse that “the situation has changed” to fall back on. Dubya was going to be “humble on the world stage” and not get into foreign adventures with out “clear goals and an exit strategy”. Then look what happened- dual quagmires that, combined with his domestic need to never raise taxes on his incredibly well-to-do supporters, conspired to put us in the financial mess we are in today. pfagh. Obama’s “word” is irrelevant here.


  21. joseph Says:

    humanitarian concerns aside ( how many of libya’s people is quadafi responsible for killing ) . if britain and france and for that matter china are all spun up about that jerk, let them go after him . i don’t much care a bit about who kills whom in that part of the world


  22. But just for once, the people THERE started it. Give them a helping hand and they can take out Gaddafi. Don’t send ground troups in, and maybe they won’t end up hating us.

    I really am in favour of this one.

    And yes, but my point was they’d have to replace them at some point anyway. This stuff is peanuts compared to the military’s overall budget (not that I agree that it should be, but it is).


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