Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Ongoing Costs of War Research Looks at 'The University at War'

November 9, 2011

More than eight years of US military engagement in Iraq has cost the nation’s universities billions of dollars in lost resources and decimated its academic ranks, according to the latest research released by the Watson-based Costs of War project. The research paper, “The University at War,” written by Hugh Gusterson, a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University, has now been published online at costsofwar.org.

Gusterson’s is the project’s latest paper on the economic, social, and political costs of US military engagement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. He writes that after the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraqi museums were stripped of their cultural artifacts and universities of their basic equipment, including books, lab equipment, and desks. By 2006, at least 160 Iraqi professors had been killed, according to his research, and between 2003 and 2007, more than 30 percent of the country’s professors, doctors, pharmacists, and engineers had fled the country. Gusterson reports that as many as one million books and ten million unique documents have been destroyed, lost, or stolen across Iraq since 2003.

The United Nations and World Bank have requested $2 billion to reconstruct universities in Iraq, and the US senior advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Education once asked for $1.2 billion. But Gusterson writes that the US Congress has approved just $8 million in funding.

The multi-university Costs of War project, involving more than 20 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, and political scientists, offers the first comprehensive analysis of the costs of America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Findings from the project’s onoing research on the human, economic, social, and political costs of war are elaborated in academic papers and summarized graphically at costsofwar.org.