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Will Obama's war strategy produce a peace dividend?

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Any savings are "very uncertain," cautions Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, another Washington think tank. He adds that it's "plausible" there will be no change in costs.

Any savings depend in large degree on how fast Obama can draw down the troop levels in Iraq, says Steven Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. At present, about 200,000 armed services members are in the Middle East, some 150,000 in Iraq and 35,000 in Afghanistan.

Mr. Korb's savings estimate is buried in a footnote on page 58 of a long study, "Building a Military for the 21st Century: New Realities, New Priorities," which looks at defense spending and policies as a whole. Department of Defense spending alone, it notes, is more in inflation-adjusted dollars than at any other time since the end of World War II.

Mr. Kosiak, in a study that came out last week, puts the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through fiscal 2009 at $904 billion in 2008 dollars.

Beyond that, the Korb study speaks of "runaway cost growth" that has "paradoxically failed to create a larger, more ready force." It also makes budget recommendations that, the analysts reckon, could save $38.6 billion over the next four years.

The footnote on Iraq-Afghanistan spending assumes Obama can actually decrease the number of combat troops in Iraq by about 50,000 by April 2010. That would reduce Iraq spending from approximately $10 billion a month to about $7 billion by mid-2010.

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