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Introducing FP's new eBook: Tsunami

We're thrilled to announce the launch of Tsunami: Japan's Post-Fukushima World, FP's latest ebook project. It's just $4.99 and proceeds will benefit Japan's disaster relief efforts.

On March 11, 2011, Japan's northern coast was shaken by the biggest earthquake ever to strike the island in recorded history. With a gigantic tsunami and the nuclear meltdown that followed, 3/11 was the worst disaster to hit the developed world for a hundred years. Confronted with tough questions about its dependence on nuclear power, about the competence of its leaders both in the private and public sectors, about the economy's ability to rebound from a shock, the country has been plunged into crisis. After centuries of earthquakes, tsunamis, war, and a long list of other disasters, natural and unnatural, the Japanese people are accustomed to building back stronger -- but how do they recover from such a devastating blow, and what will that new future look like?

This unique ebook, the first to respond to the quake in such depth, assembles an exclusive collection of top writers and scholars working in Japan today to answer these questions. Edited by Temple University's Jeff Kingston, it showcases some of Japan's leading writers and thinkers, from prominent journalists like Financial Times Asia-Pacific editor David Pilling to former Economist editor Bill Emmott to best-selling author Robert Whiting.

Published in real-time and available to readers on their Kindle, iPad, and computers, Tsunami: Japan's Post-Fukushima World uses new technology to tell the story of Tsunami that devastated Japan and the resulting nuclear aftermath that continues to plague the country.

Buy it now for just $4.99 -- and support the Japan Society, which will send proceeds directly to Tsunami relief efforts on Japan's northern coast.

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Was Obama low-balling the cost of war?

The price tag for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since the 9/11 attacks is somewhere between $3.7 and $4.4 trillion, according to a new report released today. The staggering figure is nearly four times higher than the U.S. government estimate. Just last week, President Barack Obama pegged the cost over the last decade at $1 trillion.

The new estimated cost provided by a research project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, is also much higher than most previous attempts to quantify the operations.

A March 2011 Congressional Research Service report estimated the war funding at $1.4 trillion through 2012 and the Congressional Budget Office pegged the cost from 2001 through 2021 at an estimated $1.8 trillion, according to Reuters.

A 2008 report by economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, however, put the estimated combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between $5 and $7 trillion. They included interest on debt, future borrowing to pay off debt, the cost of a continued military presence, and health care and counseling for veterans.

Catherine Lutz, a professor of anthropology at Brown and one of the project's directors, told Foreign Policy her group also took into account future costs, such as obligated expenses for injured soldiers in the decades to come. 

According to a White House spokesperson, the number disparity between the trillion-dollar figure the president used this month and the Brown report comes down to methodology -- and what you choose to include. The administration is counting only the "direct costs of war," the spokesperson said, which includes just the money appropriated for the budgets of the Pentagon, State Department, and intelligence community.  Officially, the White House says the "total amount appropriated for war-related activities" is $1.3 trillion, which could rise to $1.4 trillion in 2012.

Nora Bensahel, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said it's fair to include more than just the cost of current operations when coming up with the "total cost" of the war -- including things such as veteran care.

"There are people who are being injured today who will need health care for a long time after the conflict ends," she said. "That's not part of the current cost, but it's certainly directly related."

Bensahel, who has not read the entire report, said other expenses mentioned in the press were less fair -- including factoring in lost opportunity costs.

"I don't think that's an appropriate cost to include because every expenditure of money includes some trade-offs," she said.

According to the report, the United States has already spent between $2.3 and $2.6 trillion on Iraq and Afghanistan. The project also looked at the cost of war in terms of human casualties. The number of total deaths it calculates (225,000) is "a very conservative estimate," said Lutz.

"Seeing the death toll, how many of the allied uniform folks have died and seeing the civilian numbers was the biggest shock for me," she said.

31,741 uniformed allied soldiers and contractors -- from U.S., Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani security forces, as well as contractors -- have been killed. And the report claims that at least 137,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Journalists and humanitarian workers accounted for between 434 and 521 deaths.

The goal of the project was to give the public "a fuller sense of what's at stake," Lutz said. "I think it's the case that we've had an atrophying of public information sources [looking into these questions]. Journalism is in a challenged state and there's a real heavy spin machine out there. Whatever one's political project, it's accompanied by a heavy dose of misinformation. We really feel it's important for foreign policy and domestic policy decision-making to know this information."