USA: $300,000 an hour: The cost of fighting ISIS

It’s been 96 days since the United States launched its first airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq; 50 since it expanded that campaign into Syria. And on each one of those days, the U.S. government has spent an average of roughly $8 million, or more than $300,000 an hour, on the operation against the Sunni Muslim extremist group, according to Pentagon officials.

That’s a trivial sum compared with the more than $200 million the U.S. pours each day into its 13-year war in Afghanistan (the National Priorities Project, which advocates for budget transparency, estimates that the U.S. has now spent more than $1.5 trillion on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and against ISIS, since 2001). But the bean-counting matters, because the place values and line items offer clues to understanding the military offensive President Obama has committed the country to—and now asked Congress to bless.

On Tuesday, for instance, Defense News reported that most of the $5.6 billion in additional funding that Obama recently requested from Congress to fight ISIS will go toward training and equipping the Iraqi and Kurdish militaries, operating military aircraft over Syria and Iraq, and transporting troops and materiel through the region (last week, the White House doubled the number of American soldiers deployed to Iraq in an advisory role, authorizing as many as 3,100 troops). The administration, in other words, is betting billions on a military operation largely predicated on 1) pounding the Islamic State by air and 2) beefing up local forces that can challenge the group on the ground…