The Bush administration is often criticized for the Iraq war. One of the most telling criticisms centers around the cost, originally estimated at around $50 billion, and now well over $800 billion for our 9 year occupation.
I think this is a problem inherent in our system of civilian control of the military. Civilians are usually really fuzzy on what war is and clueless on what war can accomplish.
I’m sure that a simple war with a concrete military objective could have been brought in before the deadline and under budget, even the $50 billion estimate.
Nation Building, which is what the civilians really wanted from the beginning and got in the end, is ALWAYS more expensive and highly unpredictable.
Not sure we should have invaded Iraq (20/20 hindsight there), but once the decision was made the military mission should have been limited to death and destruction and leaving a big mess behind for the Iraqis to clean up on their own. Bottom line, that’s what an army is designed to do.
I am unaware of any institution designed specifically for Nation Building. Not even sure it is possible. Napoleon managed some successes in the German States in the early 19th century, but even those didn’t last long and that’s the best result for Nation Building of which I am aware.