All-Star Panel: The cost of taking care of business in Syria

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 5, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ADM. JONATHAN GREENERT, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS: A Tomahawk missile probably costs about a million and a half dollars. So that's kind of a factoid, if you will. A carrier strike group operating out there will cost you, in an extended operation, so I'm talking about a lot of flying going on as opposed to routine flying, will cost you about $40 million a week. If it isn't flying that much, say routine, it's about $25 million a week.


BRET BAIER, HOST: That's a lot of money. The chief of naval operations talking about a potential action inside Syria even though the administration says it will be limited in scope. The secretary of defense said it will be tens of millions of dollars, different perspective there from the Navy. And then you have Secretary Kerry at the hearing yesterday talking about potential other people paying for this.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: With respect to Arab countries offering to bear cost and to assist, the answer is profoundly yes, they have. The offer is on the table.


BAIER: But the deputy national security advisor telling the press on this trip, quote, the question, "Is he seeking financial support for any activity in Syria based on his conversations?" Ben Rhodes, "The type of action we are contemplating again I think does not come with significant requirements of international participation even as we welcome those countries that do want to express support for holding the Syrian regime accountable."

Back with the panel. John, this is all in the context of a sequestered world.

JOHN HILSENRATH, CHIEF ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right. I think the cost in the context of a very large budget is pretty trivial. But the cost for the president politically over the next few weeks is potentially very significant. We have three big events coming up. The mere presence of the debate scrambles his calculations for that. One is the debt limit. The government is about to press up against the debt ceiling again and they have to raise that. It could be mid-October. There is a continuing resolution that the Congress has to pass to keep funding the government.

BAIER: September 30th.

HILSENRATH: By the end of the month. And the president has said the most important economic decision he is going to make in the rest of his presidency is choosing the next Fed chairman. We were thinking that was going to come as early as next week. That scrambles that too because he has some pretty politically divisive people in mind.

BAIER: Syria sucks a lot of oxygen out of Washington.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: I think on the costs, if we're going to use Iraq as an example, we can assume that what we just heard we should multiply it by 100, is probably what it will end up costing because they always undercount however much it will cost. We were told with Iraq that the oil money would pay for it and things like that. No one else is going to help pay for this. We will pay for it. It is a trivial amount of money in the grand scheme of things, but we have a huge budget.

So I think in the day and age where people are so concerned about spending and so concerned about the budget and in the sequester world that it is a good debate to have. We should understand how this will be paid for.

BAIER: Admiral Brainerd said, Charles, you might have to have an emergency supplemental here.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If you have a president who wants to do a strike and he says it is extremely important and urgent, and everything hinges on this, international decency and law hinge on this, then he has to be the one who steps up and provides the funding. Either he suspends some provisions of the sequester so he allows the transfer of funds from something to allow the use of the funds for this strike, or he does a supplemental. It is not hard to do. You introduce it and you get the House and the Senate to approve.

So I think it is his responsibility. He shouldn't, as he does everything else, shirk it to the Congress.  He should propose it. He's the one who said -- he drew the red line. He is the one who has a plan, so to speak, and he should provide the funding.

I think it is embarrassing for America to go around with a tin cup to Arab states and say can we act as your mercenaries? It started in the Gulf War where we went around and asked for the support of the Saudis and Kuwaitis, and it should stop. If we're going to do a war, we should pay for it.

HILSENRATH: I will tell you how I think it does get costly. That is if these pinprick strikes that we've been talking about broaden out to become a more regional conflict drawing, in Israel, drawing in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and oil prices go up. That's really the nightmare scenario. I don't think a few billion dollars to carry this event out is very costly.

But we don't know how other parties will react to this. If it escalates and oil prices go up, then we have a global economy that is fragile four years after a financial crisis and it could become a problem.

BAIER: That is it for the panel.

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