U.S. involvement in the war in Libya cost American taxpayers an estimated $896 million through July 31, according to the Pentagon.

Whether that makes the mission a huge drain on the budget in tough fiscal times or a relatively cheap price to pay to protect Libyan civilians depends on your point of view.

In Afghanistan, the military is seeking $107 billion for the next fiscal year. That makes the annual cost of operations there about 100 times what the United States spent in Libya over four months.

Keep the math going a little further.

If the Libya mission were to keep up at the same pace as it set in the first four months, incurring the same costs, it would hypothetically cost only about $2.7 billion over the course of a year. A total of $1.3 trillion has been appropriated so far for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Seen that way, the cost of the war in Libya is chump change.

Another, perhaps less pleasant way of looking at it: $2.7 billion represents the Obama administration’s entire budget request for the Food and Drug Administration for fiscal 2012.

And, of course, the final cost of intervention isn’t yet tallied.