300 Special Forces Head to Iraq: What Does This Escalating Crisis Mean for America?

Will America become entrapped in another Middle Eastern war?

Jun 29, 2014 at 9:38AM

Global Hawk With Lightning
RQ-4 on the ground with lighting striking in the background. Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman. 

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are creating such chaos that Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, requested that the United States launch air strikes against the militants. In fact, Reuters reports that U.S. officials said Iraq's request included increased surveillance by U.S. drones, and drone strikes. 

So far, that request hasn't been met, but the U.S. did agree to send 300 "military advisors" -- or Special Forces -- to Iraq in an advisory role, and the Obama administration has "quietly" consulted Congress about "redirecting some intelligence funding" to financing expanded U.S. operations in Iraq, according to Reuters. So, what could this mean for America?

A divided government

F

An F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter and an F-22A Raptor soar over the Emerald Coast. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock via Wikimedia Commons.

There are a number of reasons behind the ISIS uprising in Iraq and Syria, but what's believed to be a driving force is the fact that the Iraqi government, under the leadership of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has failed to be inclusive of the Kurds and Sunnis. In fact, it's believed that ISIS is largely comprised of Sunni insurgents who are exploiting the divided government, and rampaging against what they see as a Shia controlled government.

Furthermore, according to Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize winner for The Looming Tower, a history on the rise of al-Qaeda, ISIS's stated goal is to realize the dreams of the late al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to create a broader Islamic caliphate -- an Islamic state that unites all Muslims under a supreme religious leader, a caliph, who is the "successor" to Muhammad -- eradicate all Shiites, and erase the boundary between Syria and Iraq. In order to accomplish these goals, ISIS has embraced extreme violence that is so gruesome even al-Qaeda has denounced it.

What this means for America
For those familiar with history, "military advisors" conjures memories of the term the U.S. government first used to send forces to Vietnam. And indeed, that may be a fair comparison. Unlike uprisings in the past, ISIS is well funded (it's the richest terrorist group in the world), well organized, and represents as serious threat to not only Iraq, but to America and her allies:

  • British Prime Minister David Cameron stated, "No one should be in any doubt that what we see in Syria and now in Iraq in terms of ISIS is the most serious threat to Britain's security that there is today." 
  • Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that what's happening in Iraq "represent[s] a grave threat" to U.S. interests.
  • Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein stated, "I think most important is that we take direct action now against ISIS marching down to Baghdad, and prevent them from getting into Baghdad."
  • When asked, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Sen. Lindsey Graham that ISIS had vowed to attack the United States, and that ISIS could use Syria and Iraq as a safe haven from which to launch terrorist activity against the U.S. "There is open source reporting that [ISIS], although currently a regional threat, they do have aspirations to attack Western interests."

What to watch

Growler

Boeing EA-18G. Photo: Northrop Grumman.

It's no secret that Americans are tired of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and don't want to finance another one -- to date, National Priorities Project estimates that Congress has appropriated $1.57 trillion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, that does not include potential future costs, interest payments on the national debt, or future wounded care for soldiers and veterans, and other considerations. When these future costs are added, the Harvard Kennedy School estimates that the total cost of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars could cost between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. 

Regrettably, there are two forces that could prompt American involvement against ISIS. First, as mentioned above, America has already "sunk" a significant amount of money into trying to help democratize Iraq. In investing, this is what's called "sunk cost," which is basically where you've put so much money into an investment, or situation like Iraq, that walking away seems unacceptable, or painful.

Second, and much more likely to prompt American involvement, is the very real threat ISIS poses to America's national security interests. The continued destabilization of the Middle East, coupled with the establishment of a terrorist safe haven in Iraq and Syria, could have significant ramifications for America. Consequently, if ISIS continues to make strides in Iraq, America may be forced to respond.

If, and it's still a big if, America is drawn into another Middle Eastern conflict, military action would likely be funded through the use of emergency funding. Considering that between 2000 and 2010 the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were largely funded through emergency spending bills -- in excess of $980 billion -- this development could be great news for defense contractors. Unfortunately, such a conflict would certainly be bad news for the U.S. deficit. Consequently, the conflict in Iraq is something everyone should be keeping tabs on.

Top dividend stocks for the next decade
The smartest investors know that dividend stocks, like defense companies, simply crush their non-dividend paying counterparts over the long term. That's beyond dispute. They also know that a well-constructed dividend portfolio creates wealth steadily, while still allowing you to sleep like a baby. Knowing how valuable such a portfolio might be, our top analysts put together a report on a group of high-yielding stocks that should be in any income investor's portfolio. To see our free report on these stocks, just click here now.

Katie Spence owns shares of Northrop Grumman. The Motley Fool owns shares of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers