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What is the cost/benefit analysis for involvement in Iraq?

The headline poses a question for which this analyst doesn’t have all of the answers, however postulated here is a framework for completing a review.

Stay out of Iraq
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Threat assessment:

Going back to the second Iraq war, was Iraq a threat to the United States? The answer is that Iraq was a menace to the free world. Iraq was disruptive to the flow of oil. Iraq was destabilizing. In the absence of harboring terrorists and possessing weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was not a direct threat to America’s national security. Iraq was as much a menace to other Middle Eastern countries as it was to any nation outside the Middle East.

Today, because ISIS and al Qaeda remnants are involved in Iraq’s civil war, they pose threats to America’s national security interests, and could develop to pose direct threats to national security at home. It is premature to say that now.

ISIS a and al Qaeda remain threats to American national security, therefore our priority is to monitor and to determine at what stage ISIS should become an American target. ISIS would be the reason for reengaging in Iraq, not the nation state itself.

If the Iraqi government were to depose Maliki, and to reorient to a sectarian inclusive government, than it might become sufficiently viable to warrant U.S. support. As it is, it does not, even though the Obama administration believes that it is worthy continued engagement.


  1. Engage Iraq and continue to support because America has already sunk investment there
  2. Try to develop relationship with sectarian neutral Iraqis
  3. Try to stop the invasion and expansion of war from Syrian rebels
  4. Try to stop a Sunni and Shiite war that would likely envelop the Middle East


  1. America has proven that its brand of assistance doesn’t work in Iraq
  2. The number of neutral Iraqis is too small to rescue, however outreach may be covert
  3. Trying to stop the invasion from Syria would likely require taking sides in that country’s civil war. Aligning with Bashar al-Assad and Shiites in Syria is akin to aligning with Iran and aligning with the Maliki government.
  4. Americans can’t stop a 2,000 year old sectarian conflict. Middle East people must do that themselves.


Costs of engaging in war in the Middle East is already on the books. That foreign policy has nearly sunk the Nation’s budget. We don’t have the capacity for more war and foreign policy that we cannot afford.

Return on cost

Stopping terrorism is the goal. Minimizing American presence and intrusiveness will help reduce tensions

However, if Middle East nations states don’t get a grip on radicalized Islamic terrorists, world war may be ignited that goes beyond the war on terror.

"GOP is again leading the call for action in Iraq

BY AARON BLAKE June 23 at 10:48 AM

A new CBS News/New York Times poll on Iraq suggests that the American people are quite uncertain about what should be done amid the rise of the al-Qaeda-inspired group ISIS.

Perhaps most notably, though, there is little urgency among Democrats or independents to get involved, suggesting that any push for further involvement will be spurred in large part — yet again — by the political right."

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