What U.S. Investors Should Do About Syria

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The ineptitude of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is truly staggering. Following in the footsteps of former President George W. Bush's debacle in Iraq, President Obama seems hell-bent on a regime change in Syria, an eventuality that would make that Middle Eastern nation less stable, less humane, less democratic and more dangerous to U.S. national security. All the while, Obama's policy is damaging the U.S. economy and causing irreparable harm to U.S. influence and prestige in the Middle East region and around the world.

In the face of this situation, to speculate about potential damage to the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average almost seems vulgar. But, unfortunately, taking care of one's wealth will appear uncouth at times.

So let's get to it. The first step is to actually gain a reasonably objective (i.e., non-partisan) understanding of the situation. Then, one can strategize about what one should do as an investor.

Remembering the U.S. Experience in Iraq

I hate to repeat this hackneyed phrase, but it is so true, in this case: "Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it."

The U.S. intervened militarily in Iraq ostensibly on three grounds: 1) To eliminate a threat to U.S. national security. 2) To promote democracy and stability in the Middle East. 3) To promote human rights in Iraq, particularly of minority groups.

So let us make a summary cost-benefit analysis of the U.S. policy in Iraq. On the cost side of the ledger, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and American lives were ruined and trillions of dollars of U.S. and Iraqi wealth were lost. But what was the benefit? Regardless of political persuasion, the following are historical facts about whether -- and to what extent -- the U.S. obtained its stated objectives in Iraq:

  1. National security. Iraq was never a serious threat to U.S. national security -- even if it had been true that it possessed chemical weapons. So no benefit to U.S. national security could have been attained from a non-threat, even if everything had gone right. Tragically, Iraq actually poses a greater threat to U.S. national security today than it did before the invasion, as a result of the rise of extremism within Iraq as well as the relative strengthening of Iran's (America's declared arch-enemy) influence within Iraq and the region.

  2. Middle East stability. Iraq and the Middle East as a whole are demonstrably more unstable today than prior to the U.S. invasion.

  3. Democracy and human rights. Iraq is less of a liberal democratic society today than it was prior to the invasion. Elections do not guarantee liberty, justice or democracy in any meaningful sense. Never have; never will. Post-Sadaam Iraq is just one more case study, proving to be a humanitarian and democratic disaster for Iraq's minority groups including Christians, Jews as well as many Muslims.