My fellow Americans...hmm, that's overused....and I am not running for anything. HEY PEOPLE... too rude... To my fellow investors, read carefully: WE ARE NEVER LEAVING IRAQ! There, I said it, it's done.
Don't you wish some of our elected officials could tell it to us straight? We are not going to pull out of Iraq this year, next year, in 10 years or perhaps 100 years. Not unless we are chased out (although some locals are trying). It is true that we may reduce our forces over the next four or five years to a third of what we have there now, but we are not leaving. Since we are not leaving, I would like to see the business plan. Everyone has wanted to see the administration's strategic plan for some time, but a business plan will do.
The United States military never left Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy, and has advisors on every continent, just about every place we have ever gone. The only time we've left is when we were kicked out. The Iraqis will not be kicking us out. They need us to prevent an escalation of the civil war. They need our help rebuilding their infrastructure, (which we bombed), and we want to do that!
We also want U.S. businesses to receive priority in procuring contracts for everything that a nation needs, and in the case of Iraq, that's everything. Furthermore, we do not want the Iranians, Russians or even the French to set foot in Iraq or lay claim to one square inch of economic or geopolitical prosperity or influence, which is what would happen if we pulled out entirely.
Instead of our leaders pretending (Bush has not) anyone is coming home soon in large numbers, I would rather see a cost-benefit analysis of how much we have spent, how much we have made (or how much Hallibuton (NYSE: HAL) has absconded with), how much more we will be spending (Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) Band-Aids anyone?) and when Iraq Inc. turns profitable.
Yes, you heard it here first (I think): IRAQ INC. Our president speaks of democracy, but given some of what we have observed from the administration the past few years, that might be in question. What is not in question is capitalism, and that we would like to see spread everywhere, regardless of the form of government.
If the White House would just assist the Iraqis in submitting the appropriate paperwork to the New York Stock Exchange, perhaps they could be assigned a ticker symbol, Iraq could become another American Depository Receipt (ADR), and then we could all invest if we choose, and those that chose not to would not have to. They could raise money with an IPO -- voting with dollars instead of ballots. I can think of a few worthy symbols, like RAQ, as in "Raq up another billion to tide them over." Perhaps IRQ, like in "This whole situation irqs me something awful." In the end, they would probably choose something like GWB, as a reminder of who started it all.
Perhaps Iraq Inc. could be a giant holding company, and the territories could be wholly owned subsidiaries with their own boards. The quarterly reporting might not be perfect, but perhaps it would be a tad better than the figures released by the federal government.
Although we may not be leaving Iraq soon, or ever, you can be sure that the depiction of why we are there and how we refer to it will continue to be revised with the passage of time, until they get to the point that we are not there fighting a war -- we are introducing economic stimuli.
If you are looking for 2008 investment ideas, take a look at the defense sector, infrastructure companies, and medical supply companies. They look like safe bets.
Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the principal for design and research at an architecture & planning firm.