No Skin in the Game

No Skin in the Game

© David Burton 2015

Reap the Whirlwind

     “A person who has skin in the game has invested in the company they are running.” (Ref. 1) Having “no skin in the game” means that one has no investment, i.e., the person has not risked anything. To have "skin in the game" is to have incurred monetary risk by being invested in achieving a goal.

QUESTION: If you had to invest your money in a company, would you prefer to invest in a company run by someone who has nothing invested in the company and, therefore nothing to lose if the company fails, or would you prefer to invest in a company in which the person running the company has invested a significant amount of his/her own money and stands to personally lose this money if the company fails?

QUESTION: If you were a soldier, would you be inspired to fight for a commander who leads you into battle and shares the risks of war or for a commander who stays in the rear and issues orders for you to fight while he avoids all the risks?

     “. . . in a televised address from the White House, President Barack Obama presented his strategy for how to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. ‘We will not get dragged into another ground war,’ he declared. His plan calls for air strikes in two countries, a multinational coalition, and the deployment of four hundred and seventy-five more service members to Iraq, but, he said, those troops ‘will not have a combat mission.’ They will execute a ‘counterterrorism campaign.’ “(Ref. 2) Does this sound like the president is putting any American skin in the game? Or is he asking others to invest while the U.S. does not? The president is asking other nations to put the lives of their troops at risk while refusing to do the same with American troops – hardly a way to gain support in the fight against Islamic terror.

     If we want other countries to join us in the fight against ISIS, we must be willing to assume the same risks that they do. If we want other countries’ support, we need to have some skin in the game, just as they do.

     “It should come as no surprise that Turkey so far refuses to put boots on the ground to fight the ISIS . . .
     “While there is much to criticize about our erstwhile NATO ally’s government, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has clearly made a calculation that he can’t trust the United States — or more accurately, that he can’t trust this administration.
     “And why should he?
     “The level of confusion, incompetence and lack of will President Obama has demonstrated in dealing with the multiple crises that face us in the Middle East is mind numbing.
     “He has ordered airstrikes against ISIS, too late and too few, but refused to allow the military to do its job well. Without Special Forces spotters on the ground, an air campaign can’t be entirely effective.
     ”In a remarkable breach of protocol, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made it clear in congressional testimony in mid-September that we shouldn’t rule out the use of US ground troops, despite the president’s multiple declarations that no Americans would fight this war except from the air.
     ”The administration is asking Turkish troops to fight ISIS alongside Kurds, their traditional foes, but is unwilling to commit our troops to stand with them? [Emphasis mine]
     “We have the best-trained, most experienced fighters in the world, but we won’t allow them to battle a brutal army that not only is capturing wide swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, but also has announced its aims to bring jihad to American soil?
     “What Obama has shown is a willingness to draw red lines and then allow them to be crossed, as he did in Syria.
     “He’s shown himself quite adept at squandering the blood and treasure spent in Iraq by withdrawing American troops precipitously, which virtually guaranteed the collapse of the country we are now witnessing.
     "The president’s fecklessness on this has come under increased scrutiny with the publication of a memoir by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who lays bare Obama’s false claim that he withdrew troops because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wouldn’t agree to let them stay.
     "The president chose to pull out all of our troops at once rather than personally pushing for a status-of-forces agreement that would have kept Iraq from coming apart at the seams. [Emphasis mine]
     "Obama has put together a shaky coalition to fight ISIS, but without US leadership — our willingness to use all the resources at our disposal — how can we possibly hope others will do the job we’re unwilling to do? [Emphasis mine]
     “. . . it makes no sense that we tie the military’s hands behind their backs by limiting ourselves to airstrikes without the proper US intelligence on the ground to make them effective.
      - - -
     “. . . wars can’t be won by announcing to our enemies what we can’t or won’t do — or the day on which we will withdraw, regardless of the conditions on the ground, which is what Obama has done in Afghanistan.
      - - -
     “{Not} only {are} our enemies . . . getting mixed messages — which is dangerous enough {but it is} also our allies. Under this president, America’s word is becoming worth less and less.
     “It’s easy enough to point fingers at those who should take up the fight against Islamist extremism, not least those countries and governments that have helped foster it.
     “But when the United States can’t be counted on to fully engage {in} the struggle, no one else will fill the vacuum.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 3)

     If countries have no faith in America’s commitment to fight alongside them, they will turn to other countries that may not be particularly friendly to the U.S. or whom may have agendas that are not in concert with America’s objectives in the world. For example, Iraq and Iran agreed “to enter a formal relationship to fight the Islamic State group {ISIS, which} should be deeply troubling to the United States. . . .
     “. . . Part of the problem is that the administration doesn’t want to take on the Islamic State directly in Iraq, preferring to provide American military advisers who will play a severely limited role while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps actually provides thousands of troops on the ground.
     “. . . expediency in the fight against the Islamic State is a bad strategy for the U.S. and for the world. . . .” (Ref. 4)

     If we want other countries to join us in the fight against ISIS, we must be willing to assume the same risks that they do. If the U.S. wants other countries’ support in war against Islamic jihad and if America wants to defeat this barbaric enemy, then we need to have skin in the game. America must do more than simply wage an antiseptic proxy war against ISIS.


  1. Idiom: Skin in the game,, Accessed 6 January 2015.
  2. The Name of the Fight, Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, 22 September 2014.
  3. Why our allies just don’t trust us, Linda Chavez, New York Post, 10 October 2014.
  4. Top Mideast threat: Iran and its nuclear agenda, Linda Chavez, Boston Herald, 5 January 2015.


  16 January 2015 {Article 211; Undecided_39}    
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