- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
It was an ambitious speech that President Obama delivered last night — not just about Iraq, but also Afghanistan and the economy. I thought it amounted to a defense of his presidency. He continues to strike me as a guy who thought he was elected for domestic reasons and so seems to resent how foreign affairs intrude on his time. His rhetoric on the two subjects has the feel of two different men — on foreign policy, kind of tired and clichéd, written by a committee, but on domestic affairs, kind of zingy.
As he said in the speech, he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to get all combat troops out of Iraq by today. Unfortunately, it was a phony pledge — the mission of the U.S. troops still in Iraq is, if anything, more dangerous today than it was yesterday. And so the core of the speech was hollow.
Meanwhile, in the under-reported Iraq story of the month, the Iraqi army chief of staff said the U.S. military needs to stay in Iraq for another decade. “If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: “the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020,” said Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari.
A leading politician related a recent conversation he had with a top Iraqi general. The politician asked about the possibility of a coup. The general, he said, deeming the talk serious, pulled out a map of the capital and provided a disconcertingly elaborate plan to execute one: overturning trucks to block the route from the main American base to the Green Zone, seizing television stations, besieging Parliament, and so on.
Meanwhile, old Reidar Visser continues to produce some of the most insightful analyses of Iraqi politics. I first came across him three or so years ago when a member of Petraeus’s staff said, “Don’t ask me! If you want to understand Basra, read Reidar Visser.”
And Anne Applebaum had a good piece on the long-term costs of the Iraq war, but loses points for concluding with the tired anecdote about Chou En Lai saying it is too early to tell on the French revolution.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |