Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

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The new issue of the Air Force’s Strategic Studies Quarterly contains an unfortunate article on Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias. I turned to it eagerly, because this is a subject that interests me, in part because I think the Iranian effort in Iraq has been a model of a high-impact, low-profile training and advisory ...

585290_090604_militia2.jpg
585290_090604_militia2.jpg

The new issue of the Air Force's Strategic Studies Quarterly contains an unfortunate article on Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias. I turned to it eagerly, because this is a subject that interests me, in part because I think the Iranian effort in Iraq has been a model of a high-impact, low-profile training and advisory mission. I've been kind of stewing about it ever since I was in a convoy near Najaf in 2004 that I now believe was tracked and attacked by Iranian special operators. One soldier died and another was wounded.

The new issue of the Air Force’s Strategic Studies Quarterly contains an unfortunate article on Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias. I turned to it eagerly, because this is a subject that interests me, in part because I think the Iranian effort in Iraq has been a model of a high-impact, low-profile training and advisory mission. I’ve been kind of stewing about it ever since I was in a convoy near Najaf in 2004 that I now believe was tracked and attacked by Iranian special operators. One soldier died and another was wounded.

But as I read, it pretty quickly became apparent to me that the author had nothing to say. Even so, I slogged on, and finally I got to this breathtaking conclusion: 

There are no easy choices, and the road ahead is perilous and uncertain. However, in this high-stakes security environment, America cannot afford to get this wrong and must pursue a thoughtful, purposeful policy guided by theory, history and pragmatic common sense.”

Stop the presses! I think that paragraph-or rather, that car crash of clichés — could apply to just about any foreign policy question any nation at war ever has faced. I mean, when is the road ahead ever safe and certain? And can you imagine calling for a thoughtless strategy unguided by history? (I know, I know — we already tried that in Iraq in 2003.) 

As a taxpayer, I’d like my money back. And I sentence this writer to a remedial reading of George Orwell’s great essay on “Politics and the English Language,” which makes the point that slovenly language leads to foolish thinking.

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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