Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Iraq, the unraveling (XLII): ’05 again?

I thought I was a pessimist about Iraq until I read this comment by a U.S. military official in today’s Washington Post: All we’re doing is setting the clock back to 2005. … The militias are fully armed, and al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to move back from the west. These are the conditions now, ...

RBerteig/flickr
RBerteig/flickr
RBerteig/flickr

I thought I was a pessimist about Iraq until I read this comment by a U.S. military official in today's Washington Post:

All we're doing is setting the clock back to 2005. ... The militias are fully armed, and al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to move back from the west. These are the conditions now, and we're sitting back looking at PowerPoint slides and whitewashing."

Ugh. I think 2005 was my least favorite year of the war Iraq, when things were falling apart and the American officials were insisting that they weren't. 2006 was bloodier but at least by the end of the year, it was clear that something had to change.

I thought I was a pessimist about Iraq until I read this comment by a U.S. military official in today’s Washington Post:

All we’re doing is setting the clock back to 2005. … The militias are fully armed, and al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to move back from the west. These are the conditions now, and we’re sitting back looking at PowerPoint slides and whitewashing."

Ugh. I think 2005 was my least favorite year of the war Iraq, when things were falling apart and the American officials were insisting that they weren’t. 2006 was bloodier but at least by the end of the year, it was clear that something had to change.

The official’s comment in the Post reminds me of when, a few months ago, a top American expert in Iraqi affairs took me aside to warn me that I was dangerously optimistic. I asked him if he misspoke and mean that I was too pessimistic about the prospects for Iraq. "No," he said, shaking his head. "You are too optimistic. You think a civil war in Iraq is avoidable. It is not. It is inevitable."

Meanwhile, General Odierno is calling out Chalabi and others as tools of Iran. Good for him.

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

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.