Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Quote of the day: Iraqi political culture

Anthony Shadid in the New York Times on the nature of Iraqi politics: There is an Iraq that is rightly celebrated these days: images that have almost become clichéd of millions heading to the polls to elect leaders who have so far fallen far short of the ambitions in choosing them. There is the reality, ...

ZIYAD FADEL/AFP/Getty Images
ZIYAD FADEL/AFP/Getty Images
ZIYAD FADEL/AFP/Getty Images

Anthony Shadid in the New York Times on the nature of Iraqi politics:

There is an Iraq that is rightly celebrated these days: images that have almost become clichéd of millions heading to the polls to elect leaders who have so far fallen far short of the ambitions in choosing them. There is the reality, too: a country that still hews to an older notion of politics in which, in the words of one politician, there are "absolute winners and absolute losers." Eloquent rules are noisily broken, in a milieu infused with an impetus toward intolerance. The threat of violence, and often violence itself, is the discourse of politics, sometimes even celebrated as a means to an end in dividing spoils.

When in doubt, the rule goes, intimidate.

Anthony Shadid in the New York Times on the nature of Iraqi politics:

There is an Iraq that is rightly celebrated these days: images that have almost become clichéd of millions heading to the polls to elect leaders who have so far fallen far short of the ambitions in choosing them. There is the reality, too: a country that still hews to an older notion of politics in which, in the words of one politician, there are "absolute winners and absolute losers." Eloquent rules are noisily broken, in a milieu infused with an impetus toward intolerance. The threat of violence, and often violence itself, is the discourse of politics, sometimes even celebrated as a means to an end in dividing spoils.

When in doubt, the rule goes, intimidate.

This is going to make it very interesting if the elections comes down to Allawi vs. the Sadrists.

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

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.