Best Defense
Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Why the Iraqi army won’t fight: It isn’t for lack of equipment, training or doctrine

The problem with the Iraqi army isn’t lack of training, or command and control structures, or insufficient counterinsurgency training. The forces they are fighting — and losing to — don’t have any of that. The reason the Iraqi army won’t fight is that it lacks a reason to do so. This is a problem of ...

HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images
HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images
HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images

The problem with the Iraqi army isn't lack of training, or command and control structures, or insufficient counterinsurgency training. The forces they are fighting -- and losing to -- don't have any of that.

The problem with the Iraqi army isn’t lack of training, or command and control structures, or insufficient counterinsurgency training. The forces they are fighting — and losing to — don’t have any of that.

The reason the Iraqi army won’t fight is that it lacks a reason to do so. This is a problem of governance. Their enemies are willing to fight and die for their cause. They advance in Toyota pickups, probably communicate via cellphone, and apparently have found little opposition from Sunni inhabitants.

The problem is that many Iraqi government soldiers are not willing to die for Maliki’s version of Iraq.

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 photo illustration shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden posing on pedestals atop the bipolar world order, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Russian President Vladamir Putin standing below on a gridded floor.
A photo illustration shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden posing on pedestals atop the bipolar world order, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Russian President Vladamir Putin standing below on a gridded floor.

No, the World Is Not Multipolar

The idea of emerging power centers is popular but wrong—and could lead to serious policy mistakes.

A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.
A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.

America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want

Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.

The Chinese flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics at Beijing National Stadium on Feb. 4, 2022.
The Chinese flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics at Beijing National Stadium on Feb. 4, 2022.

America Can’t Stop China’s Rise

And it should stop trying.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on prior a meeting with European Union leaders in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on prior a meeting with European Union leaders in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.

The Morality of Ukraine’s War Is Very Murky

The ethical calculations are less clear than you might think.