Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

How I think about what is happening in Iraq today: Our 24-year war continues

I try to stay away from commentary on things like presidential speeches because there already are thousands of reporters and commentators running to the ball like a giant second-grade soccer game. I’ll make an exception here because I think I have a different perspective. I think the Iraq war is best seen as one continuous ...

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

I try to stay away from commentary on things like presidential speeches because there already are thousands of reporters and commentators running to the ball like a giant second-grade soccer game.

I'll make an exception here because I think I have a different perspective. I think the Iraq war is best seen as one continuous conflict since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990. I remember getting on the Metro that morning, seeing the headline, and thinking, "Hey, we're gonna go to war."

And so we did, with an air campaign followed by a short ground campaign. When that was over, we went back to several years of air campaigning, complemented by some covert operations on the ground. Then, in 2003, we had another major ground campaign. It was supposed to last a few months, but instead lasted 8 years. And now we are back to an air war, probably again supported by occasional covert ops.

I try to stay away from commentary on things like presidential speeches because there already are thousands of reporters and commentators running to the ball like a giant second-grade soccer game.

I’ll make an exception here because I think I have a different perspective. I think the Iraq war is best seen as one continuous conflict since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990. I remember getting on the Metro that morning, seeing the headline, and thinking, "Hey, we’re gonna go to war."

And so we did, with an air campaign followed by a short ground campaign. When that was over, we went back to several years of air campaigning, complemented by some covert operations on the ground. Then, in 2003, we had another major ground campaign. It was supposed to last a few months, but instead lasted 8 years. And now we are back to an air war, probably again supported by occasional covert ops.

The biggest difference I can see is that where once some Americans said we were doing this to prevent Iran from gaining influence, now we are working alongside the Iranians in 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

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