The war in Iraq continues. Suppose we gave a war in Iraq and nobody here cared? Not clear what the deal is to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. But keeping just 3,000 troops worries me -- that's more like a big kick-me sign than a force that can support and protect itself. (Unless it is a cover for about 12,000 more mercenaries.) I mean, Mookie already has threatened to whack American advisors remaining into next year. Meanwhile, Turkey conducted a bunch of airstrikes against Kurdish targets in northern Iraq.
It is also going to be harder to see one more American die in Iraq now that Iraq has lined up with Iran to support the beleaguered regime in Syria. Leaves a kind of even emptier feeling. (But at least we got Iraq's stockpiles of WMD!) Old Juan Cole sees an emerging Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran alliance. A new axis of evil?
Ken Pollack is worried that Iraq is on the precipice, again:
There is extensive scholarly literature on how civil wars start, end and recur, and Iraq's experiences over the past eight years conform to these patterns frighteningly closely. Historically, states that have undergone an intercommunal civil war like the one in Iraq have an unfortunate tendency to slip back into such conflict. This is especially true when the state in question has major, easily looted resources-like oil.
This same history demonstrates that a slide into civil war typically follows a period of time when old problems come back to haunt a country but everyone sees them as relatively minor and easily solved, and thus they do not take them seriously or exert themselves to nip them in the bud. Then, seemingly small and simple-to-overcome issues snowball quickly-much faster than anticipated-and a resurgence of civil war that people believed was years or even decades away reignites overnight. Unfortunately, the point where civil war became inevitable typically is clear only in the rearview mirror.
Speaking of Iraq, it is good to see old Joel Wing come off the injured reserve list.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.