Magazine November 3, 2008, Issue

‘A Fragile State’

U.S. soldiers stand near the Swords of Qadisiyah monument in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2008. (Ceerwan Aziz/Reuters)
Impressions on Iraq

Baghdad

You hear certain things over and over, as you spend some time in Iraq. You hear them from Iraqis, Americans, and others. What you hear is: We’ve made great progress in 2008. Al-Qaeda, the militias, and the rest of those lovelies are on the run. But our progress is fragile and reversible. If the coalition leaves too soon — before Iraq can defend itself — there will be hell to pay. If we leave too soon, our work will be for nought.

You also hear, Iraqis don’t want Americans and other foreigners in their country. (That includes foreign terrorists too, of

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