February 24, 2010

The Burden: America's Hard Choices in Post-Election Iraq

By Thomas E. Ricks

The March 7 national election in Iraq and the period of government formation that will follow it carry enormous implications for both the future of the country and for U.S. policy there, according to the author of this policy brief, Senior Fellow Thomas E. Ricks. With elections unlikely to resolve political struggles that fuel sectarian violence and Iraqi forces unable to stand alone, President Obama may find himself facing major decisions about troop levels and the U.S. role in post election Iraq, writes Ricks.

In The Burden: America’s Hard Choices in Post-Election Iraq, Ricks argues that U.S. and Iraqi policymakers should go back to the drawing board and find a solution that prevents Iraq from unraveling. Ricks recommends the Obama Administration signal to Iraqi leaders that the United States is open to re-negotiating the Status of Forces Agreement; explain to the American public the catastrophic effects of rushing to failure based on arbitrary deadlines; and prepare to postpone the deadline of September 2010 for removal of all “combat” troops.

“As a longtime critic of the American invasion of Iraq, I am not happy about advocating a continued military presence there,” writes Ricks. “[But] the consequences of a renewed civil war in Iraq would reverberate both regionally and globally, with profound costs for American interests. The United States has paid a huge price in Iraq so far, and Iraqi civilians have paid far more. The relatively small force proposed here, about a quarter of the size we have maintained in Iraq for the last six years, would be far less costly, and the potential results significant for all involved.”


  • Thomas E. Ricks

    Contributing Editor, Foreign Policy

    Thomas E. Ricks is a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the blog “The Best Defense,” which was named the best blog of the year by the American...

  • Commentary
    • The Washington Post
    • March 19, 2020
    9/11 swallowed U.S. foreign policy. Don’t let the coronavirus do the same thing.

    For two decades, American foreign policy has been shaped by the 9/11 attacks. The catastrophic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our failure to see the full threat posed by Russia...

    By Ilan Goldenberg

    • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • March 6, 2020
    Big Ideas for NATO’s New Mission in Iraq

    Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s calls for America’s allies to “get more involved in the Middle East,” NATO defense ministers last month agreed to “enhance” the Atlanti...

    By David H. Petraeus & Vance Serchuk

  • Commentary
    • Defense One
    • February 21, 2020
    The American Public Wants a Sustainable Middle East Policy

    After the U.S. strike on Qasem Soleimani, Americans feared the United States was on the brink of war with Iran. “World War III draft” memes circulated around the internet, and...

    By Kaleigh Thomas & Emma Moore

  • Commentary
    • The New York Times
    • February 12, 2020
    The Iranian Missile Strike Did Far More Damage Than Trump Admits

    Over 100 American soldiers have been treated for traumatic brain injuries following Iran’s missile strike on Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq. The strike came in retaliation f...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman & Paul Scharre

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia