Up in Arms

Published — March 26, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

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Stephen M. Walt, an international affairs professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, has a short, tough-minded list of 10 useful lessons to be drawn at the end of America’s war in Iraq, appearing on Foreign Policy’s website. “It’s very hard to improvise an occupation,” is our favorite. His conclusion about large-scale military incursions — “that we’re never going to do it well and it will rarely be vital to our overall security” — will be debated, but is now mainstream thinking at the upper ranks of the Pentagon.

A complementary, clear-eyed account of the misery in Iraq today appears in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, written by Los Angeles Times correspondent Ned Parker. There’s blame to go around in his portrait of the country’s toxic political culture — notably in the Dawa Party and its leader Nouri a-Maliki. But Parker usefully highlights the undermining effects of endemic corruption, a problem Washington spent little effort trying to fix over the past decade. “Committing murder in Iraq is casual,” a worried Iraqi anticorruption official told Parker, “like drinking a morning cup of coffee.”

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