Out of the Frying Pan

More

AN AIR BASE IN KUWAIT - When I flew out of Baghdad, leaving Iraq this most recent of dozens of times, something felt different. Usually when we reach cruising altitude, higher than any stray round or MANPAD system can reach, the relief is distinct and exquisite. This time the feeling was more melancholy: not because I was leaving a country soon to be rendered back to its own people, but because for once I felt like I was leaving Iraq to go somewhere less attractive.

I can't criticize Kuwait the country in absolute terms, because all I have seen of it was a brutally inefficient airport and a desiccated strip of highway. At the airport I waited two hours to prove I did not have swine flu (proof consisted in filling out a form), and the desiccated buildings that lined the highway appeared grungy or at best unloved.

What makes the comparison stark, and different from before, is that Iraq's future has gone from dismal to uncertain. Kuwait's air base, by contrast, with its scorching heat, its institutional feel, seems to lack promise and hope utterly. It will never be anything greater than it already is. Iraq will almost certainly improve, though my confidence in the short-term is weak. If Jim Cramer were screaming about Iraq, he would change its rating from "DON'T BUY" to "RISKY." I wish I could have stayed there for months, and more in the company of Iraqis than of Marines. (Perhaps later this year -- stay tuned.)

In the meantime, Afghanistan is next.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Graeme Wood is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. His personal site is gcaw.net.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In