Out of the Frying Pan

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.

Presented by

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

Join the Discussion

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

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's going to go from bad to worse."

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

More in Global

Just In