The next six months in Iraq

They're always "critical," so why can't we talk about what those words really mean?

Tim Grieve
November 16, 2006 12:40AM (UTC)

Gen. John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the United States needs to maintain -- or possibly increase -- current troop levels in Iraq because it has only "four to six months" left to stop sectarian violence from spiraling completely out of control.

Stop us if you've heard this one before.


As somebody said the other day, the "next six months" are always critical in Iraq. Tony Blair told reporters back in January 2004 that Iraq was about to enter "a very critical six months." Chuck Hagel said "the next six months will be very critical" in August 2005, and Joseph Biden said "the next six months are going to tell the story" in December 2005. U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in July that "the next six months will be critical in terms of reining in the danger of civil war." Gen. George Casey said in early October that "the next six months will determine the future of Iraq." And a certain New York Times columnist has declared the importance of the "next six months" so many times that 180 days is now known in some circles as "a Friedman."

Maybe the next six months in Iraq really will be the critical ones. Maybe they won't be. But here's a modest proposal either way. Instead of talking about the future of Iraq in terms of months -- hey, we'd all like a little more time! -- let's quantify it a different way. At the current rate of things, six additional months in Iraq means that 416 more U.S. soldiers will die. Are we willing to bet their lives on the odds that the six monthers are finally right this time?

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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