Matthew Duss

Matthew Duss is a foreign policy analyst and a contributing writer for the Prospect. You can follow him on Twitter @mattduss.

Recent Articles

The Other Sons of Iraq

How the lessons al-Qaeda learned in Iraq are informing the next generation of fighters.

Asked about the growing insurgency in Iraq back in July 2003, then-President George W. Bush responded with a remark that will very likely appear in his obituary: "Bring 'em on." For Bush, it was merely a regrettable quip. For Iraqis, there were very real consequences. Thousands of fighters, many of them radicalized by the Iraq invasion and occupation itself, traveled from countries in the region to "bring it on" in Iraq's cities and neighborhoods, markets and mosques. In addition to the costs in lives to Iraqis and American troops, the conflict enabled al-Qaeda planners to develop and refine a set of practices against the most skilled military in the world -- Iraq became a kind of terrorist boot camp. As early as 2003, tactics and techniques developed in Iraq -- improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, suicide vests -- began migrating to other fronts like Afghanistan, where they continue to bedevil our soldiers. RAND analyst Seth Jones, whose book, In the Graveyard of Empires:...

Conservatives' Cold War Approach to Iran

Republicans are once again deploying a cracked history of the Reagan era to cast international politics as a zero-sum game.

President Barack Obama has come under increasing criticism from conservatives for what they see as his insufficient rhetorical support for the Iranians demonstrating for reform. As usual, playing a lead role in conservative arguments is the mighty Communist-killer Ronald Reagan. On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, invoked the sainted former president while introducing a House resolution "expressing concerns about the Iranian presidential election and condemning the violence against demonstrators." Pence insisted that "we cannot stand idly by … at a time when hundreds of thousands of Iranians are risking their lives to stand up for free elections and democracy," and quoted from Reagan's first Inaugural Address: "No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women." Holding forth on Fox News, Charles Krauthammer, one of Washington's chief keepers of the Reagan flame, grumbled that Obama wasn’t "...

The Shia Religious State

The Bush administration and its supporters hailed the recently signed security pact between the U.S. and Iraqi governments as a major milestone. But the agreement revealed who the most powerful forces in the new Iraq really are.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks to the media after meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)
In the never-ending battle to define and redefine the terms of the Iraq debate, President Bush and conservative supporters of the war have rallied to portray the recent signing of the security agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments as a milestone for freedom. Speaking to the Brookings Institution on Dec. 5, Bush announced , "Iraq has gone from an enemy of America to a friend of America, from sponsoring terror to fighting terror, and from a brutal dictatorship to a multi-religious, multi-ethnic constitutional democracy." That same week, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer declared the security agreement "a defeat for Tehran," because the "the ostensibly pro-Iranian religious Shiite parties resisted Tehran's pressure and championed the agreement." But examining the debate within Iraq over the security agreement reveals who has power in the new Iraq and shows that the claims of the war's supporters are -- as usual -- less than accurate. Shias make up more than 60...

Muqtada's Got a Posse

Patrick Cockburn's new book, Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq, confronts neocon myths about the political situation in Iraq.

On March 20, Bush administration Iraq hands Dan Senor and Roman Martinez published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Whatever Happened to Muqtada?" The item -- which was accompanied by a cartoon drawing of the Iraqi cleric that seemed inspired by racist propaganda of the 1930s -- declared Sadr a spent force in Iraqi politics. Senor and Martinez were engaged in what has now become a semi-annual ritual among pro-Iraq war cultists: Prematurely celebrating the demise of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. (Last year, Crooked Timber blogger John Quiggin compiled a partial list of Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds' premature "Sadr is finished!" ejaculations.) Senor and Martinez's blithe declaration of Sadr's decline, their presentation of him as a rogueish rabble-rouser, and their failure to acknowledge of the deep resonance of his message in Iraqi society was unsurprising. The article is emblematic of the pro-war community's enduring, simplistic view of Sadr as a crude bandit or, as...


As part of an apparent effort to reinvigorate political journalism's most tired cliches, James Kirchick declares that "the Left lacks a sense of humor." He offers as proof my Think Progress post from Tuesday, in which I noted what a sad commentary on conservatism it was that Christopher Buckley felt that John McCain needed to be forgiven for opposing torture. Quoth Peretz 's ward: Aside from the fact that the author of this post totally misses the point in that Buckley is lampooning McCain’s conservative critics, he also seems like a total party pooper. Observe that, in the column, Buckley refers to the “the Archfiend, Ted Kennedy” and notes that Fred Thompson “could barely manage to stay awake during his own announcement speech.” Indeed, Buckley opens the piece with an anecdote about a New Yorker cartoon. The problem with the liberals at ThinkProgress is that, since they themselves have no sense of humor, they cannot recognize a joke when it hits them square between the eyes. Observe...