John Key has never sounded entirely convinced he should have soldiers in Iraq, least of all when he told Andrew Little to "get some guts".
Key took an age to make the decision last year, delaying it until after the election and then deciding on the minimum he might do to be part of the posse assembled by an equally reluctant President Barack Obama, who had to respond to the spread of "Islamic State".
Well, at the time he had to respond. A year on, it all seems a bit pointless.
Key dropped in on his soldiers in Iraq this week and, according to reporters accompanying him, he was reassured the 105 men and women at Camp Taji near Baghdad were as safe as possible.
"Safe" is not normally a condition associated with armed forces in a war zone but he was adamant from the outset these would be non-combatants, there to help train the army that had run away from Isis.
Since the trainers were to be protected by an equal number of SAS we might have expected some "mission creep" by now, but it appears not. The Prime Minister's party found our people safe in a big walled compound that once accommodated American forces.
The Herald's Claire Trevett described concrete walls lining most of its roads and overhead shelters everywhere. One of them, shown on TVNZ's news, looked more like a cavernous bunker. Corin Dann stood in its gloom and reported the camp had not been shelled since the Kiwis arrived in February but it had shortly before they arrived.
The trainers said they were getting satisfaction from their work with individual Iraqi soldiers. The Iraqi soldiers said they did not believe Isis was as strong as it claimed. It has been contained by Kurd and Shia militias, not the regular army, according to everything we read, and attention has shifted to Syria thanks to Germany's brief opening last month to a flood of refugees.
There is nothing so valuable as New Zealand reporters on the ground to give us a honest, unpresupposed sense of what is going on. It was evident in Rachel Smalley's interviews with Syrians on the roads into Europe they were not fleeing Islamic State. All those she met were from rebel cities and were escaping the retaliation of Bashar al-Assad.
Their prospects of ever returning became dimmer this week with Russia's intervention on the side of Assad. Now we await Obama's response to Vladimir Putin's bombing of rebels the United States has been supporting. The Middle East is a mess and everything the West has done has made it worse.
It is coming up to a century since the fateful mistakes of World War I. New Zealand soldiers were there, in Palestine, at the time. After Gallipoli, Britain looked for other ways to take the Ottoman Empire out of the war. One way was an attack from Egypt, the other was to foment Arab uprisings in the desert provinces.
The story is well told in a new book, The Fall of the Ottomans, by Oxford historian Eugene Rogan. It records Europe's fear of jihadism even back then.
Germany hoped a call from the Ottoman Sultan, caliph to the world's Muslims, would cause unrest in corners of Britain's empire. The Turks hoped a jihad would ensure Arab loyalty, particularly after their defence of the Dardanelles might be taken as a sign of divine approval.
But the jihad never amounted to much. Instead, as an Anzac cavalry division led the British advance across the Sinai in 1916, an Arab independence movement erupted in Mecca and nearby centres.
The next year, an Arab rebel army marched northward into what is now Jordan and Syria. The British fought hard battles at Gaza, breaking through to join forces with the Arabs.
But within days of taking Jerusalem, Britain and France let it be known they had agreed to divide the Ottoman's Arab provinces between them. The British also declared they favoured the creation in Palestine of a Jewish homeland.
Arabs were not invited to the post-war conference that gave birth to new nations. How different history could have been.
One day, probably when the United States realises it has paid its dues for invading Iraq and need not trouble itself over everything that menaces the Middle East, there will be an end to it. Meanwhile, John Key expects this training commitment to last no longer than the intended two years. I suspect he can hardly wait.