Friday, November 25, 2005

Why a Timetable is a Bad Idea?!

The war in Iraq is not going as planned. It’s longer and bloodier than anticipated. The most important publicly given Casus Belli, WMD, has proved to be a red herring. These problems have led to more and more extreme political divisions. President Bush is suffering record low approval ratings that have been hovering below 40%. In congress, some Democrats normally hawkish on defense and even some Republicans have joined the chorus of voices calling for an exit strategy, a game plan with a timetable for getting our troops out of Iraq.

What’s wrong with a timetable? It certainly seems like an attractive idea, politically. Surely the Bush team must be tempted by the idea. But publicly members of the administration refuse to discuss any strategy besides ‘staying the course.’ The President is determined to avoid any appearance of a pullout. So why not an exit strategy?

Because fundamentally it’s a bad idea. “Exit strategy” became a popular catch phrase in the 1990s. As part of the Powell doctrine, the idea gained currency and cachet. Powell had learned lesson of Vietnam, and believed that American troops should not intervene overseas, without a clear strategy for withdrawal. Unfortunately while Powell meant that our goals should be clearly defined, the term has been co-opted, and is now being used to indicate mere chronological measure.

President Bush and his team have learned their lessons from Vietnam and from more recent conflicts like Reagan’s peacekeeping in Lebanon, and the events in Somalia a decade ago. When we give our adversaries the idea that we are willing to quit the field, they will seize the initiative. Publishing a timetable will provide the terrorists in Iraq, who are now blowing up children and hospitals, with an operational template. It offers them an advantage that they don’t need. Our goals are far better served if the insurgents know that our withdrawal depends on the security situation then on a predetermined schedule.

The president is aware, that while he could gain short term political relief by acceding to calls for a withdrawal schedule, such a commitment could backfire. The situation in Iraq is still fluid. Any withdrawal schedule would be susceptible to revision. Imagine the outcry, if after committing to a timetable, the President felt compelled to keep some troops in Iraq longer.

The president and the administration surely want to end the current situation in Iraq. As much as anyone else in the country they want an end to conflict, and the return of our forces from Iraq. The military has recently offered the possibility that some troops, possibly three brigades worth, or about 15,000, may come home early next year. The last time the Pentagon floated such an idea, in August, the White House shot them down. This time they have quietly acceded.

The White House has a Strategy for Iraq. It is a victory strategy. While there are some grounds for criticizing particulars of the current strategy, the lack of a concrete schedule is not among them. The administration’s criteria for an end to our military presence in Iraq have remained clear and consistent. We need to train and equip enough Iraqi forces to secure their own country. We need to ensure that the Iraqi government is self sufficient. And we need to maintain our ability to combat terror organizations such as Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq. It is worth remembering that we are at war with al Qaeda, an organization that has chosen to fight in Iraq.

As Iraqi security forces continue to improve and assume more responsibility for security in Iraq, our forces in Iraq will conversely decrease. As more regions of Iraq become secure American troops will be freed up. As the insurgents and terrorists are defeated and killed or captured we can begin to stand down. That is our strategy. As frustrating as it is to endure an open ended commitment, we should all realize that picking a date to bring our troops home is no guarantee of success or safety. It may even prolong the war.

As seen in today's Mudville Gazette!

Worth a look:

Rightwing Nation

OTA Weekend

Oblogatory Anecdotes


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Iraq military "plan" is a figleaf for Bush doing what he's always done best: Run away from the battle.

Sun Nov 27, 09:53:00 PM 2005  
Blogger John Byrnes said...

I'm not sure what you mean. As President Bush has hardly been one to avoid a fight. Are you referring to his service in the Air Guard rather than Active Duty 30 some years ago. I can't sppeak for his personal courage in the face of fire. But I don't believe that as President he's ever sought to avoid a fight that he thought was worth fighting. Are you saying that we should stay in Iraq forever, that we should leave immediately? Or should we not train the Iraqi military?

Sun Nov 27, 10:17:00 PM 2005  

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