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It's not a matter of time

As more and more opponents of the war in Iraq (or, rather, the Iraqi campaign of the War on Terror, or perhaps the War on Islamic Fascism) push harder and harder for firm timetables for US forces to draw down and ultimately withdraw, I find myself wondering just where the notion that such a thing would be desirable came from. And the longer I thought about it, the more I disliked it.

There are many ways of measuring progress and success. One of them is simple passage of time. And that has to be one of the worst ways.

Let's look at a few other examples. Driving, as we are all reminded in Driver's Ed, is not a right but a privilege. One must be (in most states) 16 years old before one can get a license. But it's not a birthright; one must first obtain parental approval and pass a certified educational program, and only then are you given the opportunity to pass an exam. If one waits until one is 18, those preconditions are waived, but the exam is still required -- simply marking dates on the calendar does nothing to change that.

In schools, there was a push for a while for "social promotion." Students were advanced regardless of achievement, just to keep them with their peer groups. The educational aspects were deferred, with the presumption that they would eventually "catch up." It was a monumentally wrong-headed idea, condemning far too many children to years of disappointment and failure, with its only redeeming factor that it was so horrid that the chances of it coming back are virtually nil.

And then there are the rights and privileges that come simply from the passage of years. At the age of 18, we are considered legal adults for most matters. We can enter into legally-binding contracts (such as marriage and credit applications), marry, enlist in the armed services -- in brief, do most anything a free adult can. Finally, at 21, we can drink alcohol (as long as we obey the laws about when and where).

And how well does this work out? With admittedly mixed results. Young adults, particularly college students, are getting into serious debt and major credit problems at a younger age. Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce. Drinking problems among college-age youngsters are legendary. On the other hand, we currently have the finest military the world has ever seen, and the numbers of highly-successful overachievers currently wearing our nation's colors are awe-inspiring.

Now, in Iraq, we see that the "timeline" philosophy is the favored one of the left, despite considerable examples that it is quite often the wrong approach.

I have a very good friend who is a teacher, and we've occasionally discussed matters. It's become my impression that the very best teachers are the ones who don't help their students succeed, but demand it. The teachers actually make it harder for the students to fail than to succeed, and at the same time instills the drive to succeed on their own.

That is the model, I believe, we should be following in Iraq -- and I think we pretty much are. Our policy seems to be to help the nascent Iraqi government stand on its own, secure their own country, help and guide them to full independence and their future. As President Bush has said repeatedly, as they stand up, we shall stand down.

Will we, eventually, pull out completely from Iraq? Perhaps, perhaps not. I happen to believe that we will have a military presence there for some time to come. Using history as a guide, we tend to leave forces and bases in places where we've fought. We still have a considerable force in Germany, in Japan, and Korea. Interestingly, the one place where we fought like hell and do not still have forces is Viet Nam -- and that is the model the anti-war crowd simultaneously warns us about and tries to recreate.

(following paragraph omitted from earlier version due to brain fart)

And if that Iraqi government should decide one day that they no longer want to play host to our forces, then they needn't look too far to see what happens to governments that kick out the US armed services. Just look at how vengeful and vindictive we've been towards Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, the last two nations to show our troops the door...

Our withdrawal from Iraq should be done on a schedule of events, not dates. We should reject the calendar the anti-war forces push and instead use a checklist.

Because all using the timeline achieves is to tell our opponents just how long they have to hang on before they can declary victory by default -- and I don't think just handing them the win is a good idea.

Comments (19)

That was a good article, Ja... (Below threshold)

That was a good article, Jay.

I second that.. very good a... (Below threshold)

I second that.. very good article.

Excellently written and tho... (Below threshold)

Excellently written and thought out piece Jay. Thought provoking for a lefty like me. I disagree with your premise that you can't measure success by time however. The issue I have with that is that it doesn't take into account the potential terrible human toll. Now I'm sure I'll be accused by some of being soft or too "touchy feely" or whatever. But we already have a terrible toll takne on our service mean and women and their families. At some point you have to start measuring that.

Just to be clear I'm only talking about Iraq not the global war and I'm leaving out the issues about how we got there etc.

Hugh, you raise a good poin... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Hugh, you raise a good point. However, with re-enlistment at high levels combined with force rotation we are capable of meeting the needs in Iraq for quite some time. Of course the Pentagon has a firm idea how long that may be, but for obvious reasons is not going to make that public.

I want us out of Iraq. I ag... (Below threshold)

I want us out of Iraq. I agree with you that it should be based on milestones, not fixed dates.
So what should be the milestones for pulling out? Has the administration put any forth? I don't recall seeing any.

In the military we don't tr... (Below threshold)
Liberty Valance:

In the military we don't train to time. We train to standard. That's another thing the left doesn't get.

Rance,I d... (Below threshold)


I don't recall seeing any.

I've heard outlines. They typically are along the lines of "when we have an Iraqi force capable of sustaining lasting peace"..etc.

Any commander worth his salt will have a firm idea of the goal, but will set his milestones to that goal as he assesses (wow that word has alot of s's) the situation on the ground. Milestones move around alot, this situation is in constant flux.


The issue I have with that is that it doesn't take into account the potential terrible human toll.

My thought on it is this: we could have done this quicker, but it would have been at greaterhuman toll.

What slows things down is extrememly restrictive ROE (rules of engagement). Every care and concern that could be thought of, and even some you can't, are applied here...and frankly, that puts us at a disadvantage. This also prolongs the time we need to be there because rooting out terrorists isn't as simple as wasting a city block and hoping you got some.

It will take more time if we are to keep casualties down and do the job thoroughly.

As far as ROE is concerned however, I am not military, perhaps USMC_pilot could critique my evaluation of it.

As more and more o... (Below threshold)
As more and more opponents of the war in Iraq (or, rather, the Iraqi campaign of the War on Terror, or perhaps the War on Islamic Fascism)

By this point, more time has been spent coming up with the name for the war than actually planning it.

Another apt analogy would b... (Below threshold)

Another apt analogy would be welfare reform. When there's no threat of welfare being withdrawn, there's no incentive to do anything to get off it. When the recipient konws there's a time limit to the government's generosity, there's a strong incentive for the recipient to get his/her act together before the benefits are withdrawn.

Having our troops there indefinitely creates moral hazard.

Jay's (and Geore Bush's) u... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay's (and Geore Bush's) underlying premise is that extreme Islam or 'Islamofascism' is a unparalleled threat, the likes of which America and the world has never encountered before. But at the same time, Jay consistently uses the yardstick of American military occupational experience in Japan and Germany, as a sucessful models to demonstrate how we could lead the Iraqis to democracy. Bush yesterday in Salt Lake repeated "Iraq's government is working tirelessly to hold the nation together and to heal Iraq's divisions, not to exploit them. The Iraqi people have come a long way." the 'as they stand up we stand down'line of argument.' The standing up' after more than 3 years, presumably includes Iraqi security forces like these...God help us..if these recently trained Iraqi forces are a milestone or fencepost, for anything, but Dante's inferno?

Crickmore,Unless you... (Below threshold)

Unless you are saying that all Iraqis are/were Islamofacists, then the comparison of rebuilding Iraq as a democracy with Germany and Japan is valid.
Do you think that Muslims are incapable of being anything but terrorists and savages, or do you believe that they are human beings like any others?

Just to be clear I'm onl... (Below threshold)

Just to be clear I'm only talking about Iraq not the global war and I'm leaving out the issues about how we got there etc.

That's the trouble Hugh. You don't see Iraq as part of the global war when it is. It is another front in that war.

Here's a link today release... (Below threshold)

Here's a link today released by the liberal wing of the Pentagon who hates America and loves evil


Damn, I appreciate an autho... (Below threshold)

Damn, I appreciate an author willing to admit to a brain fart. If that was the hollywood crowd they come back with something like -- "oh, that day I had an 'out of body expereince', it was so significant to me I had to leave it in....". Kudos.

You're absolutely right Ski... (Below threshold)

You're absolutely right Skinner, that's my view. I did not see Iraq as a necessary part of the war on terrorism. I didn't want to poison this particular discussion arguing that issue however.

I guess i wasn't really clear about the human toll. I was speaking about our service men and women. That is not to negate, at all, the toll on the innocent Iraqi people.

Having our troops there ... (Below threshold)

Having our troops there indefinitely creates moral hazard.

So where is the call for exit strategies for Germany, Japan, Korea, Kosovo, etc.? How about a timetable for those places as well, huh? Why just Iraq? Or is it just because you disagree with Bush getting us involved, so he has to give an exact timetable, yet no previous president has had to do this.

When the recipient konws there's a time limit to the government's generosity, there's a strong incentive for the recipient to get his/her act together before the benefits are withdrawn.

So where is the call to get Korea off the US government dole? After all we have bases all over the place there and 37,000 troops that we could use elsewhere, right? Based on your logic, we should set a timetable for Korea to take care of their own security situation and bring all the troops home. I give it a week after we were to do something like that before NK attacked.

So where is the call for... (Below threshold)

So where is the call for exit strategies for Germany, Japan, Korea, Kosovo, etc.? How about a timetable for those places as well, huh? Why just Iraq?

Uh, because only in Iraq are we losing 750 troops a year? With no end in sight?

Look, I don't favor "cut and run," and I don't favor a timetable.

But we need to set a series of well-know, publicly-announced goals for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people which outline criteria *they must meet* as a precondition for our continued assistance. Call these a series of events, or milestones, or a roadmap - whatever. But we need to know what the fuck the steps are, and whether they're being met, so we can have some idea what victory (or defeat) looks like.

Right now, we appear (appear, mind you...) to be giving the Iraqi government an open-ended commitment. This is ridiculous, folks; at some point, we have to take the fucking training wheels off the bike - or at least tell them by what date we expect them to be pedaling along solo.


sanssoucy-Uh, b... (Below threshold)


Uh, because only in Iraq are we losing 750 troops a year? With no end in sight?

Hopefully the variables change and this "rate' does not remain constant.

How to insure that? One is to not encourage the Internal Terrorists of Iraq by cowtowing to some unholy alliance entre them and the American Left who are negotiating an end date for them -the terrorists.

This is pretty easy and low cost for the American Left because they have little invested in the Iraq effort other than the hope of its failure to bring the demise of what they view to be their greater enemy- Republicans.

Are you familiar with differential equations? You don't want to set up the variables, and conditions to be in anyway favorable to the terrorists and to make "well known" -points as you say is frankly none of the damn terrorists business.

Do you know relativley how many soldiers died in Korea-and in just a week in the Battle of the Bulge?

Hitler and the damage he did to Germany took a long time for the Germans to recover from and actually we are divesting from some of those bases and moving bases forward closer to the lines of strategical importance and future conflicts. What probably needs to be said to the Europeans is that they aren't as important to defend and they need to take care of themselves-a negotiation for pulling out of Kosovo and letting the Euros police that.

Let's put this in perspective.

Germany took a long time to recover and they lived under the grip of Hitler for how long?

How long did Iraqis live under the regime of Iraq?

The growing instability of the Middle East and the increasing threat from Syria and Iraq-whose government not its people refuse to tone down the message of nuclear ambitons being sent by their supposed "figurehead" President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dictates that it is in our longterm interest to maintain stability in the area. The Ahmadinejad is "just a figurehead" excuse is being spinned by the American Left for why supposedly we aren't to take him seriously...he has no real power in the consensus form of the Iranian government therefore he should not be taken seriously YET the supposed real authorities of Iran have done nothing to diminish his statements.

Remember how Hitler came to power-at first proportedly he was not the "real" authority and he had President Hindenburg appoint him as Chancellor. Plenty of appeasers at the time dismissed Hitler saying that Hindenburg was the "real" authority and that Hitler was merely blustering and stoking his own ego.

Think the media isn't doing this? Barbara Slavin one of the main writers at USA Today made this very argument today on C-Span. She also made part of that argument back in April and she is touted as the first American reporter to interivew him. She feels there is no real "proof" of Iran's aspirations.{video on line at CSpan}

Slavin observed that despite the divisions within Iran's ruling elite, decisions were made in a group rather than by Ahmadinejad alone.

Anyways the answer to the question is that Hitler was in power for only twelve years.

Saddam was in power for-


It's going to take patience, something that the instant gratification culture of America isn't use to- but- in the long run it will save America a lot of blood and treasure-just think if we had finished Gulf War I by getting rid of Saddam then.

Jay Tea, you are right that... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea, you are right that it is not a matter of time. It is a matter of will.

1. The Iraqis don’t want our occupation to end. They know that if they “stand up” and the US soldiers leave, the money from the US pouring into that country will eventually stop. They don’t want their sugar daddy to leave. They will milk this for every penny they can.
2. Military contractors, including Halliburton, don’t want it to end. They are making a lot of money on this war. Stop the war and the money stops.

The only way that the war is going to end is for the US to give the Iraqis a deadline for departure. Once they realize that the sugar daddy is moving out then you will see them standing up real fast. We can not be expected to baby-sit the Iraqis forever while they have a civil war.

We have been in Iraq almost as long as we fought World War II. It’s time to give a deadline and leave.






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