Monday, January 29, 2007

On Timelines

President Bush is fond of saying that issuing any sort of timeline in Iraq would only encourage the insurgents. It must seem obvious to him that if you say, "US troops will pull out in six months," then the insurgents will just lie low for six months and attack when the US is gone. Let us ignore the assumption that US troops are not a primary target here. The real problem with this argument is that in order to be true to its main principle you are left with only one course of action, namely staying in Iraq indefinitely.

Now, If you believe that Cheney intends to turn Iraq in to another Okinawa, we will refrain from calling you a conspiracy nut - it just isn't quite crazy enough to qualify you. Discounting this disastrous idea, however, every jihadi in Iraq can comfortably assume that the US will pull out the majority of its troops someday. He may not be able to mark his calendar but he knows that patience will one day pay off. That's the problem with Bush/Cheney's ominous timeline warnings. If a timeline is a capitulation to the insurgents then so is a military deployment that is so obviously non-permanent.

Maybe your average American cannot imagine holding on to a plan for more than six months without abandoning it and going to the mall. Given a society where grudges are a matter of family and personal honor, it is dangerous foolishness to believe that the Iraqi insurgents and aggrieved Shi'a are going to just chill out. Or that by August they will have forgotten all that stuff about decades of persecution, religious fervor, tribal humiliation, fear of reprisal, oil money and desire to return to power and prestige. No, those employing violence to forward their goals will hunker down and wait for the day in six months, a year, five years when they operate free from American interference. It isn't the date-setting that emboldens the terrorists, its the certain knowledge that their day will eventually come.

Counter Argument 1 - It is America's lack of resolve to "win" that emboldens the insurgents. If this is the case then you have to convince the public that we will indeed be in Iraq for 10-15 more years. Good luck!

Counter Argument 2 - The Iraqi army will be able to handle the insurgency after an additional {random period of time} of being propped up. Well, The only competent military force in Iraq is busy ethnically cleansing Kirkuk in preparation for a vote on Kurdish independence. The Iraqi military has none of the helicopters or high-tech gear the US seems dependent upon to fight the insurgents. When we eventually leave, the bad guys will have exactly the same armaments as the good guys. By the way, who are the good guys? Is it the guys not infiltrated by death squads. The only military solution to Iraq will come in the form of a civil war. Preventing this will require a 100% Iraqi political solution. We can neither win this for them nor choose outcomes.

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