February 03, 2005

Iraq: No Artificial Timetable

Recently an Iraqi interpreter said to a reporter, "Tell America not to abandon us." He and all Iraqis can be certain: While our military strategy is adapting to circumstances, our commitment remains firm and unchanging. We are standing for the freedom of our Iraqi friends, and freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come. We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself.

Bubble-headed Pelosi can poo-pooh all these big goals sans timetable--but this was a critical signal to send to the Iraqi people, to the insurgents, and to the international community at large. And a large reason why I supported Bush against Kerry. An artificial timetable would be extremly poor policy. Good on Bush for explicitly taking it off the table during the SOTU. The insurgents will have heard this strong message of American resolve too. And they won't have liked it.

Also: "We will succeed in Iraq because Iraqis are determined to fight for their own freedom, and to write their own history. As Prime Minister Allawi said in his speech to Congress last September, "Ordinary Iraqis are anxious to shoulder all the security burdens of our country as quickly as possible."

Translation: "Training and equipping" an Iraqi Army, in the final analysis, will only truly be accomplished when Iraq trainees, led by a qualified officer corps and adequately equipped, are willing to stand and die for their country. I think he gets it, and I think he gets that this will take at least (again, at least) two years (even if insurgents have been dealt a strategic setback post-elections).

Posted by Gregory at February 3, 2005 04:05 AM | TrackBack (8)

I bet (75 percent odds) that by June 2005 there is a what looks and smells like a timetable for withdrawal in place. It won't be called a timetable; it will be called something closer to "A Framework For Phased Reductions in Force Levels". It will have target dates in it.

Posted by: Bill Arnold at February 3, 2005 01:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As I said yesterday, the US Army and Marines have to start withdrawing within two years and have most troops out within four or the strain of trying to meet the committants in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere will effectively destroy both services.

Posted by: David All at February 3, 2005 11:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All talk should be of a "victory strategy" and not an "exit strategy". The one follows from the other.

Posted by: kcom at February 4, 2005 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Bill and David are correct it will be because the political pressure became intolerable, or because something else has happened. I don't see anyone capable of exerting that level of pressure on the scene at the moment.

On the rest of it -- an American who joins the military will go, first, to Basic Training, three months or so. After that is more training: AIT for the Army, specialty schools for the Navy and Air Force. Approximately a year after swearing the oath, an enlisted man is ready to enter line service -- and begin his real training, on the job. A year or so after that, he begins to be an asset to an existing formed unit with a history and management already in place.

Two years. How long to do it, beginning with a vacuum -- no, worse than that, beginning with people who have been taught the wrong things?

I said at First Fallujah that the amazing thing was not that the Iraqi Brigade failed -- the amazing thing was that it existed at all. We are starting to see a few effective Iraqi units, and this soon I call that little short of a miracle. General competence? This is out on a limb, but call it five years.


Posted by: Ric Locke at February 4, 2005 04:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I bet (75 percent odds) that by June 2005 there is a what looks and smells like a timetable for withdrawal in place.

Ahh. But that's OK, because Bush never said that he wouldn't have a timetable. He just that he wouldn't have an "artificial" one.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist at February 4, 2005 04:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gregory says that the issue of an "artificial deadline" for withdrawing from Iraq was "a large reason why [he] supported Bush against Kerry."

Here is an excerpt from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6886726:

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe there should be a specific timetable of withdrawal of American troops?


I suppose there is no way to know for certain what Kerry would have done if he had been elected, but the concern that he would have set an "artificial deadline" for removing our troops from Iraq is looking a little far fetched.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist at February 5, 2005 01:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ric Locke,
the pressure isn't just domestic; the Iraqi Sunni leadership has been calling for a withdrawal timetable as a precondition to participation in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution. (Calling for American/British withdrawal was also at the top of Sistani's party's plank until recently). And it sure appears that our government wants *some* usable forces uncommitted in Iraq, so we can more convincingly play good cop (Europeans) and 2 bad cops, with us and the Israelis each saying "no, *you're* the bad cop"!

There's also the practical argument that a timetable for withdrawal (er, "framework for phased reduction in force levels (with target dates)" :) robs an insurgency of the ability to claim victory. This argument has been widely recently mocked as obviously stupid. I am unconvinced about the obviousness.

Posted by: Bill Arnold at February 5, 2005 04:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bill, if one of the iraqi insurgencies declares that their intention is to get US troops out of iraq (which they have) and if they aren't all dead when we pull out (which is likely) then they can declare victory if they want to.

"Why are you dropping those peanut shells on the ground?"
"It keeps the elephants away."
"There isn't an elephant in 500 miles!"
"Yeah. Effective, isn't it?"

The only ways we can keep them from declaring victory are to either not pull out at all, or else kill them all before we go.

Maybe no one will believe them, though. If the elected government tells us to go and we do go, then chances are people will believe it was the elected government that drove us out and not the insurgents.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 5, 2005 07:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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