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A Reasoned Approach to a Timetable for Iraq

Conservative pundits continue to paint the Democrats who are calling for an Iraq withdrawal timetable as playing into the hands of terrorists. As wrong as that may be it is simply too easy and expedient to dismiss this criticism as the election-time posturing it is without offering an alternative.

Here's an approach I think is worth considering.

  • It's time for the Democrats to get tough with the President.

    Congress holds the purse strings, and Congress can choose to deny Bush 43 the funds to continue flailing about in Iraq, and should do exactly that. The "surge" was given a chance, and we can now see that it isn't working - it's time to pull the plug and bring our fighting men and women home.

    Note that I said we should "choose" to defund the war, I didn't say we should publicize this choice.

  • Leaders in Congress should sit down with Bush behind closed doors and press the President for a realistic withdrawal timetable, using their ability to defund the war immediately as a negotiation incentive.

    It's obvious Bush isn't going to budge. He seems determined to never admit his mistake -- and we know from his proclamation four year ago that it was "Mission Accomplished"... that he will say anything he has to say to help the GOP's chances in an election. It's time to quit playing nice and hoping the President will come around; he's clearly intent on dragging this out and extracting whatever political advantage he can muster before the next election.

    He's publicly declared repeatedly this last week that he has no intention of giving in to the will of the American people on this issue.

  • Next, bring in representatives from the Iraqi government, along with the best U.S. military minds, and hammer out a strategy and timetable for exiting Iraq that has input from all of the important players and stakeholders.

    In my view we cannot trust the representatives of the Shiite and Sunni factions who serve in the Iraqi parliament to the extent needed to bring them in on the plan, and I don't think we're under any obligation to do so anyway. They got plenty to do anyway, and what happens post-withdrawal in Iraq -- whether it is time build a wall in Baghdad, coming up with a plan for the distribution of oil revenues, and coming up with a restructuring of the Iraqi government so that a peace can be negotiated -- those are all tasks that are better handled without our intervention anyway.

    We also need to recognize that our withdrawal from Iraq will reduce the insurgency, and facilitate the start of a peace-building process. There has been no incentive for al-Maliki to forge a peace up to the this point - knowing our timetable for withdrawal he'll have no choice but to get serious.

  • The resulting agreed upon timetable need not be made public. In fact, it's probably better if it isn't made public.

    Pelosi/Reid could even avoid mentioning specifics of the timetable and the dates involved, or go one step further and avoid any mention that an agreed upon timetable even exists. Congress could then pass a war funding bill that makes no mention of the existence of a timetable, but provides funding adequate to get the job done.

    Let the insurgents believe what they want to believe at this point. We could even choose to incorporate misinformation in the form of a false withdrawal timetable -- intentionally designed to mislead the insurgents

The criticism that a timetable signals the insurgent factions and allows them to plan and prepare has some validity. Whether that knowledge offers them any real strategic value can be debated, but let's just choose to not publicize our specific timetable plans, and in the process eliminate the argument against a timetable at the same time we avoid disclosing our specific plans to the enemy.

Who says that an Iraqi withdrawal timetable has to be made public, or that we even need to announce that such a plan exists?

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Comments (6)

Paul Hamilton:

This makes a lot of sense, and that's why it will never work. Bush has dug in his heels and it's politically impossible for him to change his position now. Besides that, he's too childishly stubborn to do so anyway. The Dems *cannot* cut off funding. Bush will just defund other programs to pay for the war, or will issue an executive order. And they don't have the votes to override a veto, so ultimately this is a loser for the Democrats.

The time for the Dems to have opposed the war in Iraq was 2002 and 2003. If they lacked the guts to stop him then, you can't do anything about it now.

Yes, I *am* bitter about this.


I think it's really funny that a bunch of folks who can't even manage to arrange their debate schedules around commercial airline timetables want a timeline for a full-scale military withdrawal from Iraq, even though they know it's a really bad idea to even talk about it...


Why would the administration or Iraqi's not publicize the democrats' actions? There are no kept secrets in DC.

Paul is correct in his comment's 2nd paragraph, that horse is out of the barn and on its way some where... It is now better to ensure it arrives at a desired destination rather than off a cliff.

Finally, we have the best military minds applying an approach that will work. But to paraphrase Paul's comment, the time to start this new approach was back in 2004-2005. And yes, I am bitter about that. Rums's approach was flawed and a lot of time was lost.


I like this idea. If the President STILL refuses, just cut off the funds. Then give him money to the withdrawal AFTER he begins withdrawing them. This president can't be trusted.

Paul Hamilton:

Horse, how would you define a victorious scenario for the United States in Iraq at this point? And do you believe that it's achievable?


Paul, there is nothing we could likely call a final victorious scenario achievable in the next 18 months. But, there is a real possibility of significantly improved stability in that time period, which is on the road to a victorious scenario.

Petraeus has the right military portion of the strategy for the situation, a counter-insurgency approach that usually takes 2-3 years for ultimate success. However, it is also important that they do their best to control Iraq's borders during this time period to prevent reinforcement. The socio-political strategy needs to reinforce and take advantage of the military strategy. Key foundations the military-socio-political strategies need to put in place to achieve a victorious scenario are security, stability/predictability, individual liberties, openness of government decisions/actions. If they are on this path in 18-24 months, they will be in good shape in 5 years. If Colin Powell had been in charge we would already be well down this path instead of just starting it in the last few months.

An obvious wild card is Iran's actions and how we respond. Great deal of uncertainty there.

One of the best things that could happen for the average Iraqi is if they get a military like Turkey's, which helps to maintain a mostly secular government. That will only occur if the US military is supporting and guiding them.


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