Why must Iraq be "either-or"?
by Jerry Gilio
September 23, 2006

Some people have an "either-or" view on our presence in Iraq that I find baffling. They acknowledge that going into Iraq may have been a mistake. However, they add, immediate withdrawal our troops now would be catastrophic. It's as if the only alternative to endless war is immediate withdrawal. I don't hear any mention of a phased withdrawal based on meeting well-defined milestones. This is what many people have proposed, as opposed to "stay the course", whatever that means.

I agree that immediate troop withdrawal would probably be a mess. But we have to ask if continued participation will improve the situation. In WWII and Korea a stable outcome was eventually reached. But in Vietnam, we fought and fought and South Vietnam still fell as soon as we left. So what did all the extra death and suffering accomplish? We need to have solid reasons to believe that if we stay for 100 years that Iraq won't disintegrate in year 101. Otherwise, if anarchy is inevitable, sooner is better than later.

But let's assume that there is a better outcome than total chaos. We need a plan that motivates the Iraqi government to "step up so we can stand down".

I believe Iraq needs a deadline for the same reason every schoolchild and businessman needs one. Without a deadline no progress is made. Can you imagine a grade school where the kids could turn in their homework whenever they felt like it? I've seen projects at Fortune 500 companies that languished for years because there is no due date. It's the time pressure that motivates us.

This runs deep in human nature. Our mortality drives us to action. You better take that trip to Tahiti before you're too old to enjoy it. You better have kids while you're young and healthy. You better eat before you starve. These are deadlines imposed by nature that force us to act now rather than later.

Without a deadline the Iraqis may not move as quickly as they could. If the current leaders believed that we would withdraw in the next year and, if they weren't prepared, they'd be beheaded the next day, they'd work very hard to be prepared. And we could be flexible. If we say we'll leave in one year and later it becomes obvious that, for specific reasons, they need a little more time, we could give it to them. But without a deadline, Iraq is likely to become the freeloading child who never wants to move out of his parent's basement.

So keep in mind that it isn't black and white, "stay the course" vs. "cut and run". We need a plan to achieve a peaceful, stable Iraq with measurable goals and target dates for those goals. This would probably include a phased withdrawal of American troops. And if anyone asks why Democrats aren't coming up with just such a plan, ask them who has the full resources of the State Department and Department of Defense at his disposal, some Democrat or the president. Those departments should be working around the clock to develop just such a plan. If they're not, you need to ask their boss why not.

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