Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Date for Withdrawl from Iraq

The Republican leadership and several prominent Democrats appear to have accepted the assumption that we cannot set a date for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. That assumption must be challenged on the following basis:

If we can stand down only when the Iraqi forces stand up and the Iraqi political apparatus is functioning, then we must set a date and set objectives for those outcomes. Otherwise, the classic question “Are we there yet?” will drive us into a pattern of activity instead of achievement.

Failure to set recognizable objectives will repeat a major error of Vietnam and will result in Iraqi military and government that are never ready or the temptation for leaders to say that Iraq is ready when it is not. We must focus on mutually developed objectives or else the image of puppetry like the Soviets in Afghanistan or the US with the Shah of Iran will be center stage again.

Setting clear objectives and measuring them puts the President at risk for being judged as unsuccessful, but it simultaneously increases his chance for success and for a shorter schedule overall. If we were to do the unthinkable and actually set objectives, then we could solve problems such as training Iraqi soldiers. We need to consider the offers of Europeans to train Iraqis off site (in Europe). This reduces the number of fixed targets in Iraq; shares the training responsibility with our allies and reduces our own casualties and probability of becoming targets when we defend fixed targets. It also diffuses the magnetism insurgents have for the targets of Iraq. In other words, if training is a goal, then set specific skill objectives and find ways to optimize that learning. The concept that we will stay there as long as it takes smacks of the worst of WW I where stubbornness and pride resulted in the slaughter of thousands and solved nothing.

When war becomes a matter of pride, only those who sell war and the pride will profit. Everybody else loses. It is time to put pride aside and to set realistic objectives and to solve problems as Americans love to do. We have ample examples from our post-war occupation of Germany, but even our more recent national experience with Management by Objectives tells us that we are on the road to disaster unless we set clear objectives sooner rather than later. “More of the same” and calling for pride is a design for failure. It will inevitably result in more deaths than necessary and a revision of history for those who cannot apologize and move on to solve the problem.



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