August 18, 2005
Russ Feingold has now advocated a timetable for leaving Iraq:
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold today, at a local Listening Session in Marquette, Wisconsin, proposed a target timeframe for the completion of the military mission in Iraq and suggested December 31, 2006 as the target date for the completion of the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
In June, Feingold introduced a resolution calling for the President to clarify the military mission in Iraq, lay out a plan and timeframe for accomplishing that mission, and publicly articulate a plan for subsequent troop withdrawal. Because of the Administration’s recent flurry of conflicting signals about the duration of U.S. troop deployments, Feingold said he feels obligated to help jump start that process by proposing a specific goal for bringing U.S. forces home from Iraq.
The left has jumped on the bandwagon, with varying amounts of enthusiasm, i.e. kazablog, Ezra Klein, Kevin Drum, and Matt Yglesias. All of these folks are pushing the idea of a “timetable” specifically. And a target date, as Feingold is proposing, is a good idea, as part of a wider ‘exit strategy’.
Focusing on a date, however, is the wrong way to look at this. What we need to ask of Bush is that he set up a roadmap. We need to ask Bush what goals need to be accomplished, be it Iraqi troop strength and police forces, infrastructure goals, progress on the Constitutional front, in order for us to bring our troops home. We need to have this debate, but we need to debate the goals before the timeline. Once we determine the roadmap, we need to look at where we are making progress and where we are stagnant, and how we can accelerate that progress. The target date we arrive at is a cumulative estimate, based upon that plan, of where we should be.
I don’t doubt that this sort of planning is taking place as we speak. But I wonder why we get such silence from Washington. The American people are slowly losing patience for this war, and I think one of the main reasons is that they only hear one side of the story. We on the right complain constantly about how the mainstream media only reports the negative side of the war. But are Bush and the pentagon even trying to promote the other side? The only reliable place for the opposing point of view that I can find is the blogosphere, even right-wing talk radio is more often congratulatory flag-waving than reporting the positive developments.
For some reason, Bush seems to prefer fighting political battles on the defensive. He could have come out 6 months ago and provided a plan, provided some waypoints on the roadmap to getting us out of Iraq, and set the target date at the end of 2007, and he would have floored everybody. Then, in the mapping of our progress along that timeline, he could point out all the triumphs and great things he accomplished along the way. Fight by the insurgents that jeopardize that timeline can be viewed much more easily, then, as fighting against a positive goal rather than fighting occupying forces. Instead, we have the left firing volleys of “there is no plan” and the right fighting a losing battle trying to hold their ground.
The Libertarian Party came out with it’s Iraq Exit Strategy. I have differences with a lot of the particulars in the plan (i.e. calling for troop withdrawal ahead of progress, instead of the other way around), but it’s a start. If Bush would explain what needs to be done and how he intends to accomplish it, 90% of his PR work is done. Then, giving a target date along with a quick explanation of why and how it will take until that time to complete the mission will turn the tide. Instead of attacking the US as “imperialists”, the opponents of the war will have to attack the merits or particulars of the plan. It makes it much easier then to portray them simply as contrarians and partisans. Troop morale will go up, public opinion will improve, and it will ultimately make our job easier in Iraq. Why hasn’t this been done?
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