Monday, June 20, 2005

Timeline for withdraw from Iraq?

June 20, 2005
A Timeline to withdraw from Iraq?

A legitimate policy debate can be made regarding the question of whether the Administration should establish a timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq.

I for one support this policy for several reasons.

Providing a timeline will assure the Iraqi people that we are only there to help them and not occupy them. One of the mistakes after the first Gulf war was that we insisted on placing a sanction on Sadam’s Iraq with indefinite time frame. This ended up hurting not only the Iraqi people but our standing in the Arab world.

As a project manager, I know the positive effect a realistic schedule can have on completing the project on-time, within budget and with complete accountability. By having a timetable with defined milestones, a project manager can periodically assess how things are going and make adjustments to accomplish the task.

A timetable will also provide a verifiable goal and will give all participants a sense of reward for accomplishing something on an incremental basis.

It will also guide the coalition troops and the Iraqi counterparts to set priorities so as to best meet the deadlines. Given infinite time will only invite infinite possibilities.

A timetable is not cast in stone and can be modified when unforeseen circumstances occur and may affect the outcome. When it does happen, there is a cause and effect that can be explained and justified.

It will act also as a measurement tool to see how well is our strategy going and how effective is the outcome. I would also include the cost of the war in dollars and in casualties of our troops as additional tools. We can then say with some certainty that a particular action is worth the cost. This is standard cost vs. benefit analysis that most business perform on a daily basis.

The American people and Congress cannot issue a blank check for any activity without oversight. A timeline will act as a guide and help people in a position of power to make reasonable budgets and projections going forward.

Finally, there is the pride of ownership. It is human nature to want to be in control of ones own destiny. When the Iraqi people are given the ownership of their own future, they are more likely to put their lives on the line. As long as the Coalition troops are there to oversee and protect, there is little incentive for the local people to step forward.

To answer the most obvious counter argument – that is providing a timeline will give the insurgents an upper hand and allow them to just wait us out. However, this may not be such a bad idea given the current semi-chaotic state in Iraq. What is most lacking now in Iraq is stability. Without it, very little progress can happen. If we can attain some temporary stability, and allow training of Iraqi police, rebuilding the infrastructure, productive oil pipeline… to occur, we can go a long way to convince the people of Iraq that hope is on the way. They will reject the efforts of the insurgents some of which are foreign fighters and not Iraq nationals. Any violence perpetrated on Iraqis will be exposed as violence against their own people.

The blunt truth is this, after a reasonable period of time, if the Iraqi government and people cannot secure a working and functioning government, they don’t deserve to win.
The insurgents can only win if enough people support their cause.

There is no guarantee that the insurgents will cut back their activities to wait us out.
What will happen is that they will loose some momentum. Anything that can reduce the daily terrorist bombings in Iraq will help. Besides, just because we state a timeline does not mean we must abide by it. Any increase in insurgency can cause us to re-evaluate our strategy.

Finally, our troops in the field can also benefit from having a timeline to work towards.
They can look forward to the day they can come home and feeling a sense of pride that they will accomplish their mission within stated goals.

The End

Jack Lee
Yorktown Hts. NY
jackclee@optonline.net

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