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Iraq Withdrawal - To Timeline or Not to Timeline

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Message Matt Vrabel
A Shakespearean like debate or John Lennon like dream? Perhaps both.

My precursor piece, A Winning 2008 Democratic Presidential Strategy, focusing on a proposed sensible and disciplined "3 for 1 and Done" controlled withdrawal plan from Iraq, provided an honorable 36 month timeframe exit solution framework. Why develop a plan and timeline you ask? To provoke necessary substantive public debate around a (any) withdrawal framework since none currently exists. Congress and the public continue to impotently discuss this polarizing timeline issue/question and have come up with nothing, and it's imperative that we do. Shallow partisan rhetoric aside, the answer however is really self evident, if one astutely looks at the facts.

The Bush Administration refuses to provide a timeline for military withdrawal, yet there is absolutely no end in sight to our stay in Iraq without one. Nor has it provided any statement or description of what an end goal/objective is if we stay except to say we are there until "final victory". So the real challenging question to the Administration's rhetorical "final victory" is what does that tangibly and substantively mean and what does it look like when we achieve it. Alarmingly, the Administration disturbingly has no answer. Likewise, we have imposed no timeline on the Iraqis either to become themselves "functionally self secure". So what's driving what? Or rather, is anything driving anything - to a constructive security/withdrawal solution/conclusion?

If no timeline, then when? No timeline is tantamount to a blank check for whenever which can lead to forever. Unless vigorously challenged to provide more than meaningless photo op "Mission Accomplished" hoopla, as in substantively providing the American people tangible "Mission Done" parameters, and the lesson of Vietnam demands we must, whenever becomes ally to the whim of someone, and nemesis to everyone else.

The "no timeline" argument is premised upon the thought that providing one aids the terrorists who would artificially relax hostilities and then resume their aggression with a vengeance once we leave. That's absurd. Why? Fomenting hate and anarchy is their job, their career and their livelihood. Why then would Al Qaeda agree to effectively lay off its "employees" by supporting a hostility moratorium? If they will, let's be bold and establish a formal 100 year timeline, and bring de-facto peace for the next century.

Not having a timeline hasn't stopped the violence and there's absolutely no indication or historical data to suggest that approach ever will. Why? The pure complexity and ingrained centuries old cross sectarian animosities underlying the violence have not been addressed, and will likely continue so for many more (centuries). In other words it's chronic, not curable.

Nevertheless, why not end the great debate and litmus test the timeline approach. What's to lose? At best, the timeline naysayers are proven right, and isn't any break in hostilities better than none at all? We could use the hiatus in fighting to totally focus on building a 400,000 Iraqi security force and transferring back their (Iraqis) chronic problem.

At worst, we end up with the status quo.

Bottom line, even if the naysayers are right, they agree the violence resumes when we leave. And clearly without a timeline, it simply continues. Time as respects US presence in country to achieve Iraqi self security is therefore irrelevant. It's completely relevant however to saving American lives. The raw conclusion - whether we are physically there or not, we will not impact the omnipresent socio-warfare situation in Iraq. So why stay? If we can't change the behavior, let's promptly change the target - so it's not us.

Mr. Bush, the issue then distills down to liberation having a timeline, while occupation does not. So what's it to be (or not to be)? If we're there to liberate, put in a timeline - now. If you won't, then your no timeline decision flies counter to what I prudently propose for adoption with a liberation based "3 for 1 and Done" controlled withdrawal plan/framework.

If the Administration can't define final victory and/or force peace, then please Mr. Bush, give timeline a chance.

If you won't, then it's time for the Democrats to turn the "GOP Mission Accomplished" into "America's Mission Done".
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