As more and more opponents of the war in Iraq (or, rather, the Iraqi campaign of the War on Terror, or perhaps the War on Islamic Fascism) push harder and harder for firm timetables for US forces to draw down and ultimately withdraw, I find myself wondering just where the notion that such a thing would be desirable came from. And the longer I thought about it, the more I disliked it.
There are many ways of measuring progress and success. One of them is simple passage of time. And that has to be one of the worst ways.
Let’s look at a few other examples. Driving, as we are all reminded in Driver’s Ed, is not a right but a privilege. One must be (in most states) 16 years old before one can get a license. But it’s not a birthright; one must first obtain parental approval and pass a certified educational program, and only then are you given the opportunity to pass an exam. If one waits until one is 18, those preconditions are waived, but the exam is still required — simply marking dates on the calendar does nothing to change that.
In schools, there was a push for a while for “social promotion.” Students were advanced regardless of achievement, just to keep them with their peer groups. The educational aspects were deferred, with the presumption that they would eventually “catch up.” It was a monumentally wrong-headed idea, condemning far too many children to years of disappointment and failure, with its only redeeming factor that it was so horrid that the chances of it coming back are virtually nil.
And then there are the rights and privileges that come simply from the passage of years. At the age of 18, we are considered legal adults for most matters. We can enter into legally-binding contracts (such as marriage and credit applications), marry, enlist in the armed services — in brief, do most anything a free adult can. Finally, at 21, we can drink alcohol (as long as we obey the laws about when and where).
And how well does this work out? With admittedly mixed results. Young adults, particularly college students, are getting into serious debt and major credit problems at a younger age. Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce. Drinking problems among college-age youngsters are legendary. On the other hand, we currently have the finest military the world has ever seen, and the numbers of highly-successful overachievers currently wearing our nation’s colors are awe-inspiring.
Now, in Iraq, we see that the “timeline” philosophy is the favored one of the left, despite considerable examples that it is quite often the wrong approach.
I have a very good friend who is a teacher, and we’ve occasionally discussed matters. It’s become my impression that the very best teachers are the ones who don’t help their students succeed, but demand it. The teachers actually make it harder for the students to fail than to succeed, and at the same time instills the drive to succeed on their own.
That is the model, I believe, we should be following in Iraq — and I think we pretty much are. Our policy seems to be to help the nascent Iraqi government stand on its own, secure their own country, help and guide them to full independence and their future. As President Bush has said repeatedly, as they stand up, we shall stand down.
Will we, eventually, pull out completely from Iraq? Perhaps, perhaps not. I happen to believe that we will have a military presence there for some time to come. Using history as a guide, we tend to leave forces and bases in places where we’ve fought. We still have a considerable force in Germany, in Japan, and Korea. Interestingly, the one place where we fought like hell and do not still have forces is Viet Nam — and that is the model the anti-war crowd simultaneously warns us about and tries to recreate.
(following paragraph omitted from earlier version due to brain fart)
And if that Iraqi government should decide one day that they no longer want to play host to our forces, then they needn’t look too far to see what happens to governments that kick out the US armed services. Just look at how vengeful and vindictive we’ve been towards Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, the last two nations to show our troops the door…
Our withdrawal from Iraq should be done on a schedule of events, not dates. We should reject the calendar the anti-war forces push and instead use a checklist.
Because all using the timeline achieves is to tell our opponents just how long they have to hang on before they can declary victory by default — and I don’t think just handing them the win is a good idea.