The Iraqi Withdrawal Date

One of Bush’s attacks on Congressional efforts to end the Iraq war is that giving any specific timeline emboldens enemy attacks, and harms the troops. He is wrong.

Let’s say the bill passes with a clear deadline. Imagine it is Iraq, two weeks before that date. Question One. You are an American commander. Do you act:
(a) more aggressively
(b) about the same as ever
(c) less aggresively?

The answer is c. There is no point in risking your mens lives to achieve any short term goal when you’re just going to be packing up in two weeks. In fact, you probably wouldn’t take any offensive action at all. The only engagements you would be involved in would be defensive. Why look for trouble when there’s nothing to gain?

Question Two. You are an Iraqi fighter. Do you act:
(a) more aggressively
(b) about the same as ever
(c) less aggresively?

The answer is c, and for the same basic reason. There is no point in risking your life to achieve any short term goal when you would achieve the same goal by just waiting two more weeks. In fact, you probably wouldn’t take any offensive action at all. You’d continue the civil war of course, but not bother with the Americans. What’s the point, they’re leaving anyhow.

The mere declaration of a specific withdrawal date ought to produce a natural ceasefire before that date. I chose two weeks, but maybe the effect is longer. Maybe it’s a month. Maybe it’s two. Maybe more. Any way you slice it, the declaration of a withdrawal date ends up saving the lives of American soldiers.

2 thoughts on “The Iraqi Withdrawal Date

  1. If you’re the Iraqi fighter, you might want to prove to the world that you scared the Americans out – in which case you beat on them as much as you can before they leave, knowing that they won’t stick around to get even. Look at what happened when Israel pulled out of Lebannon a few years ago (not in the most recent conflict). Hamas wanted to get the public relations win that they kicked Israel out of Lebannon – so they did everything they could to redouble their efforts before the withdrawal. It worked. The Arab world (already not known for its logical thinking) has concluded that Hamas drove out the invaders. Why shouldn’t the insurgents do the same thing to boost their street cred?

  2. They don’t need to prove to the world that you scared the Americans out. A planned withdrawal date announces it already, why would you risk your skin to reinforce the point?

    Good point about Israel/Hamas — I wish I knew enough about it to respond. I am also wondering about parallels with the Fall of Siagon. I suspect the situation differs mainly in that the Iraqi insurgency is not just fighting the Americans, they’re in the middle of a civil war. I’d also be curious to know if fighting died down in WWI, WWII, etc shortly before planned ceasefires and surrenders.

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