Saturday, June 25, 2005

Time Tables

There has been some debate this week following the introduction of a Congressional Resolution by Republicans and Democrats calling for President Bush to set a timetable for the war in Iraq.

Some have characterized having a timetable as the same as surrender. I don't see it that way.

My take is that it is very important to have a mission with clear objectives. The first President Bush learned this lesson, but the second President Bush hasn't.

No one is calling for evacuation or retreat, we are asking for a timetable. Without a clear mission or vision for what is to be accomplished the people will perish.

There needs to be more urgency to get this done sooner. Rejecting all attempts to provide parameters for the mission is bad policy and bad military strategy.

The latest calls ask the President to tell us how long he thinks it will take. That is reasonable and should be done without asking. Cheney mentioned 2009 and that the insurgency was in its last throes, yet others reject all attempts to set expectations for what we can expect.

How much progress was made between Dec. 1941 and June 1945 compared to Sept. 2001 and June 2005? Should Iraq take twice as long (2001 - 2009) as the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Japan? I don't think so.

It is especially troublesome when the rhetoric leading to the war was how easy it would be and Iraqi oil will pay for it. Well, it's military personnel and their families who are the ones that are paying for it.

It is good leadership in business, in politics and in the military to establish a clear mission of what is going to happen and when it's going to happen. Unfortunately we don't have good leadership.

The insurgents' recruiting message is that we are an occupying force that will be there forever. If we demonstrate that we really do want Iraqi's to run their own country by our actions and move toward letting them control their own destiny, then the recruiting would be hurt not helped.

Remember Parkinson's Law states that the amount of work will expand to fill the time that is alloted for it. Fuzzy missions with no timeframes will always go on indefinitely until the external pressure mounts to such a degree that decisions are made based on what is expedient and not on sound strategy and the country's best interests.

We are asking for those who have the information and who are in the field to make these decisions and plans prospectively based on the best information and thinking available. Just tell us how long and what it will take.

Instead there is strong resistance to any sense of accountability for progress or lack thereof. This open-ended fuzzy mission will be accepted by the American people for a period of time, but not indefinitely.

What happens then? The military experts won't have the option of making sound strategy and plans then - the political pressure will be too great. Then there will be a rush without time for appropriate consideration of strategy and long-term impact of hasty decisions.

Let's not wait for the time to run out on support before making these decisions. That's what happened in Vietnam, the consequences of which everyone is aware.

I don't want a repeat performance of Vietnam. Have the Generals and the Diplomats get together now, work it out and tell us what the plan is. If you continue to wait, at some point people will not be patient and will demand troop withdrawals based on political realities and re-election campaigns and not what is appropriate from a military and diplomatic perspective.

Wouldn't it be nice to have leadership that understands the benefits of a mission statement and accountability for making progress? If the Republicans approached their war on terror and the war in Iraq with the same focus that they had during political campaigns, then we would be making much more progress.

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