Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My quick thoughts on the latest Bush strategy for Iraq is that it is much as before... lots of broad-based goals, a lot of arguments as to why we need to 'stay the course', but unfortunately, no measurable benchmarks with which to gauge whether progress is being made in a timely manner.

Per the document:

"Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages
* Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.
* Medium term, Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.
* Longer term, Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism".

Notice that there's no mention of which goals need to be met before our troops come home. Do we have to plan on being there until all of the long-term goals are met? Some of them? All of the short-term and some of the 'medium-term'? And, although the document specifically refuses to put timetables on achieving any of the goals, it's safe to assume that it will be years before all of the long term goals are met.... is Bush planning on keeping our troops there that long? Only some of our troops? Details, please.

And, while the specific goals sound good, the devil lies in the (missing) details.

For example, with regards to the 'short-term goals':

I believe we've already made "steady progress in fighting terrorists". But obviously, we haven't made enough progress to warrant bringing our troops home. So, how much more progress will there need to be before that can happen?

The Iraqi people have met every political milestone that has been established, yet our troops aren't on the way home. So, obviously, there must be further milestones that need to be met before our troops come home.... but what are they?

With regards to the longer term goals:

How is "peaceful" measured? No insurgent attacks at all? Only some? How few deaths must there be before we can say that Iraq is peaceful, if that is what it takes to declare the job done and bring our troops home?

How is "united" measured? It's silly to expect all of Iraq to rally around anything (jeez, we don't do that ourselves here in America). So on what basis will this criteria be able to be satisfied?

How is "on its way to achieving its economic potential" defined? How exactly is "potential" defined? How much progress must there be towards this undefined target before this critieria is satisfied?

I also want to take issue with the Administration not putting a timetable on meeting these goals. They mistakenly (seem to) view doing so as a bad idea. No, what is a bad idea is cutting and running if the timetable isn't met. There's nothing wrong with revising the timetable based on changing conditions. If things are going worse than expected, stretch out the timeline. If things are going better than expected, shorten the timeline.

Without a timeline, the American people have no way of gauging whether Bush and the military he commands are doing a good job in meeting their objectives. And without a timeline, the American people can't prepare themselves for the fight: we need and want to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but in order to do so, we need to know how far away the end of the tunnel is.

To me, what Bush put out today is akin to some CEO getting up and claiming that his or her company will be in the "vanguard leading the way in sucessfuly competing in today's changing environment". It's a bunch of mush, some soundbites for those too silly, too dumb, or those intoxicated from having drunk the Kool-Aid to understand that there is more, much more, to winning a fight than merely outlining a strategy with some broad concepts but precious little in the way of details and benchmarks.

I didn't expect any more from Bush, but I wish there was. I was looking to be surprised. It's a shame I wasn't.