Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Wait Out

Anthony's post about the timetable for withdrawal from Iraq reminded me of a certain episode of Seinfeld.

ELAINE: Hey, my God, look at that. (Jerry looks over at the table. A man and a woman are dining) David and Beth Lookner. (Leaning in for confidentiality) You know, I heard a rumor their marriage was a little rocky.
JERRY: (Interested, still looking at the couple) Really?
ELAINE: Mm-hmm.
JERRY: You know, I have a little thing for Beth Lookner.
ELAINE: Well, I have to admit, I've always thought David was kind of sponge-worthy. (Winks, making a clicking sound with her tongue)
JERRY: Yeah.. I've been waitin' out their marriage for three years.
ELAINE: Yeah, me too. Well, I've been waiting out two or three marriages, but this is the one I really had my eye on.

Now, the insurgents in Iraq have shown that they have patience, so, the issue for me is this: If you announce a time-line for withdrawal, doesn't that automatically say to the insurgents, just wait a little bit longer and your time will come? Sure 30,000-50,000 coalition troops would remain under the O'Hanlon-Steinberg option, but that could lead insurgents to consider rolling the dice and thinking that its better to work against 30-50K troops than 200K. Now obviously something will eventually have to give as the current force structure cannot continue to perpetually rotate large numbers of troops into Iraq while also dealing with Afghanistan and other commitments, but I still think some strategic ambiguity should be in place.
The late-Colonel Kevin Cunningham and Dr. Robert Tomes have an excellent article in the fall 2004 issue of Armed Forces & Society* entitled "Space-Time Orientations and Contemporary Political Military Thought." This article does a nice job of discussing perceptions of time and the effects that they play on military decision-making. The authors' argue that the American "monochronic" spatial-temporal orientation -- characterized by: zero-sum process, segmented execution, and agendas mapped to the future -- put us at a disadvantage against "polychronic" orientations -- characterized by an acceptance of non zero-sum outcomes, issues addressed in parallel, circular time perception, and agendas mapped to history. These distinctions, at least to me, make a useful contribution to thinking about how we counter the insurgency in Iraq and also the larger global Salafist insurgency. I hope that Cunningham and Tomes' article is getting a wide reading on both sides of the Potomac.
* That issue also contains an article by a certain Mark R. Lewis entitled "Army Transformation and the Junior Officer Exodus."


Blogger J. said...

Okay but is Bush still Master of his Own Domain?

11:46 AM  
Blogger J. said...

but seriously, don't you think the administration is at least responsible for qualitatively setting the conditions of an exit strategy, as opposed to a timeline? At the least Bush could say, upon ratification of a constitution and 126,000 trained and certified Iraqi armed forces (as opposed to cops), we will pull out. No deadline, no calendar to mark. At least then we would have that sense that the occupation is not open-ended, a thought driven by the construction of 14 permenant military bases in Iraq.

I heard Bush suffers from premature shrinkage. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Michael said...


Well, my point is that you can think about and even plan for lowering the number of troops on the ground in Iraq, but I just don't think that you need to publicly announce such plans. This just sort of seems akin to a quarterback announcing the plays in the huddle and then trying to run them against a defense that knows exactly where to focus.

Obviously it is imperative to increase indigenous Iraqi defense capabilities -- quantitatively and qualitatively.

10:53 AM  
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5:56 PM  

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