Set a date for withdrawal

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Some claim that we should pull out of Iraq, or we should set a date to do so. They think that President Bush should not intimidate Iran or Syria. They think the way to peace is through appeasement. This is terminal narcissism. What they fail to understand is that to sociopaths weakness is provocative: in their minds, they'd have to be foolish to NOT exploit every opportunity given. History shows that appeasement often emboldens the enemy, and often leads to more violence. They will only negotiate for peace when the alternative is worse; not before. Many people care about their self interests, not yours.

But Europe wants it

Setting a date would appease the Europeans and make them slightly less unhappy... but really who cares?

Remember, Europeans made noise about Reagan and taking on the Soviets. They despised him for talking tough and not appeasing them. Then the Russians bankrupted themselves trying to keep up with us, rethought their ways, the Berlin wall fell because of it, and 10 or 20 years later the Europeans suddenly realize what he did for them, and most hate him a lot less and many celebrate his success.

So we shouldn’t cave to stupidity just because it is popular in Europe, we need to do what is right for ourselves and the world.


Let’s say we agree to pull out in 12 or 24 months, what happens?

The insurgents and terrorists realize they only have too keep anarchy going for another year, and they win. They see the statement as weak, and themselves as winning. This encourages more violence and gives them hope of winning, instead of the desire to learn to coexist with the new reality, because the alternative is too expensive. Thus, you not only encourage violence by setting a date.

If the date comes, and the violence is still going on, then you’re left with a lose-lose scenario.

  1. If you pull out, you abandon the people you promised to help; which tells our allies that are words are meaningless and we just tear down nations and leave them to the wolves. This supports terrorists all over the world, “Look what evil Americans did to poor Iraq”. Iraq gets taken over by the worst fanatics.
  2. If you don’t pull out, then you prove to the terrorists that you are liars, and they use that in the propaganda war against you. This supports terrorists all over the world, “their word is no good, they said they’d leave by this date, but they didn’t”.


So making this sort of statement on an end-date is diplomatic suicide. you’ve turned yourself into a liar and a fool.

  • It would cost more lives than it could possibly save.
  • It would hurt our morale and help the enemies.
  • There would be no way to win, unless we got blindingly lucky and the terrorists just happened to all rethink their commitment to violence and the meaning of their lives at the same time.

Betting on the introspection of terrorists just doesn't have odds that I want to put faith in. I’ll opt for a more sane policy, which is to tell the world that we will see things through until they are finished, but we can’t know when that is until it gets here.

Diplomacy is about pressure. We won’t take options off the table, because those are bargaining chips.

We aren’t really likely to invade Iran or Syria, even tactical strikes are unlikely; but if we take those options off the table, they are free to escalate without fear of those consequences.

You don’t tell a bully, “I won’t hit back, no matter what you do”. Bullies tend to leave you alone when they fear the consequences. So why embolden them?

The motivation to keep fighting an insurgency goes down as our commitment and effectiveness is strengthened; the futility of the fight becomes more obvious. And vice versa. As long as the insurgents have hope and support, the violence will continue; and a date for us pulling out gives them both.

Written 2004.08.04