President Bush has said that the troops in Iraq cannot operate under a deadline for withdrawal. In fact, the opposite is true: without a deadline, there is no incentive to "finish the job" -- whatever that might be. Every student, every working adult and every serious institution works under the pressure of deadlines and fixed evaluations. There is no reason to grant the Pentagon and the White House an exception. It is unclear why this has not been pointedly emphasized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In fact, it has been nearly four whole years since the president declared "Mission Accomplished." Since that seeming endpoint, the nation has ever-less-patiently seen its treasure, its system of self-defense and its morale diminished. To what end no one can rationally and satisfactorily explain, without resorting to theories impugning the good intentions and/or wisdom of our nation's political leadership. Why, then, prolong the pain? Indeed, here is a new axiom for the war manuals at West Point: if your military mission is not completed before the jingoistic car magnets fade from exposure to the elements, it never will be.
Twice this week I have been asked -- in one case by a relative by marriage, in another by Fox Sports Radio -- to "Support Our Troops." One could argue, however, that US troops in Iraq deserve no more support, that they have failed at nearly every turn, from the spectacle at Abu Ghraib to the massacre at Haditha to the inability to make Iraq safe enough for its citizens to enjoy the freedoms they were cruelly promised.
One could point out that the weekly barrage of news about lethal explosions at markets and inexorably rising death tolls has demoralized the homeland; we citizens who pay the taxes that purportedly enable our military to "defend our freedoms" have been let down. We have done everything that has been asked of us, yet we have been rewarded only with continuous failure in the field. The "support" has flowed only one way, and now we are tired and fed up. In an unmistakable sign of the debacle that the military operation has become, two million Iraqis have fled abroad.
Although one could possibly argue the points above, sadly the troops themselves have been failed -- too often mortally -- by the same individuals who have failed the rest of the nation: those in the White House and in the Congress. For these people, whether craven politicos or home-grown evildoers of historic proportions, the moral deadline passed long ago.
Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine