Turning the Timetable

One of the pushback points for administration apologists on the matter of setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq — apart from its “emboldening the enemy” — is that withdrawal advocates would have lost World War II or the American Revolution with their wimpy ways. They claim that America “stayed the course” in those previous conflicts and that if they hadn’t, they would have lost them as well.

There’s a significant difference between those wars and Iraq, of course. In the American Revolution, The Continental Army and state militias were fighting on their home territory, to drive out the British occupation. There was nowhere for them to go; withdrawal was not an option.

In World War II, after some major early setbacks and a slow start, there was significant — albeit very costly in terms of human life — progress throughout the war. Within a year of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Allied forces had invaded North Africa and there were significant naval battles in the Pacific theater. The island campaign and the invasion of Italy came in the second year after the attack.

The third year of American involvement in the war included D-Day and McArthur’s return to the Philippines. By the fourth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the war was over. The Allies had occupied Germany and Japan. There was no resistance.

There was no need for a timetable in World War II. Steady, bloody progress was made. There were certainly setbacks, but there was never the multi-year grind that the Bush administration has created in Iraq.

November 17th marks the 975th day since the Iraq invasion. It will be the 954th day since the fall of Baghdad. If the Roosevelt administration or its military command had been so incompetent as to get boggeed down in one place for two-and-a-half years, people would have been asking about their plans, too. Instead, they managed to fight a major two-front war — some might call it a world war — from start to finish in just over three-and-a-half years.