Wednesday, May 2

Oh, and another thing.

Throughout the debate over Congress's troop-funding bill, one of the most oft-repeated talking points from Bush and his remaining allies is that they don't want to set "artificial timetables" for the troops or for the Iraqi government's progress in meeting its various goals. But isn't "artificial timetable" kind of redundant? And doesn't the fact that Bush would use such a redundancy kind of indicate how he still just doesn't get it?

I mean, the whole point of a timetable or a deadline is to give someone a date for doing something that they wouldn't meet if left to their own devices. If my boss drops a stack of manuscripts on my desk and doesn't give me any instruction other than to copy-edit them, I might get it done in, say, two weeks, depending on how much I allow factors to intrude (such as other projects, meetings, the degree to which I scrutinize and chop up the words on the page, or my general scatterbrainedness). But if she has to have it in one week, then she'll tell me so. Obviously one week isn't necessarily the amount of time I'd give myself if I had the choice, but that's when my boss needs it, so I don't have a choice.

Or, to look at it another way, what would constitute a non-artificial timetable? I guess the only way would be for my boss to somehow intuitively divine that, based on my existing workload and editing M.O., I would "naturally" get through the stack of manuscripts in two weeks -- and then tell me I could take two weeks to do it. In which case there was no point in setting a deadline to begin with.

What Bush wants to do in this situation is drop the manuscripts on Maliki's desk and give him the "whenever you get around to it" instruction -- in other words, the exact same thing he's been doing for four years. He doesn't have the guts to hold anybody to anything more than that, and this "artificial timetables" complaint is just to cover up for the fact that he doesn't want to set any deadlines or timetables period. The Democrats' funding bill, on the other hand, aims to make him. And that's what this debate really boils down to -- "You need to get this done" versus "Hey, we'll stay here until you get around to it." Again, a deadline is a date you set for someone that they probably wouldn't meet if it was just left up to them -- thus without a deadline, "just leave it up to them" is more or less Bush's official policy. Is that something you feel comfortable with?


Josh M. said...

Let me ask you an honest question, and think about the answer. Suppose the Democratic leadership in Washington were given a choice: Snap your fingers, and the war in Iraq would turn into a success, good news would be flowing from that region on a daily basis, our troops would accomplish their goals, and peace begin to show its face in the region. All this, though, has to come before Election Day 2008, and Bush would get the lion's share of the credit.

Do you think they'd do it?

Anonymous said...

Josh: I thought that waiting for a miracle to happen was already our policy in Iraq - did I miss something?

Doug: pregnancy. That's a timeline with a distinct delivery point that's not artificial. But that's the only one that pops to mind.

ACG said...

Josh, I can't guarantee what they'd do in that situation. I like to think that most of them would go for it, but I can't say it for sure.

But let's say they really don't want to see Bush get credit for the win. Let's say they'd rather do anything than have him be in office when victory is declared. Let's also say that said victory depends completely on the benchmarks they've proposed, that it depends on the threat of governance without US support to get Maliki to start actually working at this thing. Is is bad to do the right thing for the wrong motivations?

Here's the way I see it: If I'm trapped in a burning car and a my worst enemy drags me out because he wants to get on TV as a hero, he is welcome to do so. I'm not going to say, "Sorry, I'll just find my own way out, because I don't think your motivations are appropriate." I'm getting out of that flaming car.

If, as you suggest, the Democrats' motivations really are that suspect, that's something we definitely need to address. But we can't let that stop us from doing what needs to be done, just because they suggested it. First, you work on getting the troops out of harm's way and giving Maliki some motivation to get his stuff together. Then you worry about an uncooperative Congress. Life and death first, then politics.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

Even if I were to concede that an embarrassing Bush failure is on the minds of some of the Democrats in Congress, that would be an irrelevant question, because in my mind, an embarrassing Bush failure is already a given. Campaigning to make his Iraq policy look worse would be carrying coals to Newcastle at this point; whenever I hear the neocons making all these dire worst-case predictions about what will happen if we pull the troops out of Baghdad, I get confused, because they frankly don't sound all that different from what's going on there now.

We're beyond ruminating over perfect or even good scenarios now; things have deteriorated to the point where all we can do is find the "least worst."

Josh M. said...

"If, as you suggest, the Democrats' motivations really are that suspect, that's something we definitely need to address. But we can't let that stop us from doing what needs to be done, just because they suggested it."

I think the Democrats' - the politicians, not yours - motivations have been suspect since the very beginning. I think the Democrats outspoken negativity toward the president and his policies have made things worse than they currently are (and yes, of course I admit Bush and Co. have not done a bang-up job.) I do believe, though, that the majority of negative opinion worldwide has come from the left's uninterrupted undermining of everything Bush has supported. It isn't anything new.

Anonymous said...

Josh, let me assure you that the rest of the world was far ahead of what passes for the American left in their opposition to President Bush.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

I will grant you that some of the Democrats on Capitol Hill, though by no means all, are more concerned with the political ramifications of the war than what's actually happening on the ground -- though the same could be said for the Republicans.

And even if I did concede that their "outspoken negativity" has had a tangible effect on actual events -- which, for the record, I don't -- to make that the main issue, while reducing the Bush administration's staggering incompetence to a mere parenthetical, is missing the point by a country mile. Bush and his people have made just about every mistake possible, often willfully, as people on all sides begged them to reconsider, but you're going to train your guns on his critics for being too negative? At this point, how much worse could a Harry Reid appearance on "Hardball" make things, really?

I mean, if you get T-boned by a speeding driver running a red light at an intersection, who do you yell at: The passenger in the car, who's berating the driver for being an idiot, or the driver himself?

Josh M. said...

See, though - I think your estimation that Bush's presidency is a complete and total failure is due to the unending anti-Bush drumbeat that's been sounding since 2000 (with a brief respite in late 2001.) Iraq has been mishandled, surely, but we haven't had another attack, our economy is actually thriving, the tax cuts have worked (no really, they have), the Yankees haven't won a World Series, unemployment is down, home ownership is up, and hey, I'd still rather live here than any other country on this ball of dirt. If the typical leftist mantra were to be believed, Bush managed to turn this country into a hellish dystopia in a mere seven years.