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Monday, August 04, 2008

The Obama campaign's continuing denial of reconciliation in Iraq 

With the great statistical improvement in violence in Iraq, the response from the left has been to claim that sectarian violence has only declined because the massive amount of it that has already occurred has greatly diminished the opportunity for more of it (because Iraqis have segregated along sectarian lines, for example). Well, if this is not a great sign of the subsantive "national reconciliation" that critics of the Petraeus strategy have been claiming has not happened, I do not know what would be:

For years, when she approached Iraqi Army checkpoints and produced an identification card for soldiers to study for clues about her sect, Nadia Hashim used a simple formula to signal the mostly Shiite Muslim force that she, too, is a Shiite.

"I am one of you," she'd say.

The soldiers would harass Sunnis, but they'd simply wave Hashim through.

Now her pat line gets her an official reproach.

When a relative used it recently, a soldier admonished the driver and the passengers. "'We are Iraqis, and you shouldn't say such a thing,' " recalled Hashim.

Of course, the other side of it certainly must also be true -- the violence of 2006 - 2007 has greatly reduced both the appetite and the opportunity for more of the same, and even the linked article (which has many more anecdotes after the lede) argues that today's peace might degrade. It is interesting, though, that the government of Iraq seems to be going to a real effort to remove sect from official consideration, even at the level of the soldiers and police, and its motivation seems to be to bolster its own popularity (perhaps the most encouraging of various alternative motives).

In any case, this story caused me to wander over to Barack Obama's web site and read the still extant "fact sheet" on Iraq. I encourage you to do the same. It struck me as extraordinarily out-of-date for a campaign position document. For example:
More than 1,000 Iraqi civilians die every month. Sectarian death squads roam Baghdad. The humanitarian crisis that President Bush says would accompany American troop withdrawals is occurring right now.

I am interested in the reaction of readers, but it seems to me that Obama's official pronouncements on Iraq reflect a denial about the very much changed situation there that would provoke contemptuous jeers (or at least tough questions) from the press if it were the McCain campaign that was so out of touch.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

25 Comments:

By Blogger Matthew, at Mon Aug 04, 09:02:00 AM:

This denial of the reality on the ground may be one of the reasons that Obama is finding his lead slipping away.

Hope is a wonderful quality in a President, delusion and denial of reality... not so much. Although it does make him remarkably well situated to be the Democratic Speaker of the House...  

By Anonymous wbrown, at Mon Aug 04, 09:05:00 AM:

Instead of Baghdad Bob droning on of US defeat even as Abrams tanks showed up on his doorstep, we've now got Baghdad Obama spouting the same message about a country that has seen the worst and come through the other side in less time than it takes to finish a freeway in the US.  

By Blogger Bill K, at Mon Aug 04, 09:11:00 AM:

Mr. Obama seems to suffer from a sense of his own infallibilty so much so that he will deny reality if it does not agree with his earlier statements. He seems to think the Iraq Govt is the foe, not AQ. The "surge wont work" so it hasnt worked in his mind. His idea of having the UN impose a new constitution for Iraq. Oh my, cannot wait to see that!  

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon Aug 04, 09:15:00 AM:

Of course, it has been obvious for a long time that the press is protecting Obama. Sen. Obama has about 180+/- days actually serving as a Senator in the Federal government. If the press was giving him their normal Helen Thomas, he would have been laughed off the stage a long time ago.
Senator Obama's website hosts an incredible number of anti-semitic comments and contains huge mistakes like the one you mentioned. If he wasn't "the lightbringer" he would have been toast a long time ago. We will see, but I think it will become obvious to the left why Hillary Clinton held on as long as she did. Sen. Obama is going to self destruct, in many ways, he already has, it just hasn't been reported in the press.
I mean really, telling the Germans that the Americans have made mistakes?  

By Blogger EDH, at Mon Aug 04, 10:41:00 AM:

My guess is that Obama and his policy team is "caught in the headlights" by events, and pure inertia and an uncertain damage control environment keep the position statement where it is for the time being. I think it's safe to say the campaign already has the "edit" function down, however, and the post will eventually "change."  

By Anonymous huxley, at Mon Aug 04, 11:27:00 AM:

I thought the Obama campaign scrubbed the website of that sort of nonsense about a month ago. All the better, of course, that they leave it up.  

By Blogger A Jacksonian, at Mon Aug 04, 11:48:00 AM:

Steve Jobs really does need to put out an APB for his RDF... it really only works with him.  

By Anonymous cjm, at Mon Aug 04, 12:25:00 PM:

first off, obama is a "lightworker" (boy, is he ever) not a "lightbringer".

second, i think his refusal to acknowledge reality is a sign of how brittle and fragile he really is, as a candidate. all mccain needs is one good shot at him on national tv, and it's all over.

i predict that there will be at most one debate between them, and wouldn't be surprised at all if there were none.  

By Anonymous jensad, at Mon Aug 04, 01:12:00 PM:

Ob's pride, intellect, and aloofness will chip away at his credibility as a [potential leader of this great country.

Watch his body language on tv and note how stiff he appears when challenged by critics and voter questions that require more than a sermon but rather a yes or no answer.

I remember an old priest used to say, "intellect is the barbed wire of the mind". And I think so it is with Obie.

Good luck to all and stay safe.

jensad  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Mon Aug 04, 01:21:00 PM:

I sense a McGovernesque drubbing in the works.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 04, 01:22:00 PM:

What is truth? What is reality? What do "the People" really think or believe?

Regardless of how much one may believe in a common objective reality, most of the transcendental political issues of today are based on the perceived "virtual reality" that we learn about through the media. The great majority of us do not have enough real first hand knowledge to judge things such as

1) the oil production problem
2) the war in Iraq
3) the war in Afghanistan
4) you name it

Some people have their individual reality that they actually know. This can be a grounding in making abstract judgements.

But Obama is preaching to people who share his "Virtual reality", so to speak.
The question is, are there enough people like this to vote him in in November? Stay tuned.

-David  

By Anonymous Ken Hoop, at Mon Aug 04, 04:46:00 PM:

Hmmmm at least two more US troops killed today and in Baghdad, the city of US constructed walled off ethnic communities. Yesterday another big blast in Baghdad, Kirkuk a contested ethnic powderkeg. Key laws delayed key elections postponed, much of the insurgency laying low till after the US election...

Getting a 40 on the next exam
after a midterm 25 isn't exactly passing the course. And with substantial troop withdrawals
coming soon, you better pull a rabbit out of the hat for the
final exam at full strength.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Aug 04, 08:44:00 PM:

Just how wrong do you people have to be to finally admit it?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 04, 09:23:00 PM:

Doubling down on 2-3 at a blackjack table is evidence of bad judgment, even if you win the hand. The timetable => pressure for resolution argument is a strong one, and I have yet to see you justify why that strategy was worse than the Surge. I'll admit wrongness on opposing the Surge when you convince me that the alternatives at the time were in fact inferior, but first you'd have to actually talk about policy instead of snarky one-liners.

But let's turn the game around, shall we.

At some point in the process of defending an action, you have to choose a metric. In a democracy this may be popular support, (which this war lacks, in either country,) payoff per dollar (and and we'd need a lot of payoff to justify $1T in direct and indirect costs, as opposed to an alternative investment.) Loss of life doesn't seem like a winner with documented Iraqi deaths approaching 100k (approx 32x the deaths of 9/11, and this factor only gets larger when you consider the population of Iraq as opposed to that of the US,) and US deaths and injuries hitting 3.5k and 50.1k respectively. Or the really sneaky argument: why was it better to attack Iraq than finish Afghanistan? Why Iraq over Iran, or North Korea? For most metrics I can think of off the top of my head, Iraq was at best a second choice.

When will you admit that the war in Iraq was a mistake? Please address the number of former administration officials who claim there was agitation to hit Iraq almost immediately after 9/11 in your response.

Or alternatively, just how wrong do you people have to be to finally admit it?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 04, 10:13:00 PM:

"At some point in the process of defending an action, you have to choose a metric."

The metric is a straightforward binary one, you wordy ass-clown: victory or defeat. And, much to your chagrin, we're winning.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 04, 10:58:00 PM:

I define winning as meeting your objectives, and seeing as our objectives have serially been, in no particular order thus far in my partial count:

Rid Saddam of WMDs.
Capture Saddam.
Set up a provisional government.
Hold elections.
Train the Iraqi army.

And so on. So it would seem that, in a stronger position than the one you hold, we have "won" this conflict at least 5x.

This "victory or defeat," "winning or losing" bullshit is exactly what drives moderate critics of the war to be ardent opponents; the discussion of war strategy starts to seem to close to Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. End goal is always in sight, but you're not allowed to reach it. Further, we live in a complicated world. Decisions as to whether to go to war, whether to end war, whether to preserve the remaining strength of our military, and the like necessarily encompass questions of efficacy, hypothetical futures, and what the aims of our policy should be. Cost benefit analysis is far more complicated than "winning or losing," and that is why analytics is the province of proper business and good governance while juvenile heuristic like "victory or defeat" are most appropriate on the schoolyard, and few other places.

Grow up.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 04, 11:56:00 PM:

"Rid Saddam of WMDs.
Capture Saddam.
Set up a provisional government.
Hold elections.
Train the Iraqi army."

You left out "defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq" and "damp down meddling on the part of Iran." Not very "grown up" of you to leave out the two most compelling reasons to stay, to purposely (or, worse yet, out of ignorance) leave incomplete your "model" of conditions on the ground in Iraq. An accurate assessment of such conditions being a key component of any cost-benefit analysis one would care to conduct in this regard, no?

And how do you explain WWII (which Iraq admittedly IS NOT)?!? Do you actually think (serious) folks were sitting around saying, "Well, if this war goes past 1946 we're gonna have to sue for peace with Hitler and Hirohito ..."? C'mon, you know damn well it was the simple heuristic "Win or else."

"This "victory or defeat," "winning or losing" bullshit is exactly what drives moderate critics of the war to be ardent opponents"

You're right: wanting to win by beating the bad guys downright infuriates those who either don't want to beat the bad guys or have convinced themselves the bad guys aren't a threat.

Analytics are fine, but use them when they fit, not just for the sake of using them and sounding "grown up."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Aug 05, 08:06:00 AM:

Terrorist conflicts are fundamentally unlike historical conflicts, which is why our military doesn't roll the opposition the same way they did the Iraqi government. Such comparisons are necessarily inapt. Additionally, you'll note that Hitler and Hirohito posed an existential threat to the US, whereas terrorism tends not to. If it did, Israel would have disappeared long ago. The average American is more likely to die due to walking across the street than terror:
http://www.reason.com/news/show/36765.html

And I will say it again, and again, and again: one of the many problems with the Iraq war is things we COULD HAVE been doing, instead of things we have done. THis might include finishing Afghanistan rather than having it plunge backward, having a meaningful saber to rattle with Iraq, addressing North Korea, or just not spending the money and putting a damper on the economy due to debt.

This isn't a western, the bad guys don't wear black hats and the good guys white, and "beating the bad guys" is terribly simplistic in a complicated world. It is insufficient to have any reason to stay at all, one must have compelling reasons to stay over anything else. Unfortunately, the "anything else" is often ignored in favor of questioning the patriotism of dissidents, as you pointed out.

I wonder if I can think of other regimes that made that standard practice. I'm thinking you might have mentioned one, and I have no idea why.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Aug 05, 10:01:00 AM:

*sigh* I was going to type out a long and detailed counter-post, but ultimately concluded that I was addressing someone who is utterly convinced that they know what they are talking about and will not accept countervailing viewpoints.

'Existential' threat. Complicated and nuanced. Lost possibilities. Cowboy comparisons. Denigration of the maturity and intelligence of the opposition. And an undercurrent of self-righteous arrogance.

Typical liberal foreign policy 'expertise' I've been hearing for years. And a waste of my time.

But please, don't let my experience in military intelligence and counterterror operations and formal education in international politics and history intimidate you. I'm sure you know better. Keep fighting the good fight, and don't forget to let the simple cowboys know just how smart you are.  

By Anonymous Candide, at Tue Aug 05, 04:24:00 PM:

It is insufficient to have any reason to stay at all, one must have compelling reasons to stay over anything else.

Out of curiosity, if Obama becomes Prez. and continues to stay in Iraq, would it be a definite proof that "compelling reasons to stay" were there all along?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Aug 05, 09:49:00 PM:

@ Candide:

That is a complicated question. I would automatically write off cases of intercessionary factors, such as an act of war by a significant Iraqi faction; when circumstances change drastically, comparison to the present seems unwise. Otherwise, I don't know how to respond to the question at that level of generality; I'd have to tailor it to ask my personal opinion, and default to "anyone who makes the case well is justified." Yes, this even includes our current president, though he faces an uphill battle from my perspective due to certain predictions regarding the conflict in the first place.

Speaking of making the case, @ Dawnfire:

I don't think there exist words to express how elated I would be facing a cogent, well-reasoned, long counter-post. All too often I've seen a defense devolve to Anonymous at 11:56, whose position of "if you don't like killing bad guys, you must support the bad guys!" bothers me in a deep and fundamental way. This has often the subtext I've encountered in war proponents basically using "you're with us or against us," and I think that in light of all the things we COULD be doing this does in fact belie a perspective on foreign policy based in Westerns. I could get behind a given military engagement of your choosing, but the necessary precondition is a compellingly made case that pans out in face of opportunity costs and the like.

I appreciate that my math and debate experience make me more of a stickler for well-structured and reasoned argument than is common, and sometimes for so than is even reasonable. But when it comes to questions of long term US foreign policy, I think that anything which can be described in less than a page is almost certainly inferior to something longer. In the specific case of Iraq, I think the pressing questions are these:

What is the goal, and why is it feasible? (Which to me necessarily demands a cost estimate across relevant factors, such as money, political capital and lives.)

What are the relevant other options, in this case focusing on Afghanistan, some other conflict or the potential for one (ie Iran), or no other conflict with resources diverted to some high-profit vehicle? (This could be tax breaks, infrastructure, whatever.)

Why are the sources for out inputs credible? (This question is phrased in a very open-ended way, but I would be receptive to a gimme of "most of this comes from history and intel, this is how government expenditure tends to pay off," etc.)

As for your perspectives on me, I'm Anonymous. I could be anyone, initially believing anything, and you have seen a small snapshot of something I felt like mentioning online. I daresay that gauging my receptiveness might be best done in a more direct way than watching me argue with someone essentially saying "bad guys lose, good guys win." Also, you didn't come across as a deep and insightful mentor at 8:44, but whatever; patience wanes. And props on the degrees and work history.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 06, 12:03:00 AM:


I appreciate that my math and debate experience make me more of a stickler for well-structured and reasoned argument than is common ...


Well, let's put some of that self-proclaimed aptitude to the test.

Please quantify (via whichever units you feel comfortable using) the costs and benefits associated with each of the following historical situations:

1. The 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis

2. U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon following the bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983

3. U.S. withdrawal from Somalia following the infamous "Blackhawk Down" incident in
1993

You'll of course need to look at the main ways each of the above situations could have been dealt with (i.e., the actual courses of action and reasonable alternative courses of action) and you'll also need to sketch out the space of goals for each situation as well as that regarding the "relevant other options" you are continually pissing and moaning about in the semi-abstract.

Yes, I'm asking you to "consider" rather than snottily taking others to task for what you perceive as a "failure to consider" on their part.

I don't think there exist words to express how elated I would be if you were to present us with cost-benefit analyses (crude ones, even) of the above three geopolitical events, though I realize that such a thing would involve a little more intellectual elbow grease than that required for the cost-benefit analyses, analytics, etc./drawing feeble analogies with Westerns spouting off you've engaged in up to this point.

Have at it, Champ - show us what you've got!

Signed,

The Curious Cowboy of 8/4 10:13 PM & 11:56 PM  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 06, 10:43:00 PM:

@ Curious Cowboy:

For the record, I have yet to hear of sticklerism being used as a positive thing, let alone a measure of aptitude. I have always associated the world with fickle minutae, but live and learn I guess.

In the spirit of the 1:1, I'll choose 3. I'll probably be accepting the validity of the humanitarian aims which, at least in part, got us into Somalia in the first place, with an uneven preference for the preservation of the lives of American servicemen over starving Somalis, but not at such a threshold to favor 1 American over 1000+ Somalis. You'll probably want me to address the strategy after the engagement and recovery during the short-term "Blackhawk Down" events, because otherwise the initial investments strongly bias the near course of action to the point of being uninteresting. Expect my response on to arrive, in all likelihood, on Sunday. Also, I fully intend to just cite summaries that I think are compelling, rather than rehashing them.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 08, 05:56:00 AM:


For the record, I have yet to hear of sticklerism being used as a positive thing, let alone a measure of aptitude. I have always associated the world with fickle minutae, but live and learn I guess.


One more time:


I appreciate that my math and debate experience make me more of a stickler for well-structured and reasoned argument than is common ...


Your "stickler-ism" being derived from a self-proclaimed aptitude ("experience") in mathematics and debate, the very things I'm calling you on. A little disappointed that I have to draw you a picture of something so obvious, but one "lives and learns."


You'll probably want me to address the strategy after the engagement and recovery during the short-term "Blackhawk Down" events


No, I'll want you to ignore such easily-analyzed minutae and instead concentrate on the costs and benefits associated with the fact that the U.S. withdrew from Somalia after being, in a sense, humiliated. What sort of incentives (or dis-incentives) did this withdrawal (and whatever it implied in regards to a lack of resolve AND/OR in regards to attention to cost-effectiveness) offer to those bent on doing the U.S. harm? That is, back away from a given tree and tell us about the forest.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 10, 10:28:00 PM:

Anon -
Experience doesn't have to be positive (especially when it is not immediately relevant, for example right now), and I thought the phrasing was like "that's not something I am going to put up with"; it makes sense as a thing to say, but the individual words seem out of place unless you include them together. "That's not something I am going to put with"? "That's not something I am going to put up"? The words about experience are there to complete the meaning like a function (sometimes) demands an argument. What would you have thought a better phrasing that pointed to sticklerism, its source, and how it is relevant to me? Also, you're calling me out on math and debate? I might have been reading the wrong thread, I guess. I had thought that we were comparing relevant strategies for dealing with the same problem, (as in the "hit Iraq, stay in Afghanistan, reinvest, whatever" system,) rather than the particular and narrow instance of "what does the perception of humiliation do?" After all, your challenge was

3. U.S. withdrawal from Somalia following the infamous "Blackhawk Down" incident in
1993

without a single mention of anything like humiliation. Further, you ask me to talk about the stuff I was talking about in the next paragraph. Whatever, here’s a guess at what I am supposed to provide.

Anyway, here's some reading for the situational particulars:

http://www.fpif.org/commentary/2002/0201somalia.html and http://www.au.af.mil/au/aul/bibs/resthope.htm, with pullout highlights here:

http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA324425&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA325119&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA366316&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

and as for names, places, and faces background, why not:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mogadishu_(1993)

I'll choose three issues to talk about: perceptions and their impacts, action and its impacts in the case of short and swift engagement in Somalia (with overtures toward generality,) and alternatives to the “let’s just run away” strategy.

As to your "but what will people think of us?" issue, I think there are three points to be made. First is a comparative evaluation: whatever people may think of us, is it at all important in comparison to what they think we will do? I think that in the macroscopic sense of long term relations, perceptions of waffly "humiliation" might lead to snarky conversation, but a demonstrated swift and severe response curtails this impact; it doesn't much matter if you think the guard dog is a pansy for cuddling with ducklings if he'll bite you for stepping on his lawn, as the dog’s objectives are achieved. Additionally, who is doing the thinking? The Russians know what it is like to be bogged down in an area with enemies out of uniform and the headache that can be, and they could hardly see weakness a response to such a situation they had sought before. The Europeans writ large? I would think those relationships are more than stable enough, and picking up the tab for a humanitarian mission would generally win point; any required rebuttal could take the form of “then you should have done more, legitimating your opinion with a larger stake.” The Chinese don’t have a vested interest in seeming how the US handles conflicts with teeming masses in a foreign country, as we probably aren’t invading China any time soon. Finally, as regards all the smaller nations that aren’t international power players: they'd think we would do what we demonstrated a willingness to do: send in trained and well armed troops, try to hunt figures in power, and kill them. An unwillingness to engage guerrilla fighters on their own terms plays into the effectiveness of US forces because the option of bled slowly of troops and treasure is that much less wise for us strategically, and misunderstanding that wouldn’t speak well to our intelligence, even if it did play up our hubris.

I would further argue that the cost of fighting a perception of weakness usually leads to actual weakness which is then easily perceived. What would a long-term stay in Somalia have cost us? In an environment with warring factions jockeying for power with a relatively innocent civilian population caught in between, the calculus for warlords is strongly in favor of doing as much damage to other factions as possible while hiding behind/among civilian populations to protect against US retaliation. In order to stabilize, the US has to a) do nothing, and be an ineffective occupying force, or b) retaliate, probably kill a few civilians, and nurture a perception of being a hostile occupying force. Remaining aloof makes one ineffective whilst getting embroiled costs you two enemies for each friend you make due to disjoint interests. It would be difficult to suppress conflict and thus avoid either humiliation or retreat in such an example, but getting hunkered down in the area ties up capacity to respond to other conflicts (as in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq right now; top officials from the army have already testified that the volunteer forces are being flexed to the breaking point, which mitigates capacity to persuasively rattle our saber at Iran, North Korea, and Russia.) Does it even matter if people think we have a small stomach for occupying conflicts when there’s little danger of us occupying in the first place? Isn’t the small fear that we might move in for a short engagement and send trained killers after anyone important more of a deterrent than no fear of engagement at all? As for the long term impacts, assuming we stay for a decade and leave after, magically, there are flowers and rainbows for everyone despite all arguments to the contrary given a divided and violent nation with grievances, a difference in expectations can again cut the wrong way. If a radicalized population wants to kill Americans, they are unlikely to do it with proper border security; they can’t find a battleground to fight and die to kill the Great Satan. However, a willingness to engage on the terms that best suit the radicals (home turf, among civilians, against occupiers) allows for the most damage to the US at the least cost. Thus, a willingness to stay can encourage the picking of fights that won’t be won in the sense of bringing the US to its knees, but will be in terms of inflicting as much harm as possible. This leads to, again, actual weakness at the expense of perceived “humiliation,” with the costs being strictly greater because of the likelihood of increased conflict elsewhere and in the long run while suppressing conflict at the present.

Finally, after talking about why hunkering down is so bad and deploying forces efficiently (without regard to perceived “humiliation,”) is good, some alternatives. An open-ended commitment fails to incentivize behaviors that end the commitment and incentivizes behaviors that maximize the use of the commitment; in the case of welfare, this might mean purposefully not finding work, maximizing benefits, and minimizing extraneous costs if the payout from welfare is deemed high enough. Placing a time limit provides support but forces people to get their act together, or else they will be out in the cold when the cashflow stops. Similarly, placing a reasonable timer on an engagement in which there is little direct stake can force reconciliation because it cannot be put off; if it is going to happen, it would have to happen sooner rather than later to prevent future difficulty. Thus, an engagement with a timeline (properly implemented) can put incentives to ameliorate differences on the table. Alternatively, economic incentives with smaller force commitments can also work; subsidies to set up the businesses that will run the economy and provide economic assurances and stability can get people working toward a future rather than fighting for the present, because the future is more likely to get here. Speaking generally as to the costs of these things, economic incentives are not generally hard to muster due to nice things like exchange rates, wealth differences per capita, and population differences, while they scale strictly with success and allow for dynamic implementation. They had frontloaded costs with initial commitments and investments. Timelines provide predictable costs, mustering political support ant preventing backlashes from perceptions of being misled about the costs (ie now,) while assuring less violence (because we are forcing it, rather than incentivizing it,) and limiting stress on forces from repeated deployments. It is also harder to tag a force with a plan and predictions as “running away due to circumstances on the ground.” For comparison, as alluded to above, establishing long-term (>1.5yr, for simplistic purpose of number) engagements embroil fighters on the bad side of many and the good side of few, open up the US generally to other and less favorable conflicts, and cost a whole lot in establishing support, maintaining a presence, and dealing with the “occupier.” Multilateralism and the sharing of the burden can help here, but making a speech to that effect to the roaring adulation of foreign crowds seems to run many conservatives the wrong way.

Speaking essentially, one might choose one of several metrics (or some combination) from suppressing conflict, it’s close relative maximizing lives saved, minimizing cost, maximizing harm to enemy combatants per US loss, maximizing harm to enemy combatants generally, and the like. By disfavoring conditions that are most profitable to enemy fighters and having the capacity to respond to clashes or their harbingers rather than being tied down, most (if not all) of these metrics are maximized. This may come at the cost of petty catcalls from beyond the sidelines, but 1) that is likely to happen anyway and 2) why care, when there are more important resources to seek and capacities to maximize? Does it matter what people think when we find the results we would prefer from the world?

Is that more of what you are looking for?  

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