...to avoid a "timeline for withdrawal" from Iraq, even a milestone-based one. The usual line, which is indubitably true, is that a timeline gives al Qaeda and its cohort a target to out-wait. But even points along a timeline are dangerous:
What is the engine of our involvement in Iraq? A combination of the will of the American people and the will of the American president. I have confidence in President Bush to stay this course until circumstances make it apparent that we, and the Iraqi people, have won. (As Orson Scott Card says in Ender's Game, since when does the victor need to be told he's won?) In the will of the American people, I have less confidence - not because the American people have poor judgment, but because they're an aggregate, not an individual. So it's possible to affect their - our - sense of the worthiness of the cause by several means, including - here's the rub - missing milestones.
So far, Iraq has done a brilliant job of meeting the milestones set for it internally and externally. But let's say we set a series of milestones tied to troop withdrawals. How many milestones would al Qaeda have to disrupt before the American people's aggregate sense of our effectiveness in Iraq would be damaged beyond salvage? Better by far to keep Coalition troop levels fluid, able to respond to events, and keep our eyes on the prize: a stable, democratic, allied-with-us Iraq, as I said in my previous post.