There has been much talk about how it is bad to set a timetable for the withdraw of our troops in Iraq. While I do believe that we are obligated to finish the job we started, setting a timetable may not be such a bad idea. Setting a withdrawal date, say two years, may be just right right thing to do.
1) The claim that the insurgents will just wait us out - This may not be such a bad thing. In fact, it may be a good thing. One of the biggest problems facing the American and Iraqi mission is the constant barrage of terrorists/insurgent attacks on our military, the Iraqi military, and the civilian population. The attacks drain the man power and resource of both ours and the Iraqi forces to continue the reconstruction of Iraq. The attacks on the civilian population demoralizes the citizens, diminishes economic stability/growth, and hampers the recruitment capacity of the Iraqi military and police forces.
If, by setting a time table for withdraw, the insurgents reduce the frequency of their attacks in order to "wait us out," this may give some much needed breathing room for the US and Iraq governments to build a viable security force and functioning infrastructure. Once these two are completed, it is much more difficult for the insurgency to find Iraq a friendly environment to fight in.
2) It puts the future security of Iraq in Iraqi hands - Early in the Viet Nam war, the South Viet Nemeses were a substantial part of the fighting force opposing North Viet Nemeses aggression. By the end of the war, it was very difficult to recruit Viet Nemeses to fight for their own country. One of the reasons was complacency in someone else fighting for them. Why die doing a job that someone else is willing to die doing for you? As long as there was no foreseeable withdrawal of US forces, there was no incentive for the South Viet Nemeses to take stock in their own defense. The same holds true in Iraq. Why would a father and a husband risk his own life and the ability to provide for his family if there are American troops there to do the same job? Currently, the insurgency is targeting Iraqi security forces. Currently there is no incentive for an Iraqi to stand up and take the risk as long as there are foreign troops willing to take the risk on his behalf. If there is a foreseeable end to the US occupation, then it behooves the Iraqi citizens to take stock in their own security.
3) It quells the notion that we are permanent occupiers - Much of the rallying cry for the insurgents and recruitment of troops is the fact that the US intends on making a permanent presence in Iraq. If there is a timetable set for our withdrawal, it will show the Iraqis and foreign fighters that we have no intention to make ourselves a permanent fixture.
4) A deadline creates incentives - not only is this important to creating a viable Iraqi security force, but in every aspect of our mission. People work better with a deadline. Not only does it give our own troops a verifiable date that they will be back with their families, but an incentive to do the most in a limited amount of time.
5) A deadline will foster support for the war - While the polls show a substantial drop in the support of the war, creating a deadline for our troops homecoming creates the feeling that there is an end in sight. People hate the notion of uncertainty. Whether it is in their job, the stock market, or even in gas prices, uncertainty erodes support for anything. If we can say to the American people that there will be a foreseeable end and that your support is crucial between now and then, it will be much easier to create and keep support for the war effort.
For the reasons stated above, setting a deadline for our withdrawal may be our best bet in creating a stable situation in which we can leave Iraq, satisfied that the mission is truly accomplished.