Before I launch into criticism of Obama's planned withdrawal from Iraq, let me set the context. I don't think that we should have invaded. I don't think that we should be there. I am happy that Obama is serious about leaving Iraq. There. With that said, I find myself once again cringing at one of Obama's plan.
Obama said that combat troops will be out of Iraq by August 31 of next year. I find this announcement nothing but confusing.
I work with project plans for a living. In order to launch a new product, teams have to make a series of events take place: products get designed and tested or molecules manufactured and tested, and factories get set up, etc. Lots of things have to happen between now and when a product launches. It is popular but wildly misleading to simply say, "Oh. We'll launch this product in May of 2014." In the world of development, teams face so many unknowns that declaring that they'll hit a date 5 years out is just silly.
When we plan product development, it is not unusual for us to put together a plan that predicts 2 years, say, for tasks and 1 year for uncertainty. That is, we'll make two years out the goal and three years out the commitment, but we can only say that we have about a 5 to 10% chance of being done in less than two years and about a 5 to 10% of being done in more time than three years. If we want to hit market quickly we don't want to settle for 3 years from now. If we want to bring to market our best product, one in which the features and quality are great, we can't commit to two years because resolving issues may require more time than we hope. So, we forecast a range.
By contrast, leaving a country we've invaded is messy, unpredictable, and complicated. If Obama has certain prerequisites to troop withdrawal, it boggles the mind that he can predict with such accuracy exactly when those prerequisites will be met. He can, however, predict this moment 18 months from now to the day. If, instead, he just wants to leave by a certain date, regardless of what prerequisites have been met, why wait 18 months out? Why not leave sooner if the date is a commitment of his regardless of prerequisites met?
Getting out of Iraq is a great idea. Too bad that Obama either doesn't know what he means by that or hasn't bothered to tell us.