A “time line” or an “Event line”?

Today seemed like as good a day as any to write about something that has been slowly gnawing, nay, chewing at me, for a while. It seems appropriate today, on the 5th of July, the day following another successful return to flight for the Shuttle program.

Many (whom I now call “bashists”–those whose rage against President Bush is so great they see no good in his actions, bashing all that he says or does; a response to calling supporters “apologists” but I digress…) Many have called for a timeline for the removal of US forces from Iraq. Most of Congress have seen the error in such an action, although the Bush detractors have taken it upon themselves to continually argue that there “is no plan.” The notion that there is no plan is humorous, since not only has there been a plan, the general outline of the plan has been around since our war against Saddam began. I am sure you, kind reader, recall that the President talked about rebuilding Iraq, re-establishing a government with free and open elections, and ensuring that the new government would be strong enough to survive. That has been the plan all along.

That leads me to this conclusion: We should stop debating the red herring of “time lines” and start discussing “event lines.” It seems clear to me that we will withdraw our troops upon satisfactory completion of certain events. We can develop estimates of when those events will occur, and those estimates may be rooted in optimism, pessimism or realism, but they remain estimates. It seems to me that in many areas of life we live on “event lines” rather than time-lines.

  • College. One graduates from college upon successfully completing the requirements for the degree.
  • High School. Again, when the requirements are completed (although some seem to argue that holding kids to standards is somehow demeaning.)
  • Marriage. When one finds a mate (although the sitcom “Friends” had their gang with “Back ups” in case they reach the timeline before the event-line.)

Even more time-critical events have an “event line” associated with them. Most noteable is the Shuttle launch. Yes, the shuttle has a “countdown” and they have the “launch windows” but those timelines are event constrained. There exists a long sequence of events that must occur before a Space Shuttle (Space Transportation System) can be launched. When those events are not reached, but can be overcome quickly, NASA puts a “Hold” on the countdown. If it seems to NASA that they cannot satisfy the event requirement, they then “scrub” the mission and reschedule the launch. The satisfactory completion of the mission is more important than meeting an arbitrary timeline. Of course, when meeting a timeline becomes more important than meeting the “event line” we see catastrophic results.

So let’s learn our lessons from the hard-earned lessons from NASA. We cannot simply set a “date certain” for the withdrawal of troops in something as complex as the situation in Iraq. Pick on this administration all you want (Rage on, you Bashists) but it is prudent to trust your military leaders on the ground. It is wise to see that a sequence of events has occurred. It is foolishiness to say pick a date, and point to that as success.