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Talking "Timetable" for U.S. Troop Withdrawal Totally Naive
by John F. Wilhite, Ph.D., for World Observer
Senators John Kerry and Russ Feingold appear before a liberal confab calling for a timetable for US troops to come home. Other lawmakers and political pundits commenting in the media frequently refer to a timetable for ending U.S. actions in Iraq and related political and military operations. During the press conference after his trip to Iraq nearly every reporter who had a question asked President Bush about a timetable for one thing or another. (A link to the NBC News video clip, "Bush addresses media on Iraq" can be found on this page: Bush upbeat about Iraq after surprise visit).
Doctors can give an estimate of when a baby is due or how much time a cancer patient has, but not with complete accuracy. Experts in construction can give an approximate time period for completion of a building or highway, but not a specific date. Medicine and engineering are exact sciences dealing with events that have fairly predictable sequences of procedures and outcomes, but even here the estimates are often off the mark. The efforts in Iraq and the greater War on Terrorism are military, political, economic, and social processes that are extremely complex and involve numerous unpredictable factors. The theoretical political and social sciences are much less exact in predicting the amount of time a process will require due to numerous unknown variables.
It is much like parents asking a teacher when their first-grader, in the process of learning to read, will be able to read War and Peace. The question is naive, of course, and elicits the standard response: "It depends." To demand a timetable for the U.S. presence in Iraq is just plain naive, which is a euphemism for "stupid." So, the next time you hear or read lawmakers and pundits suggesting a timetable for the troops, Iraq, the War on Terrorism, or any other political or social unpredictable process as opposed to a more predictable event, feel free to think or comment, "That suggestion is naive." Or use "stupid" if you're not concerned about being politically correct.