A conservative talking point that I’m beginning to doubt goes like so: “If we set a deadline for leaving Iraq, the terrorists will just lay low until we’re gone.”

I think that’s true and it was a point I was sympathic to until recently. My thought was this: Why is that a bad thing?

If we get less violence in Iraq, a lessening of ethnic hatred and a breather for the Iraqi government to assert itself, why is that a bad thing? I don’t see that the insurgent forces would necessarily be able to marshall reserve strength faster than the Iraqi government could.

I think it is reflective of the conservative misunderstanding of the nature of our fight. This is not like World War II where we are going to track some bigwig down in a bunker and kill him and then his followers will surrender. This is an ongoing ethnic strife that is not going to end until the combatants decide it’s no longer in their interest to fight. If we set a deadline (one we can always change if necessary) and the thugs back off, that will give the people a chance to see that there is a better option — a peaceful option. It will give them a reason to stop fighting.

What’s wrong with that?

A soft deadline is a perfectly viable option, in my opinion.