Thursday, August 21, 2008

Surges and Timetables

The man of the people has 7 (or more?) houses. And given all those low-info journalists, that's more important than the fact that Iraq and the US have agreed to a timetable for departure. No doubt Mccain will claim it's only because the surge worked. The truth is probably unknowable but the trade-offs are pretty clear.

There are two key groups we want to influence in this game: insurgents and the Iraqi government. The more we bail the Iraqi government out, the less incentive they have to stand on their own feet. There is a classic free-rider problem. A timetable for departure is good for giving the government the incentive to step up while the surge just keeps bailing them out.

On the other hand, as we increase our presence strongly, the insurgents back off as it's too costly to carry on beng aggressive (see my Chicken entry in McGame Theory post). A timetable may encourage them to hang around.

So McCain is focussed on the insurgents side and Obama on the Iraqi government. Which approach really depends on the underlying strength of the incentives facing the insurgents and Iraqi government. But that's unknowable basically. But I do think the Obama camp can do a btter job explaining that a timetable is a tough strategy too - tough love the Iraqi government. It's not about leaving in defeat but ensuring victory by motivating this important player.

There is apper on this issue here near the bottom of the page.

No comments: