Wikipedia:Mutual withdrawal

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What mutual assured destruction looks like. Per WarGames, the only winning move is not to play.

Mutual withdrawal is a trick for interrupting non-productive lines of discussion by simultaneously removing two editors' comments, in order to reduce conflict and make discussions more concise and productive.

How it works[edit]

There are two primary ways to invoke mutual withdrawal, and the proposer must specify which form they are invoking, to avoid ambiguity:

1. Starting with your last comment
Editor A, the proposer, is giving editor B permission to remove editor B's most recent comment, as well as editor A's reply to it invoking WP:MUTUAL.
2. Starting with my last comment
Editor A, the proposer, is giving editor B permission to remove editor A's previous comment, as well as editor B's reply to it, and editor A's comment invoking WP:MUTUAL.

Editor B can then, if they chose, remove all the comments covered by the proposal (two in the first case, three in the second), and only those comments, preferably citing WP:MUTUAL in their edit summary.[a][b] If the proposal is accepted and the comments are removed, that's the end of it. Both editors are agreeing not to bring conduct complaints against the other over anything in the removed comments.[c]

Following mutual withdrawal, either editor can leave a new comment if they wish, but good faith requires that the new comment not address the matter of contention discussed in the removed comments, or the removal itself. If an editor chooses not to remove the comments, they are discouraged from leaving a comment to that effect.


Normally, with certain exceptions, it is not acceptable to change or remove comments left by another user, or to significantly change or remove your own comments after others have replied to them. So what often happens is this:

  1. Editor A leaves a comment that doesn't foster productive discussion: maybe it's incivil, maybe it's in error, or maybe it's counterproductive in some other way.
  2. Editor B leaves a reply criticizing Editor A's comment, while possibly being incivil or counterproductive as well.
  3. Editor A, after some time to reflect, or with insight gained from Editor B's comment, regrets leaving their comment. However, there is already a reply, possibly a nasty one, so Editor A can't remove their comment and pretend it never happened. Instead, all they can do is add a reply to the reply, which garners another reply, and so on, with both editors trying to save face in a pointless volley that only irritates them and everyone else, and maybe even leads to a formal dispute – i.e., mutual assured destruction.

By suggesting mutual withdrawal, an editor is essentially saying either:

"Hey. I don't think your comment gets us closer to resolving this issue, and I want to give you a chance to take it back, no consequences, so we can get back on track. You can, of course, choose to ignore this." (Form 1)


"Hey. I regret my last comment and I want to take it back, but I can't because you replied to it. If you approve, you may remove my last comment, your reply to it, and this request, so we can get back on track. You can, of course, choose to ignore this." (Form 2)

If the suggestion is accepted, and the covered comments are removed, that's the end of it. Everyone gets to pretend it never happened, and in the end, the discussion is shorter, more polite, and more useful to all.


Mutual withdrawal involves exactly two editors. If there are any other replies to any of the covered comments from other editors, mutual withdrawal cannot be used and WP:REDACT applies.

If anyone else involved in the discussion objects to the removal, then the original comments should remain, unless they are removable on other grounds.

Mutual withdrawal should not be invoked when any of the covered comments have been in place for an extended period, usually a day or more.

Mutual withdrawal should be invoked explicitly, and only in appropriate circumstances.

No one is obligated to accept or respond to a proposal of mutual withdrawal.

Once the comments are removed, agreement to mutual withdrawal cannot be revoked by either participant.


  1. ^ If editor B accepts the proposal, their response should be to simply remove the covered comments, with an edit summary, not to add another comment granting editor A permission to do so, which draws things out unnecessarily.
  2. ^ In rare circumstances, mutual withdrawal can be used to remove more than two or three comments, but the involved editors must agree on the earliest comment to be removed, all subsequent comments must be removed, and all caveats in this essay must be observed.
  3. ^ And any such complaints should be summarily dismissed.

See also[edit]