“There is a broad consensus, from McCain/Lieberman, to Friedman/Pollack, even to Zinni/Batiste, that the consequences of an Iraq withdrawal, precipitate or otherwise, are profoundly dismal,” writes Gregory Djerejian, “But would quitting Iraq, over 20 months, say (logistics likely require such a protracted time-frame), be so terrible, unleashing regional conflict, genocide and other horribles?” His answer is “perhaps not” and I’d recommend his entire post.
Another way of making the point is, as Atrios suggested yesterday, with reference to the concept of “sunk costs.” Most of the bad consequences that will or might follow from withdrawal are, in fact, costs that have already been incurred. It’s true, for example, that our credibility will take a hit, but there’s genuinely nothing we can do to avoid that. Clearly, deploying our Pony Locator would avoid it, but had we a working model it would have been deployed long ago at this point. Moving to withdraw our forces as soon as that’s practical, by contrast, lets us move as swiftly as possible to damage control and trying to rebuild our assets (military, diplomatic, etc.) around the world.