An abrupt withdrawal from Iraq will not end the war; it will only redirect it. Within Iraq, the sectarian conflict could assume genocidal proportions; terrorist base areas could re-emerge.
Under the impact of American abdication, Lebanon may slip into domination by Iran's ally, Hezbollah; a Syria-Israel war or an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities may become more likely as Israel attempts to break the radical encirclement; Turkey and Iran will probably squeeze Kurdish autonomy; and the Taleban in Afghanistan will gain new impetus. Countries where the radical threat is as yet incipient, as India, will face a mounting domestic challenge. Pakistan, in the process of a delicate political transformation, will encounter more radical pressures and may even turn into a radical challenge itself.
That is what is meant by "precipitate" withdrawal a withdrawal in which the US loses the ability to shape events, either within Iraq, on the anti-jihadist battlefield or in the world at large.
He wants troops there indefinitely to stabilize the three different de facto mini-states; and much more diplomacy. Fareed echoes some of this today - urging a drastic drawdown but maintaining residual forces to capitalize and help any regional political deals. A lot of one's judgment on this is bound up with how much interest one believes the West still has in protecting oil supplies. But unlike Alan Greenspan, I'm not so sure that a major disruption to the oil fields in the Middle East would be such a bad thing - and a major disruption is what a swift US withdrawal would lead to. But that relates, in turn, to a judgment call about the importance of climate change and the salience of the Middle East to Western interests in the long run. On this, I think Luttwak has an extremely worthwhile point. More Luttwak stimulation here.
(Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty.)