First, I'm wondering what you think the result of an American withdrawal would be? And we really have to ask that about two spheres, the internal Iraqi results, and the effect on America's security.
Addressing the second point first, my guess is that the long term effect would be good for America's security. Personally, I do think there is something to the "keep the terrorists shooting at us over there" argument, but it's not a reasonable long term strategy. I do buy into the "blowback" theory -- that is, that the primary motivating factor among Islamic terrorists is the continued U.S. military presence in the Middle East (followed closely by U.S. support for Israel); thus, I think any significant reduction in that presence bodes well for a reduction in terrorist activity. Our presence in Iraq, however, is but one piece of that problem.
The first part of the question presupposes that a U.S. troop withdrawal now versus a withdrawal later would lead to different results. ("Now" meaning sometime within, say, a year.) I'm not so sure. To me, the best analogy to Iraq is Yugoslavia. Once the strong dictatorship is overthrown, be it Tito or Hussein, the resulting civil war among the ethnic and geographical factions that were, after all, involuntarily united in the first place is probably inevitable. The better question, if that is true, is what sort of support, if any, the varying factions (e.g., the Kurds) should continue to receive.
Do you reject the "you broke it, you bought it" idea?
I take that to mean something along the lines that the U.S. has created the current situation in Iraq and is therefore now obligated to stay the course to fix things. Yes, I do reject that notion as here applied. If I thought a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, albeit with some sort of finite endpoint, was more likely than not to resolve matters, I might think otherwise; but as I do not, the question resolves to one of sunk costs and cutting losses.
Do you think the Iraqis will find a way to cobble their state together? Do you think it will descend into a civil bloodbath? If so, then why don't we have any responsibility to try and prevent it? Compare and contrast with Kosovo and Darfur. What if Iraq turns into a Taliban-like cesspool, and becomes a base for terrorist operation against the US in the same way Afghanistan was?
No. Yes. Because one does not have a moral obligation to attempt to prevent the inevitable. I have already compared Iraq to Yugoslavia. I think Darfur muddies the waters here unnecessarily and should be considered as a separate topic. Finally, the answer to "what if" type questions is "we'll see." Do I think the U.S. did the right thing by invading Afghanistan and wiping out, at least temporarily, the Taliban? Yes. Does that mean the U.S. should remain in Afghanistan forever? No. Does it mean the U.S. should take appropriate retaliatory action whenever and wherever Taliban-like cesspools provide safe havens and bases of operations for terrorist attacks against the U.S. Hell, yes.
Do you think that the Iraqis can build a stable, functioning democratic state? If not, why? Are they just not suited for Democracy as a people? If so, what are their deficiencies?
Ever? Sure, why not? In the near future? No. As individuals, we are all suited for democracy. As cultures, separated by long historical rivalries on tribal, ethnic, religious, etc. differences, I doubt the various populations of Iraq are collectively capable of sufficient peaceful coexistence for the sort of democracy I suspect Mr. Franks has in mind to work. Again, witness the breakup of Yugoslavia.
The other half of the question is what effect will it have on American security? Will it embolden terrorists? Will our withdrawal make it more or less likely that terrorists will begin marshaling forces for another 9/11 style attack? Why?
I think I've replied to some of that already. One problem with these questions and these sorts of discussions, however, is that neither "side" has adequate information. Has the Bush Doctrine worked in terms of preventing subsequent 9/11 type attacks or was 9/11 a one-off in the first place? I don't know. Neither does Mr. Franks and neither does anyone else, especially those of us who do not have access to classified intelligence information.
On the Global War on Terror more generally, will a withdrawal from Iraq help or hinder that effort? Or do we need to make an effort at all, other than some Special Ops stuff here and there, and intelligence, prevention, and law enforcement operations otherwise? What would be the US's military role after a withdrawal from Iraq? Does the US military actually have much a role beyond repelling an invasion?
As previously mentioned, I supported and continue to support U.S. military operations of the Afghanistan Taliban "cesspool" variety. Personally, I would never preemptively rule out any U.S. military operation or deployment of military power. For that matter, based on what the public was told, I supported the Iraq war at the beginning and might support a preemptive use of military force in the future. Whether that is consistent with a generally libertarian point of view doesn't bother me in the slightest. On the other hand, I don't see America's options when it comes to international terrorism or international policy generally to be limited to the sort of either / or dichotomy implicit in the question. Surely we can consider options in between an entirely isolationist, "guns at the border" U.S. military policy and one of the U.S. as "global cop on the beat," especially when much of that "beat" views the "cops" in question rather like U.S. urban minorities have historically viewed the police as merely being enforcers for "the Man."
Are we doomed to fail at achieving anything worthwhile in Iraq? Why? Is it something organic to Iraq, or simply a problem with the current president? Would another administration be able to achieve some reasonable level of peace and stability?
To quote T.E. Lawrence, nothing is written. That said, it cannot be unreasonable to believe that the Middle East will view any new U.S. administration as an opportunity for change. Change for the better or for the worse? Who knows?
Oh, yeah, and one final question: What if you're wrong?
Yes, we all need to answer that question, don't we? Well, that again depends on how wrong and with what consequences. I'm not making a cheap comparison here to Mr. Franks, but let me invoke the psychology of the drug addict or alcoholic who, as miserable as he may be, nonetheless fears life without the known risks and rewards of his addiction. The dangers of the unknown are more frightening than the dangers of the known, but that's no argument for avoiding a change when the evidence indicates change is called for.
Is that the case here, new and unknown risks included? I think so. I'm not sure either side in this dispute can, as Mr. Franks desires, "show his math." Would a relatively quick withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq be painless? Of course not. Pain, per se, isn't the issue. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree even now about the various pros and cons here, but is whistling past the graveyard really worse than standing silently at the graveyard, waiting in the certain knowledge that more dead are on the way if we continue to act as we have?