Today William S. Lind has a column which examines the so-called Anbar Awakening, where Al Qaeda has made what he describes as a "classic blunder" of insurgents by "attempting to enforce its locally unpopular, Salafist brand of Islam in Sunni regions before it has won the war and consolidated power." That's meant that many Anbar Sunni tribes have begun fighting against Al Qaeda and has been much touted among pro-occupation pundits as the real last, best hope for victory in Iraq.
Not so fast, writes Lind:
if we look at these developments through the lens of Fourth Generation theory, they may mean less than we would hope. In Fourth Generation war, there is not one opponent, but a vast kaleidoscope of players whose relationships to each other change constantly. Each player may, at any given time, be at war with a number of other players, not just one. Alliances tend to be short term and purely tactical. The fact that some Sunni groups are fighting al-Qaida does not mean they accept our presence, much less our now-avowed intention to keep forces in Iraq for half a century as in South Korea. The Post quoted the mayor of the Sunni Baghdad suburb that rose against al-Qaida as saying, "But if the Americans interfere, it will blow up, because they are the enemy of us both, and we will unite against them and stop fighting each other."Indeed. They would also require the concurrence of an Maliki administration that has little intention of doing anything other than keeping up appearances of reconcilliation.
More, the fact that some Sunni resistance groups may make cease-fires with American forces or even cooperate with them against al-Qaida does not mean they accept the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government in the Green Zone. In judging the strategic implications of local cease-fires and alliances, we must remind ourselves that the strategic objective is re-creating an Iraqi state. Local cease-fires and alliances between U.S. forces and some Sunni resistance organizations do not necessarily move us toward that goal, however much they may benefit our forces on the ground or work against al-Qaida. On the contrary, they may represent an acceptance on our part of the absence of an Iraqi state and our inability to create one. Such acceptance may be realistic and necessary, but it is also a recognition of strategic failure, whether or not we perceive it.
...Tactical successes, successes not in winning battles but in de-escalating the conflict, will only become meaningful if they are matched by changes of course at the strategic level, which is to say changes in policy. Any such changes would require the concurrence of a White House that, from all appearances, is millions of miles from Earth.
Lind has some odd ideas about domestic policies and has a strange obsession with dead Prussians, but on 4th generation warfare he literally wrote the book and is always worth a read.