It’s extraordinarily difficult to make out what really goes on far away in war theaters—the reason being that our leaders and our media refuse to call a spade a spade. Now institutional anxieties within our military are causing more or less murmured agitation and advocacy for a continued role for troops in Iraq. And the reason for that (yes, you guessed it) is because amorphous Al-Qaeda is once more on the rise. But through the fog of war, PR, and proactive covering of rears, one can still with a little effort deduce what is really happening. And it strikes me that the Qaeda Thing—which our media insist on referring to as an organization—may not have anything to do with it—except lending a resonant label for something both simpler and more complicated.
What we have in Iraq now, had before we invaded, while we were there, and will have after we leave is a population group culturally distinct from the Shi’ite majority that refuses assimilation either into the Shi’ite majority or into the rather vaporous something we call a secular society ruled by democratic means and cohering by economic interest alone. That’s an imposition from the outside. When the opposition is labeled Baathist or Sunni, as it often is, but only in later clauses of media sentences, at least we’re close to spades. Qaeda is far away.
That our military leaders are anxious is also understandable. Once out of the line of fire overseas, they don’t want to be saddled with blame for the failure of a Mission that seemed to have been Accomplished long, long before it even began.