Observers continue to ask, "Will Iraq descend
into civil war?" The answer is that civil war is already underway in Iraq.
Most people do not see it, because it is not following the Sunni/Shi'ite/Kurd
fault lines on which we have been lead to focus. As is usually the case in war,
we are the victims not of deception but of self-deception.
In Iraq's civil war, the most prominent faction is what America calls Iraq's
"government." It is, of course, not a government, because there is
no state. The "government's" goal is to recreate an Iraqi state and
become a real government. What are its chances of success?
At the physical level, the "government" is undoubtedly the most powerful
faction in Iraq's civil war. It has more money and more troops than any competitor.
It also has the U.S. military behind it, as we have seen recently in Fallujah,
where the Iraqi "government" has approved and even provided intelligence
for American air strikes.
But at the moral level, the Iraqi "government" is probably the weakest
faction, weaker even than the elements still fighting for Saddam. The reason
is that it is an American creation and puppet - a Quisling regime, formed and
propped up by a now-hated invader. If it is to have any hope of legitimacy,
it must cut the strings to the American puppeteer. So far, it shows no ability
to do that. Its one serious effort to date has been to hint at some sort of
amnesty for anti-American resistance fighters, a move that could help split
its opposition. But that move was stopped cold by the United States, in a way
that demonstrates to Iraqis and the world who is really in charge. According
to the July 18 Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"[T]he new U.S. ambassador, John Negroponte, disputed suggestions that
a proposed amnesty for Iraqis who have opposed the U.S. occupation could include
those who have killed U.S. soldiers.
"'There may have been at one point some language that was ambiguous
and led to the interpretation that somehow people would be given amnesty who
assaulted U.S. troops,' he said. 'My understanding is that ambiguity is no longer
Not only does that let the puppet strings show like chemlights, it also renders
any amnesty meaningless, since it does not apply to the people who are doing
Fourth Generation war
theory suggests that the Iraqi "government's" strength at the physical
level and weakness at the moral level means it has already peaked. Physical
strength plays its greatest role early, while the moral level works most powerfully
over time. As has been true ever since Saddam fell, time is on the side of America's
enemies, and time is a powerful ally.
What are the other factions in Iraq? Both the Sunnis and the Shi'ites appear
to be splitting into smaller, mutually hostile elements. There are indications
that among the Sunnis, the secularists, who are mostly Ba'athists, and the Islamists
are starting to go at it. Several secularist militias recently made a public
announcement that they want the head (severed or otherwise) of al-Qaeda's local
rep, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's recent war with
the Americans had less to do with resisting the occupation than with positioning
himself within the Shi'ite community. Fourth Generation theory says that once
the fracturing begins in a post-state region, it continues.
The resulting civil war may still have Sunni vs. Shi'ite aspects; in fact,
it is almost certain to include that fault line. But there will be many other
fault lines as well, some within the Shi'ite and Sunni communities, some cutting
across them. At the physical level, this works to the "government's"
advantage, in that its relative power increases. But at the moral level, virtually
all the other factions have greater legitimacy than the "government."
And just as the strategic level trumps the tactical, so the moral level trumps
the physical. That is one of John Boyd's more important insights into the nature
Not all of King George's bombers nor all of his men can put Mesopotamia's Humpty
together again. Since Sen. Kerry's policy on Iraq differs from President Bush's
by only the finest of nuances, it is safe to predict that a future King John
would fare no better.