More on Anbar
A Marine officer preparing to return to Iraq sends this and it seems eminently reasonable to me. Read the last paragraph in especial.
As you can imagine, the events in Anbar are of great importance to me. All recent reports indicate that violence is down dramatically, and not just in Ramadi as I first thought, and has been publicized. We have turned the tribes to our side. Everyone from Time magazine
to Michael Yon
is sending signals that we've turned a corner there.
If this is truly the case, and not just a confluence of factors that have led to a lull, then we may have found part of the answer to your query as to how to handle 3rd Gen gangs/irregular warfare/the problem with no name (as in your post: "Total Blurring of Crime and War"): the answer is not to eradicate an insurgency, it is to create or find one's own group that offers a reasonable alternative. This is really what has happened in Anbar: the tribes were colluding with Al Qaeda and other criminal and terror groups, but now we have turned them and empowered them. This is not nation-building; it may even be the opposite. Some time ago, Robert Kaplan wrote this in the LA Times:
"Those who proclaim today that the only real solution to the Arab dilemma is political freedom are correct. The problem is that they are describing a process that could encompass several bloody decades. After all, it took centuries for stable democracy as we know it to evolve in Europe. In this Darwinian shaking-out process, the new forms of political legitimacy may more closely resemble militarized social welfare organizations such as Hezbollah and the Al Mahdi army than the ramshackle contrivances of the European model that we saw in the post-colonial era."
Isn't this what we are seeing in Anbar? A tribe that is allied with the US is much more similar to Hezbollah than it is to a nation-state.
Here's the real takeaway though: this never would have happened without some sort of American presence in Iraq. It was not diplomats that turned the tribes, it was military officers. That is the secret that will be hard to swallow: we are in an age wherein the opposite of the 'exit strategy' will have to be the lynchpin of strategy: presence, not early exit, is what is required in these broad swaths of the world that where instability threatens US interests. The key will be not to figure out whether to be there or not, which is the current debate. The key will be to figure out how much to be there and in what form: soldier, diplomat, spy, or some other category that has yet to be determined: perhaps a combo of all three, or perhaps some privatized version of any one of them.