Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Acting in One's Own Self Interest
One thing about extremist groups, particularly those that are based on religion, is that their members so believe that they are the exclusive possessors of the truth that they almost inevitably go to far, especially if they have power.

The alienation of the civilian population they are supposed to be converting or saving eventually grows so great that the groups' existence is threatened.

This seem to be the case of Al Qaeda-linked forces in Iraq. An extraordinary Washington Post story today provides a look into the disarray among the groups, who are now trying to soften their bloody image in order to regain a modicum of popular support.

Without that support, the ability of these groups to operate in virtually any populated area is considerably diminished. Terrorizing people by killing people they love is a useful tactic for a period of time, but only until people lose their fear. That clearly happened when the Anbar chiefs and others broke from the Islamists and accepted U.S. money and weapons to change sides.

While not calling for the end of killing Shiite Muslims, the groups are seeking to win back some level of support among the Sunni chiefs, who in effect switched sides when the abuses by the insurgents grew to be too much.

The result of the abuses (and why one of the principal goals of the new commanders in Iraq was to reduce civilian deaths), the Islamists have been very badly hurt. One can only hope that their efforts to adapt do not lead long to their survival.

In reporting in El Salvador in the 1980s, one of the most important decisions the Marxist FMLN took was to end forced recruitment of combatants and to let those who wanted to leave their ranks go home without retribution.

The level of hostility generated by abusing the civilian population through pressing the young people into combat duty was so high that the FMLN understood that they would lose the war if they did not radically alter their strategy.

The FMLN did live to fight several more years, and so may al Qaeda in Iraq. But it would be tremendous mistake to let the opportunity to cripple them even further slip away.

The groups are not only having a much more difficult time in Iraq, but also in the broaderIslamic world.

Again, the level of violent attacks against Sunni Muslims perpetrated by the Islamist Sunni groups is proving too much for many people to accept. The result is that the level of financial support for al Qaeda in Iraq appears to be dropping.

These are the moments where the news is encouraging and the advantage must be pressed. These groups will not leave voluntarily. They must be driven out. And that can only happen if people perceive that taking the Islamists on is in their own self interest, not in the interest of the United States or anyone else.

The Morphing War Against Al Qaeda in Iraq
One Step Forward, Several Back in Combating Islamism
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