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The state of the insurgency …

In Iraq.
 
 
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The International Crisis Group released a read-worthy report about the state of the Iraq insurgency last week ( PDF). Here's a taste from the executive summary:

In Iraq, the U.S. fights an enemy it hardly knows. Its descriptions have relied on gross approximations and crude categories (Saddamists, Islamo-fascists and the like) that bear only passing resemblance to reality. This report, based on close analysis of the insurgents' own discourse, reveals relatively few groups, less divided between nationalists and foreign jihadis than assumed, whose strategy and tactics have evolved (in response to U.S. actions and to maximise acceptance by Sunni Arabs), and whose confidence in defeating the occupation is rising.

The analyses of our strategic class will always be our deadly Achilles' heel. Our leaders are fighting a jihad as well; they're religion is Americanism, and they'll jury rig any reality to fit their chosen narrative: the American Way versus anti-Americanism, be it from Islamofascists, Saddam's dead-enders, or quasi-socialist leaders in Latin America. It was the same way during the Cold War: if Kissinger saw two dogs humping he'd interpret it as a Russkie plot to take over the world. So we supported the wrong guys for the wrong reasons and got bogged down on the wrong side of nationalist struggles.

An anti-insurgency approach primarily focused on reducing the insurgents' perceived legitimacy - rather than achieving their military destruction, decapitation and dislocation - is far more likely to succeed.

I'm not sure how you delegitimize the insurgency without doing the one thing the administration refuses to do: set a timetable for withdrawal. I recently highlighted a poll conducted among Iraqis by UMD's Program on International Policy Attitudes that found that 70 percent of Iraqis -- and a majorities of Shi'ites, Sunnis and even Kurds - wanted the fledgling Iraqi government to request a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces. Three quarters of the Iraqis surveyed believed that the U.S. wouldn't honor such a request. As I noted at the time, that's the difference between being viewed as occupiers or as liberators.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the report. Here are some highlights from ICG's conclusions:

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer .