Lt. Col. David Kilcullen has a new piece on operations in Iraq at Small Wars Journal. As always, you should take time to read his thoughts.
UPDATE: Kilcullen's description of the cause of the "flip" in Anbar are familiar to readers of MilBlogs. The causes he describes were predictable in 2004, when I wrote Clausewitz & The Triangle (which, due to apparent problems at the Mudville Gazette, is available currently only as a Wayback cache):
[T]he Sunni Triangle, as mentioned, is largely tribal in culture. People who grew up there are strongly attached to the tribal system, which to them seems as natural and morally right as the sun rising in the east and the moon waxing and waning. The enemy of the tribe is your enemy -- and it is not our side that is wrecking the tribal strength.... It is the guerrillas in Iraq who are undoing the tribal structure, scorning the traditional authority, and bringing chaotic change to the Sunni Triangle.... We overthrew a national government that enjoyed some broad support in the Sunni triangle, but we did not try to overthrow the tribes.
Confer with the actual cause as Kilcullen describes it:
Marrying women to strangers, let alone foreigners, is just not done. AQ, with their hyper-reductionist version of “Islam” stripped of cultural content, discounted the tribes’ view as ignorant, stupid and sinful.
This led to violence, as these things do: AQI killed a sheikh over his refusal to give daughters of his tribe to them in marriage, which created a revenge obligation (tha’r) on his people, who attacked AQI. The terrorists retaliated with immense brutality, killing the children of a prominent sheikh in a particularly gruesome manner, witnesses told us. This was the last straw, they said, and the tribes rose up. Neighboring clans joined the fight, which escalated as AQI (who had generally worn out their welcome through high-handedness) tried to crush the revolt through more atrocities. Soon the uprising took off, spreading along kinship lines through Anbar and into neighboring provinces.
Read the whole thing, and get a sense of what has been, and what is yet possible. "Of course," he says, "this is motivated primarily by self-interest."
Again, this is utterly standard behavior for tribal leaders pretty much anywhere in the Arab world: you can trust a tribal leader 100% – to follow his tribe’s and his own interests. And that’s OK. Call me cynical, but I tend to trust self-interest, group identity and revenge as reliable motivations – more so than protestations of aspirational democracy, anyway.
Quite right. That's another thing milbloggers have been saying for a long time -- since 2003, in fact.