Stanley Kurtz makes a valiant attempt to equate the Sunni insurgency with Al Qaeda, largely in response to this piece by Andrew Tilghman.
Distilling his piece to its essence, he makes 3 points:
(1) The primary goal in Iraq is to stay there so as to fight entities in Iraq that will threaten us. There is no "victory point" that we are working toward. We are staying in order to stay. [Presumably he also wants Iraq as a forward base so that we can do the same with the entire Middle East].
(2) All Sunnis are the enemy and any Sunni who commits violence is Al Qaeda.
(3) Long-term bribing of various populations to be quiescent is an acceptable status quo.
The problem with most of his arguments is that he automatically assumes that any Iraqi who deals with Al Qaeda must have desires outside of Iraq. He assumes that anyone who is interested in the local conflict must also be interested in the global conflict of Al Qaeda vs. the U.S., or the broader conflict of the Muslims vs. the west.
This quote epitomizes his problem:
Although surge-supporting analysts say that AQI drafts Baathist insurgents to carry out terror attacks, Tilghman favors analysts who say it’s the other way around. The truth, says Tilghman, is that native insurgent forces are “coopting a steady stream of delusional (AQI) extremists seeking martyrdom” into their local feuds. What Tilghman doesn’t get is that this is how the tribal game is always played. Every player thinks he’s the one cleverly making use of his duller allies for his own ends. And of course, every player is in part correct. To a degree, AQI is using the locals to support global jihad, while the locals are also using AQI to support narrow tribal or sectarian ends.
Yes, to a degree Al Qaeda is co-opting the locals for its own ends. But those ends are local ends even for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda's main goal in Iraq is to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq - not necessarily to get us to leave, but to bleed us there and to take away resources. There is little to no evidence that the Iraqis using Al Qaeda for their own local ends have any interest in helping Al Qaeda beyond the mutual goal of hurting the U.S. military forces in Iraq (although some of the Iraqis almost certainly want us to leave, which Al Qaeda may not want). Put another way, the Iraqi involvement in "global jihad" is likely limited to the part of "global jihad" happening in Iraq - there is little Al Qaeda could use them for if our troops were not there.
A given players own primary identity or ends don’t necessarily stay fixed. A truly successful charismatic religious leader — and a militarily successful jihad — heightens a tribesman’s identification with pan-Muslim jihad.
But do we have much evidence of this? Do we actually see Iraqi tribal leaders becoming terorist leaders?
Essentially, Kurtz wants to blur all distinctions so that all Arabs or Muslims are Al Qaeda, and so that completing crushing the entire Arab/Muslim world and holding it under our heel is the only way to protect us.
I think that this is a very foolish way of thinking.
That is all.