The rejection of al Qaeda in Anbar
...Al Qaeda is part of the Islamist supremacy branch of Islam. This branch starts with the premise that all of the failures of Muslim society come from the failure to be sufficiently Islamic. Thus as failures pile on top of each other they ratchet up the extremes. That is what they did no Anbar and it drove the people away. The rejection of al Qaeda in Anbar and Iraq has been one of the stunning successes of the war that is not appreciated as it should be. Democrats still talk about how the war has radicalized Muslims. In fact it has led to a rejection of the radicals by those who have been closest to the scene.
The Iraqis in Anbar have completely rejected Al Qaeda. A while back I told the police chief in my town that I thought the reason the terrorists are weak is because their ideas have been rejected. He said,
"In 2002 and 2003, we thought Al Qaeda was just another Muslim group. Now, you can go far out into the desert and talk to even a shepherd, and he will tell you that he hates Al Qaeda. One hundred years from now, you will be able to go into the desert and talk to a shepherd and he will still tell you that he hates Al Qaeda."
So, having rejected extremism, what is left? They are still Muslim in my town, but I wouldn't call them devout -- they go to the mosque and pray, and mention God in everyday conversations -- as do I to them -- and granted, I certainly don't know or interact with all of them, but I don't think that "moderate Islam" fully captures who they are. In fact, religion is almost irrelevant in the conversations I have with local leaders.
BTW, Josh Manchester who is now on active duty in the Marines formerly blogged at the Adventures of Chester.