Don't know what to call your enemy? Try al Qaeda. Note how Michael Gerson twists and turns in order to make all of the fronts in Iraq a "central" front in the war on, yes, al Qaeda. He writes [our intrusions in brackets and italics–sorry about that, but I couldn't find another way to point out all of the fudging here]:
It is a central argument of the Bush administration that the outcome in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terrorism — which is plainly true. When it comes to Sunni radicalism, the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are a single struggle. Al-Qaeda [is it the case that Sunni radicalism is the same as al Qaeda?] has latched on to local grievances, tribal conflicts and general chaos in all three nations to extend its influence [what does this influence consist in?].
But this argument, used to justify U.S. efforts in Iraq ["used to justify" has a nice passive ring to it–sounds like it doesn't actually justify], cuts another way as well. Is America taking all three related insurgencies with sufficient seriousness?[odd, that wasn't the way I was thinking]
Iraq, while consuming greater sacrifice, is now producing the most encouraging results. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is reeling. U.S. Special Forces in Mosul — a largely Sunni city north of Baghdad — are conducting [conducting–why not "succeeding at"] about eight to 12 missions against al-Qaeda each night [what makes them sure it's "al Qaeda?" And is "al Qaeda in Iraq" the same as "al Qaeda"?]. In Baghdad, the surge strategy of securing civilians has dramatically reduced sectarian violence [This is really a different issue]. And in Basra — located in the Shiite south — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally shown some fight against radical militias [what kind of "radical militias"?]. [What about general anti-American insurgency?]
Hurray for all of those things. Maybe. But let's not exaggerate. These are all different things. It's obvious from the most superficial news watching that Iraq has numerous sectarian struggles going on plus an anti-American insurgency. The most obvious one of these sectarian struggles–that between Shiites and Sunnis–has the Sunni radicals on the losing end–as they are the religious minority in Iraq (and Iran–remember them–they're Shiites aren't they?). That means the sectarian war does not intrinsically benefit Sunni radicalism, i.e., al Qaeda, as Gerson suggests.
But that can't be true, one might say. The only way, I think, it could be true is if we consider "al Qaeda not to be a specific terrorist group, as it is, but rather a stand-in for all the forces of evil. Why? because al Qaeda is a force of evil and disorder. Any disorder and evil is a victory for the terrorists. And all terrorists are al Qaeda. Well at least all terrorists share the evil aims of al Qaeda, which is the same thing.
Except when it isn't.
If Gerson's strategy of making al Qaeda the mother of all red herrings has done anything, it's given al Qaeda legitimacy as a global superpower.