In Slate, Daniel Byman on what the death of Zarqawi meand for the insurgency.
A new jihadist leader might succeed in uniting the insurgency more effectively. Such a leader could eschew the sectarian vitriol Zarqawi regularly spouted. He might be an Iraqi, making him better able to bring together the strands of jihadism and nationalism. And unlike Zarqawi, who also actively plotted attacks outside Iraq, a new leader may focus the struggle on targets within the country.
Nor does the structure of the Iraqi insurgency suggest that the killing will have a lasting impact. When Israel killed the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fathi Shiqaqi, in 1995, it paralyzed the organization. Shiqaqi had led a highly hierarchical organization, and his successors squabbled for years over leadership and next steps. The Iraqi insurgency, in contrast, is highly decentralized…
The removal of leaders can also have dangerous unexpected consequences. U.S. officials thought that the capture of Saddam Hussein would deal a major blow to the Iraqi insurgency… In fact, his capture on Dec. 14, 2003, removed a stigma under which many insurgents operated: No longer were they seen as fighting to restore a brutal dictatorship but rather to liberate Iraq from the United States.