For his intellectual assessment of the war in Iraq that underscores the subtleties and complexities of this war. Describing it as four wars, Gates said: “One is Shi’a on Shi’a, principally in the south; the second is a sectarian conflict, principally in Baghdad, but not solely; third is the insurgency; and fourth is al-Qaida.”
Labeling it a civil war oversimplifies an extremely complex series of overlapping conflicts, he said. But sticking an “insurgency” bumper sticker on Iraq similarly would imply there is a single, counterinsurgency solution.
By showing the many faces of what is happening in Iraq, Gates has set the tone for finding multifaceted strategies to fight this multifaceted war.