Steve Biddle, a smart guy, writes with some of his homeys in International Security in a study of the surge in Iraq that we need to better understand how and why some insurgents change sides. "Our findings emphasize the Sunni realignment's importance, yet realignment's role in civil warfare is largely unstudied, as are its causes and consequences."
Some good dissertation theses are to be found in following up that hint. Maybe a comparative study of who and why changed sides in several civil wars. I think especially the timing would be interesting: Is there typically a phase of the war that provokes side-changing? (My cynical guess is: Yes there is, and it is when the outlines of the ending start becoming evident. Biddle, by the way, is moving camp to George Washington University. I hope they understand over there what a big deal it is for them to get him. He is so astute that when I disagree with him, my first impulse is to retrace my steps and try to see where I went off track.)
Here is Joel Wing's critique of the article itself.
Meanwhile, one night in August I dreamed that Moqtada al-Sadr went into exile in South Africa. No idea why I chose that for him. Probably too much lobster for my dinner whilst watching Olympics.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.