The War Nerd: Like it or not, what’s happening in Iraq right now is part of a rational process

There’s been a lot of hysterical reaction to I.S.I.S.’s big land-grab in Central Iraq over the last two weeks. But there’s some wonderful bad news—“bad” from I.S.I.S’s perspective — in the fact that all their gains have been on the very flat, dry plains of Central Iraq. The Northern pincer of their big advance, which was supposed to swing north through Tal Afar, has stalled badly.

And for that small mercy, I give wholehearted thanks to whatever god may be. Although god or gods had very little to do with it. The heroes of this story are the Pesh Merga, the very cool Kurdish militia; and topography. Bless the hills of Kurdistan! I always loved them, especially in Spring when the flowers explode over their slopes. But now those hills and the men and women of the Pesh Merga—the Middle East’s only truly gender-neutral fighting force—are the only thing saving all the terrified, dwindling minority communities of Northern Iraq from the savagery—yeah, savagery; why lie?—of a new zombie generation of Wahhabized Arab/Sunni jihadis.

What the jihadis have accomplished is grim enough, but their showoff videos of beheadings and mass executions are minor surges in what is, like it or not, a rational process: The partition of Iraq into three, rather than the previous two, ethnic/sectarian enclaves. Before I.S.I.S made its big move, Iraq was an unstable, immiscible column divided into Kurdistan and “everything else,” with “everything else” ruled by a weak Shia army.

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