Cut off the head of the snake and the body dies. ~ Ancient Ninja SayingThe head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, is dead...or not depending on the lastest reports. Nobody knows for sure and, in fact, it doesn't matter a whit.
United States military strategy is tied to the ninja expression above. They believe if we can only kill this leaders, or that one, the opposition will dissolve and the war won. This has been true from the opening days of the Iraq War and a great many innocent civilians died from this belief. The American military, with its monarchical structure and indoctrination, believes that the generals and commanders are the most important persons in a war. Their strategies, therefore, are always aimed at the opposition leadership.
The problem is, underground guerrilla warfare is a very democratic institution. The "leaders" of the small cells are chosen within the cells themselves. Grand leaders, like al-Masri, are figureheads of no importance in the fighting. So it is that when Saddam was captured the war continued, when Zarqawi was killed the war continued, and al-Masri's death or life is meaningless.
The "snake" analogy is wrong. In Iraq, as in all other underground guerrilla wars of the past century, the proper analog is the Hydra. It was a many-headed creature. Cut off one head and two more will grow to replace it.