Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Did Anyone Bother To Ask?

An increasingly popular fallback position for many of the Iraq war's supporters has been the "fight them over there/flypaper theory." Just last night, President Bush alluded several times to the notion of taking on the terrorists "over there...before they attack us at home."

Under this analysis, America is made safer by confronting the jihadists in Iraq, rather than on American soil. Presumably, the presence of American troops provides an immediate and attractive target for jihadis who flood into Iraq and become stuck on the flypaper of our troop presence rather than turning their attentions westward to North America.

In the past, I have objected to certain aspects of this theory, particularly the failure to realize that there is not a finite number of jihadis in the world, especially if policies such as the Iraq war are increasing their ranks by radicalizing more and more otherwise non-combatants. It's as if we are breeding flies and then touting our flypaper at the same time.

Then there's the issue of what to do when we eventually do leave Iraq, thus removing our GI/targets, and the jihadists that remain decide to depart Iraq - only now with the tactical training, know-how, indoctrination, networking and other abilities so enhanced as to increase their lethality and ability to strike at us (this phenomenon was discussed by me on
LAT here). It's as if we are breeding flies on steroids and then touting our flypaper at the same time, despite the flypaper's limited shelf-life.

This, of course, says nothing about the fact that in essence, under this model, we are using our soldiers as bait to lure in a dangerous element. Human targets if you will. Perhaps that sort of thing comes with the job description though.

Despite this introduction, it is worth pointing out that all of the above mentioned strategic concerns and analysis are based on a strictly American perspective. In other words, has anyone thought to ask the Iraqi people how they feel about their country becoming the stage upon which we Americans choose to fight our battle with the jihadists?

In the run up to the war, and since the invasion, many on the Right have prefered to characterize the Left as arrogant, elitist and racist based on the charge that the Left doesn't think the Iraqis, or Muslims in general for that matter, are capable of handling "democracy" (why else, after all, would anyone on the Left object to this war?). But many of these same voices feel perfectly comfortable with the notion of turning Iraq into one giant battlefield to test our mettle with the foreign fighters - displaying a glib disregard for the tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of Iraqis who will get caught in the cross fire. How's that for arrogant and elitist? Is it within our right as a nation to designate Country X as an acceptable staging ground for such a conflict - regardless of the enormous toll in human lives such a prolonged engagement will take on the indigenous population? Does this willingness somehow display a profound respect for the denizens of Country X?

President Bush made frequent, and in my opinion (
publius too) non-sequitur, references to 9/11 last night in the context of our operations in Iraq, but consider this: America, tragically, lost almost 3,000 people on 9/11. Iraq has lost well over 100,000. Is it fair to impose this kind of disproportional carnage on another nation - especially one unconnected to the events of 9/11 in the first place? Are Iraqi lives worth less, and this from the crowd that "respects" the Iraqi people? Bush as quoted by Reuters:

"Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there, we will fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won," he said on the anniversary of the formal return of sovereignty to Iraqis.
Understandably, such a cavalier willingness to transform Iraq into a perpetual battlefield with aspiring jihadists did not go over so well with many Iraqis. It becomes easier to understand how even those Iraqis pleased with the overthrow of Saddam could come to resent the presence of American troops.

"Why don't they find another place to fight terrorism?" asked Abdul Ridha al-Hafadhi, 58, head of a humanitarian aid group. "I don't feel comforted by Bush's remarks; there must be a timetable for their departure."
Syria anyone? Unless you're so arrogant and dismissive that you think they can't handle democracy...

(cross-posted on
Liberals Against Terrorism)

[Update: From the files of "It becomes easier to understand how even those Iraqis pleased with the overthrow of Saddam could come to resent the presence of American troops..." check out this story (via the oh-so Cunning Realist - whose own post is well worth the read):

A senior US military chief has admitted "good, honest" Iraqis are fighting American forces.

Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary people would take up arms against the US military because "they're offended by our presence".

In an interview with Gulf News, he said: "If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could [want to fight us]."

General Taluto, head of the US 42nd Infantry Division which covers key trouble spots, including Baquba and Samarra, also said some Iraqis not involved in fighting did support insurgents who avoided hurting civilians.

He said: "There is a sense of a good resistance, or an accepted resistance. They say 'okay, if you shoot a coalition soldier, that's okay, it's not a bad thing but you shouldn't kill other Iraqis.'"[...]

His comments come in stark contrast to the assertions of other top US figures, who persist in claiming all insurgents are either Baathists or Al Qaida terrorists.
That, or flowers and candies. Either one.]

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