Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Shagging Flies

My eyes are on the flies these days, and with the tenacity of a bulldog, I intend to grind the wrongheaded "flypaper" meme into so much pulp and drivel. Today's installment comes via this recommended Op-Ed by the recommended columnist EJ Dionne, (flagged by Praktike and Oyster - to name a few). First Praktike's take:

Am I the only one who continues to be utterly astonished by the Bush administration's bizarre embrace of what ought to be a completely discredited argument by now?

"We're fighting the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan and across the world so we do not have to face them here at home."

That's what President Bush said in his speech yesterday at the FBI Academy in Quantico. After the attacks on Britain, our closest ally in the war on terrorism, it is an astonishing thing to say. "It's a very insensitive statement with regard to the British," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). "Tony Blair must absolutely have blanched when he heard that."

What does Bush's statement mean? Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Fran Townsend, the president's homeland security adviser, said that the war in Iraq attracts terrorists "where we have a fighting military and a coalition that can take them on and not have the sort of civilian casualties that you saw in London."
It's unclear whether Townsend believes that Iraqis are in fact people. [emphasis added]
Oyster quotes other pertinent sections of Dionne's column:

Huh? If British troops fighting in Iraq did not stop the terrorists from striking London, then what is the logic for believing that American troops fighting in Iraq will stop terrorists from striking our country again? Intelligence reports -- and Townsend's own words -- suggest that Iraq has become a terrorist breeding ground since the American invasion. How, exactly, has that made us safer?

It is time for a policy on terrorism that is based on more than ideology and the rote incantations the president has been offering for four years.
"America will not retreat in the face of terrorists and murderers," the president declared yesterday. Absolutely. But neither can we retreat behind a haze of rhetoric and ideology that contributes nothing to the fight against terrorism.
All are correct to note the callous disregard for the lives of Londoners and Iraqis who have, apparently, not been graced with the magical blessings of our own unique brand of flypaper which apparently doesn't work for Europe (Madrid, London, Istanbul) or Asia (Bali, Saudi Arabia). But I wanted to turn the conversation in a different direction, based on a comment I left to Praktike's post which I will repeat below (touched up for clarity and purpose).

For the sake of argument, let's assume that this implausible theory is valid. That a substantial number of pre-existing jihadists - actual high level al Qaeda even - are funneling into Iraq and getting stuck there, incapable of leaving and/or projecting power elsewhere. Mystically reined in by Iraq's otherwise porous borders. That these same jihadists would have struck America by now had we not invaded Iraq (Ignoring, of course, the lack of attacks on the homeland between September 2001 and late March 2003 when we invaded Iraq - call it the pre-flypaper era - for which we were somehow ignored. And the fact that Afghanistan should have already been flypaper enough to the extent that there is merit to this theory, unless the argument is that Iraq is more conveniently located from a geographical stand point than Afghanistan, but these are supposedly the same people that would have travelled many more miles and crossed the Atlantic to attack us. Or maybe the invasion of Iraq itself, viewed differently than the invasion of Afghanistan, motivated some of the response by otherwise non-jihadists....but I digress).

Let's posit that there is not an appreciable number of young men who are becoming radicalized by the war itself, turning to jihad whereas they wouldn't have done so absent such a war. Further, that both existing jihadi and new recruit are not subsequently receiving training, networking contacts, tactical expertise and indoctrination in Iraq so as to become more lethal once they eventually leave that country to wreak havoc elsewhere. Finally, let's suspend reason and cling to the notion that this war is not influencing opinion in the Muslim world against us, so as to create an environment that is more tolerant of, supportive of, sympathetic with, and generally conducive to the success of, the jihadists.

In summation, let's hypothesize that the flypaper is an irresistible magnet, but not in any way a motivator, influencer, enhancer or force multiplier accruing to the benefit of existing and would-be jihadists. Picture Iraq as a net ensnaring thousands of jihadists who, but for Iraq, would be attacking the American homeland en masse.

Even if all the aforementioned is taken as true, what does that say about our willingness, nay, impatient eagerness to turn over such a vital function as killing the attracted and ensnared "terrorists" to such a rag-tag, limited, disorganized and conflicted fighting force as the cobbled together Iraqi military - itself a product of competing ethnic and sectarian militias, some with close ties to Iran? Shouldn't such a worthy cause as fighting the world's most pernicious jihadists "over there" rather than "over here" remain the job of the US military with all its ability, skill and capacity? Do we trust the Iraqi military to be our proxy in such a crucial task? Wouldn't the safety of our homeland be greatly compromised by such an outsourcing of jobs - vastly increasing the risk of future terrorist attacks on our soil? Equally important, will the Iraqi military be a sufficient lure for the flies, or will our absence free them to visit their wrath on American soil? If such a lure is a good thing now, why not in five, ten, fifteen years?

In other words, isn't there an underlying tension between the flypaper meme and the Iraqization goal? If we are ramping up efforts to field and train an Iraqi army so that we can begin major troop drawdown, what does that say about the flypaper meme? I think it drives home the point that this notion of "flypaper" has always been a slipshod, post hoc, argument of convenience bandied about by some of the war's supporters to try to maintain some semblance of justification in the face of an otherwise eroding edifice. If we are to take the flypaperists at their word, then shouldn't we stay in Iraq in perpetuity - to attract and neutralize the last of the jihadists? If our belligerence in Iraq is not radicalizing young Muslim men and in turn increasing the ranks of the jihadists, shouldn't there come a point in the near future when their numbers are nearly eliminated - a tipping point in the jihadist population? To leave before then, or subcontract these duties to an inferior Iraqi army, would be an instance of gross negligence, no?

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