Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Remember Flypaper Theory? The idea was that the U.S. military presence in Iraq would attract Islamic extremists ("Bring 'em on!")who may have otherwise intended to attack inside the United States. In Iraq, these militants could be quickly disposed of by the mighty U.S. machine. It was an interesting little theory. At this point, however, I think we can safely say that it has turned out to be bollocks. From today's NY Times:

A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

Because I'm a lazy so and so, I'll just paste in what I wrote
back then
about Flypaper Theory (scroll down to the 9/8/03 post entitled 'Bush's Speech'):

I think this is a bad idea for three reasons. First, it assumes that there's some limited pool of bad guys, and if we can just exhaust that pool, then terrorism will go away. Second, it assumes that terrorists potentially planning attacks in the U.S. will abandon those plans and travel to Iraq and, rather than attacking defenseless civilians, will attack guys carrying machine guns and wearing body armor (Back then I was naive enough to think our soldiers would actually be provided body armor.-ed). Third, creating a pretext for international jihad is just. plain. foolish. It will backfire. Possibly the most pivotal event in the history of trans-national Islamic fundamentalism was the mujahedeen's war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, sponsored by the United States, in which Muslim men from around the Arab world went to Afghanistan to join the fight, were radicalized, and took their newfound ideology, convert's zeal, and international connections back to their home countries. Flypaper Theory proposes hosting an International Fundamentalist Islamic Jamboree in Iraq, where zealots will meet and live and fight together, then carry the stories of their fallen brothers-in-arms back to their home countries, where they will inflame and activate countless others and, if not carrying out terrorist activities, will at least become a domestic counter-balance to attempts at political liberalization.

The report does say that "for now, most potential terrorists were likely to focus their energies on attacking American forces [in Iraq], rather than carrying out attacks elsewhere," (I'm curious how the CIA investigators were able to deduce that) but also that "Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries would soon have to contend with militants who leave Iraq equipped with considerable experience and training," which I'm sure has Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries very excited. Riddle me this: How does flooding the region with highly trained, well-networked jihadists comport with Bush's goal of cultivating democracy in the Middle East?

I suppose one could, if one were intent on carrying Bush's water, point to the absence of stateside attacks as proof that the Flypaper strategy has worked. In that case I'd refer one to this exchange from the Simpsons:

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Anybody want to buy George W. Bush's rock?

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