July 08, 2003

Of "Carefully Hung" Flypaper I

Of "Carefully Hung" Flypaper

I was a bit surprised to see David Warren's essay "Flypaper" greeted with seeming accolades through copious swaths of the blogosphere (though Dan Drezner, whose permalinks are suffering like mine, mentions how Warren overstates how Iraq might be the first democracy in the "entire history of the Arabs").

Warren's essay basically argues that there are currently three main theaters of war (or something akin to war) in the Middle East. We've got the Israeli-Palestinian situation, Iraq, and Iran according to Warren. On the Israeli-Palestinian front, Warren issues the typical rightist Likudnik (ie, the center to right wing of Likud) security hawk line that the roadmap is doomed to failure and merely an opportunity for the various terror outfits to variously get a breather, regroup, and resume their killing sprees once the ceasefire fails.

Listen, all are entitled to their opinions. If Warren is this pessimistic I've got no beef with that. I'm not exactly dreaming about the rebirth of a new Middle East with a 12-laner linking Tel Aviv and Damascus in a few short weeks either. But I'm definitely willing to give Dubya and the roadmap more of a shot than Warren at resuscitating the moribund peace process. Rosy Oslo days these aren't--but without any optimism at all what's the point of making any diplomatic efforts at all? We might as well stick our collective heads in the sand and count the casualties. Remember, there is no morally viable military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum, for either side.

On Iran, Warren breezily informs us that: "(w)hat appeared to be student's versus ayatollah's, is now effectively the people versus the ayatollahs, with the biggest demonstrations yet planned for next week." I fullheartedly agree with Warren that the presence of U.S. troops on Iran's borders in Afghanistan and Iraq has emboldened the student protestors. And, with cautionary notes issued, I think that's great. But I am less bullish about the protests having spread to "the people," by which I surmise Warren means everyone from Teheran burghers to the disaffected lumpenproletariat languishing in provincial cities. We just haven't seen that in convincing fashion to date--like it or not.

And while I'm all for expediting the demise of corrupt (link via Sullivan), zealout-like Mullahs--I'm conscious that too much overt American meddling in Iran at this juncture could well backfire on two fronts. One, Iranian nationalism remains a powerful force that those in positions of authority can twist so as to portray the demonstrating students as American stooges (ie, traitors) bringing danger and dishonor to the country.

In turn, and this is my second fear, the regime could then crackdown more vigorously on the protestors whom would be left more or less defenseless if wider popular support had not been achieved. And, just in case you're ready to march into Teheran, remember our hands are very full in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we're on the cusp of an intervention in Liberia. Translation: Mike Leeden aside, no one serious in Washington is about to advocate sending boots on the ground to the Islamic Republic of Iran. And so if students start getting killed--we're not there to protect them.

But what really got me regarding Warren's piece was his "flypaper" analysis of the situation in Iraq. His spin here would make a Paul Begala blush. I'm not going to comment on the whole "bring 'em on" Dubya locution. That's a tangential matter.

What got me were Warren's musings that Dubya had, "quite consciously...created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther from the United States itself" thus leading to a draining of "terrorist resources" from various unspecified "swamps." First off, the "Sunni Triangle" in Iraq isn't a "playground." It's not a playground for the GIs being killed almost daily, or for Paul Bremer and various U.S. defense planners in the field and at the Pentagon, or for Dubya himself.

And the notion that the forces attacking U.S. forces in Iraq are therefore not attacking civilian buses and the like in Israel is risible. Hamas, Jihad Islami, Tanzim and Al-Aqsa are not attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. And they are not providing resources to do so. If the roadmap fails and/or the ceasefire breaks down; they will do their dirty terrorist deeds in Israel again.

The forces attacking U.S. troops are disparate and probably not overly organized through a centralized, top-down structure. As U.S. government sources have indicated, there are likely five groups engaged in attacks.

In order of importance, I'd wager they are as follows: 1) Ba'ath remnants, 2) Saddam Fedayeen, 3) Ansar-al-Islam; 4) foreign fighters (Syria and Iran) and 5) Iraqi criminals (with the order of numbers four and five a close call). The vast majority of the attacks against U.S. forces to date are likely stemming from #s 1 and 2 above. People like Warren will argue that #4 types (ie., legions of pan-Arab. Baathist, Bashar acolytes and pro-Iranian Hezbollah units) have poured into Iraq for the jihad in the new neighborhood "playground."

And so U.S. ally Israel is safer (as is the U.S. homeland, his thinking goes), for instance. Sorry, but that's just a bunch of bull. The reasons that Israelis are safer right now include the ceasefire and tenuous forward movement on the roadmap, the fact that Hezbollah hasn't been particularly busy lobbing Katyushas daily into northern Israel as Bashar Asad has been clamping down on Hezbollah activity (because he's increasingly worried about detiorating relations with the U.S.), and, before that, robust IDF action throughout the Occupied Territories. And, just in case you were wondering, the terror attacks that so often plague Israel aren't comandeered out of Damascus. That's done in Jenin, Gaza City, and Ramallah.

So much for the "good, solid American excuse" for wiping our terrorists that are normally operating in the Israeli theater. The Ba'ath and Fedayeen hardliners, dead-enders, jihadists (whatever you want to call them) weren't and aren't those plotting bombings in Haifa (aside from Saddam's morally corrupt renumeration to families of suicide bombers in the past). And regardless, Bush doesn't coordinate placing "carefully hung flypaper" so that Sharon can take down the Israeli "flypaper" per Warren. Such speculative linkage has no bearing in fact and breeds conspiracy-think. And last, remember that "flypaper" in this context can often mean dead U.S. soldiers. Whether it's "carefully hung" or not.

Posted by Gregory at July 8, 2003 01:34 PM
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