August 25, 2005

The Flypaper Fallacy: 10 Reasons Not To Believe the Hype

President Bush gave a series of speeches this week to drum up support for the Iraq war effort. I am happy the President is doing so, as the main reason I supported Bush's re-election was because I felt he wouldn't precipitously draw-down from Iraq like Kerry all but declared he would (and as most of the Democratic party is currently clamoring for, and in a separate post I'll detail why that's a bad idea indeed). This said, his poll numbers are continuing to flag. Why? For one, there is the deluge of negative images and news from Iraq. Alas, it seems, not enough people are getting their news from the right blogospheric sources and such, and the dastardly MSM keeps showing pictures of mayhem from Baghdad, or reporting a "steady dribble" ( Australian blogger Richard Fernandez's phrase) of American casualties to IED's in Anbar, and so on. It's all a bit ugly, you see, and so the poll numbers are taking a hit--because Americans are smelling out something rather simple--we are not successfully achieving our strategic objectives in Iraq, that is to say creation of a viable unitary and democratic state there, in large part because of the dismally poor post-war planning run out of the Pentagon.

That is not to say we are condemned to fail. Far from it. Let's recall some basics. George Bush unseated perhaps the cruelest, most odious leader on the world stage in ridding Iraq of Saddam. Some 8 million Iraqis braved fascistic violence to come out and vote last January. Zal Khalilzad is making a yeoman's effort in cobbling together a workable compromise on a constitution that could, just perhaps, help breathe new life into forging a unitary, democratic Iraq--ideally striking a deft balance between central authority (which is critical so as to avoid the specter of ethnic cleansing and the concomitant imperiling of minority rights) and some degree of federalism (Shia, especially in the south, and the Kurds, of course, will demand it). And, to Bush's credit, despite the increasingly loud calls from various quarters, he appears (I say appears as we hear too much of troop draw-downs from points Pentagon) to be continuing to stand up with the Iraqi people during this hugely arduous process.

And yet, difficulties abound. Two years plus out now from the end of major combat operations, insurgents strike in the heart of Baghdad in broad daylight. Rumors are rife (it is not safe for reporters to travel there so reliable information is hard to come by) that towns abutting the Euphrates in Anbar Province are once again becoming insurgent sanctuaries. Largely unregulated Kurdish militias more or less rule the north with impunity, and they are said to be detaining extra-judicially myriad Arabs in detention centers. Strategically critical towns like Kirkuk remain potential tinder-boxes. There is a possible intra-Shi'a schism brewing, and Moktada al-Sadr looks set to start causing trouble again, though he continues to step back from the precipice as is his wont. And while the constitution might yet be agreed, it is unclear what, if any, real impact its passage would have on both the insurgency and your typical Iraqi on the street, worried more about security and, also, bread and butter related issues like jobs and the state of reconstruction efforts (unemployment is sky-high and reconstruction continues to seriously lag).

Again, all this is not to say we might not still prevail. Wars often last many years, of course, and the U.S. government and military continue to push on valiantly to get a constitution agreed, train and equip an Iraqi Army (after some false starts the effort is going better than in the past, though we have miles and miles and miles to go--particularly in ensuring such an army is not but Badr Brigades or peshmerga with a slapped on national uniform), beat back the insurgents, cobble together political governance structures that enshrine minority rights and allow for a unitary, democratic polity. But the Administration has been clumsy of late, emitting mixed messages about troop levels, and one smells a not insignificant amount of reactive, rather than pro-active, policy with regard to Iraq. Put differently, one espies drift and muddle.

But the above aren't the only reasons for declining poll numbers. After a while, audiences get weary, I suspect, of easy, stump lines, especially when they've been repeated over and over and over for several years now: "I understand freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is an Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world" or "Yet, despite the violence we see every day, we're achieving our strategic objectives in Iraq" etcetera etcetera. You know, I don't really care anymore, if I ever did, whether freedom is God's gift or the U.S.'s gift or France's gift or God knows whose gift "to the world." But I do know 'freedom' is not exactly flowering in Iraq, and so hasn't quite arrived as yet, which while eminently understandable given how massive an enterprise securing freedom there entails, nevertheless leaves us with the nagging problem of whether we have a persuasive 'success strategy' to achieve said freedom there--whether via the work of some benevolent omnipotent diety or, more realistically, the brass-tacks, hard work achieved via the expenditure of the blood and treasure of a great nation.

But, put all this aside, at least for today. Of all Bush's rote lines, the one that really gets my goat the most is this one:

Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy. They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail.

Flypaper, let us recall, was a convenient theory first cooked up by a David Warren many moons ago. I say convenient, because I defy any intrepid Googler or Lexis-Nexis'er out there to find an unambiguous administration statement--before the war in Iraq--specifically stating that the precise policy goal, strategic objective, and principal rationale for war in Iraq was to fight terrorists 'over there' so they wouldn't come 'over here.' You won't. There were a variety of rationales proferred, the WMD, creating a democracy there, Saddam's dismal human rights record, the post-9/11 strategic threat presented by the intersection of terror states, transnational terror groups and WMD, hell, even allowing us to get our troops out of Saudi. But never do I remember, before the war, not even once, hearing about something called flypaper. It was and remains a spin-infused pseudo-narrative used as post hoc rationale because the Iraq going proved rougher than expected.

David Warren's statement of the grand these was thus:

The U.S. occupation of Iraq has done more to destabilize Iran than the ayatollahs could hope to do in Iraq; and then something. This "something" has befuddled the various "experts" on regional security, trapped within their Pavlovian assumptions. They notice that the U.S. forces in Iraq have become a new magnet for regional terrorist activity. They assume this demonstrates the foolishness of President Bush's decision to invade.

It more likely demonstrates the opposite. While engaged in the very difficult business of building a democracy in Iraq -- the first democracy, should it succeed, in the entire history of the Arabs -- President Bush has also, quite consciously to my information, created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther away from the United States itself. By the very act of proving this lower ground, he drains terrorist resources from other swamps.

This is the meaning of Mr. Bush's "bring 'em on" taunt from the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday, when he was quizzed about the "growing threat to U.S. forces" on the ground in Iraq. It should have been obvious that no U.S. President actually relishes having his soldiers take casualties. What the media, and U.S. Democrats affect not to grasp, is that the soldiers are now replacing targets that otherwise would be provided by defenceless civilians, both in Iraq and at large. The sore thumb of the U.S. occupation -- and it is a sore thumb equally to Baathists and Islamists, compelling their response -- is not a mistake. It is carefully hung flypaper. [my emphasis]

Well it's quite a "playground" all right, with almost 2,000 U.S. servicemen dead, approximately 15,000 wounded, other coalition fatalities and casualties, not to mention myriad Iraqi ones, including many innocents. But let's put aside Warren's, shall we say, poor choice of tone, and, instead stick to a substantive rebuttal, OK? Here's what's wrong with flypaper:

1) It assumes a finite number of jihadis willing to die.

2) Indeed, and related to 1, it ignores that Iraq may be creating more jihadists--not all of whom are rushing to Damascus en route to parts Anbar.

3) It further ignores the fact that some jihadists, terrorists and fundementalist radicals are gaining valuable experience in terror tactics in Iraq, as CIA reports have indicated, and then heading back out of country to theaters like Europe to pursue attacks there.

4) Flypaper, of course, also ignores dozens of terror attacks outside of Iraq since the advent of hosilities there in early 2003, witness (and this is not a comprehensive tally): a) 12 May: More than 50 people are killed when a truck bomb explodes outside government buildings in Znamenskoye in north-eastern Chechnya; b) 16 May: Suicide bombers in Casablanca, Morocco kill 45 people and injures 100; c) 4 July: Two suicide bombers kill 52 people after blowing themselves up in a Shi’ite mosque in Quetta, Pakistan; d) 5 July: Sixteen people are killed by two suicide bombers at an open-air rock concert at Tushino airfield in Moscow, Russia; e) 1 August: A truck bomb explodes outside a Russian military hospital in Mozdok in the North Ossetia region; 50 people are killed and 72 injured; f) 5 August: Fourteen people are killed and 149 injured after the Marriot Hotel is bombed in Jakarta, Indonesia; g) 7 August: Seventeen people are killed when a truck bomb explodes outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, Iraq; h) 19 August: A Palestinian suicide bomber blows herself up on a bus in Jerusalem, Israel and kills 23 people; i) 25 August: Two cars bombs explode in Bombay, India. Approximately 52 people are killed and 150 injured; j) 4 October: A Palestinian suicide bomber kills 23 people in Haifa, Israel; k) 8 November:
Seventeen people are killed after a housing complex in Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia is bombed; l) 15 November: Two car bombs explode outside a synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey. Twenty- five people are killed and 100 injured; m) 20 November: Sixty-one people are killed after two bombs explode outside the HSBC Bank headquarters and British Consulate in Istanbul; o)14 December: Seven people are killed when a car bomb explodes outside a police station in Khalidya, Iraq; p)25 December:
Four Israelis are killed and more than 20 injured after a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel; q) A failed attempt to assassinate Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf with two truck bombs causes the death of 14 people; r) 14 January (now '04): A suicide bombing on the Erez crossing on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip kills four people; s) 29 January: Eleven people travelling on a bus in Jerusalem are killed by a suicide bomber. Thirty people are injured in the attack; t) 3 February: Eight people are killed in a car bombing in the Oruzgan province, southern Afghanistan; u)6 February:
Thirty-nine people are killed and more than 100 people injured after an explosion on a subway train in Moscow, Russia; v)27 February:
More than 110 people are killed when a ferry is destroyed by a bomb in
the Philippines; w) 11 March: Islamic militants target the train network in Madrid, Spain causing the death of 101 people; x) 14 March:
Two suicide bombings in Ashdod, Israel kills 11 people; y) Fifteen people are killed when a bomb explodes in a Shi’a mosque in
Karachi, Pakistan; z) 29-31 May: Four gunmen attack a compound housing oil workers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Twenty-two people are killed; aa) 31 May: Twenty people are killed when a Shi’a mosque is bombed in Karachi; bb) 9 June: Eleven Chinese construction workers are killed by gunmen in Kunduz, Afghanistan; cc) 7 July:
A suicide bomber kills four policemen in Colombo, Sri Lanka; dd) 22 August: Nineteen people are killed when grenades are thrown at an opposition rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh; ee) 24 August: Two Russian airliners crash near Moscow with the loss of nearly 180
lives. The Russian government blames the crashes on Chechen rebels; ee)31 August: Ten people are killed by a bomb planted outside a subway station in Moscow; ff) In Israel, 16 people are killed when suicide bombers hit two buses in Beer Sheva; gg) 1-3 September: More than 1,000 children and adults are taken hostage in a school at
Beslan in North Ossetia. Russian troops storm the school several days
later, resulting in the death of the hostage-takers and more than 200
hostages; hh) 9 September: Seven people are killed when the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia is bombed; ii) 15 September: More than 47 people are killed when a car bomb explodes outside a
police station in Baghdad; jj)1 October: Thirty people are killed by a suicide bomber at a Shi’a mosque in Karachi; (kk) 7 October:
Egypt's Red Sea resorts at Taba and Nuweiba are hit by two terrorist
attacks. A massive blast at the Hilton Hotel in Taba results in the death of more than 30 people; ll) In Pakistan, 40 people are killed by a car bomb attack on a Sunni meeting in Multan; mm) 8 October
A bomb explodes outside the Indonesian embassy in Paris, wounding 10
people....


....well, you get the picture...and I'm not even continuing into late '04 and '05 (7/7 anyone?), lest we go round the alphabet yet another time...[ source here]. Bottom line people: The "carefully hung" flypaper is K-mart quality, I guess, cuz it's not working too well...

5) As serious observers of international terrorist organizations well realize, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, PFLP-GC, DFLP, Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, Chechen separatists (and quite a few other groups besides) are not rushing their forces into Iraq to fight the American Satan near the Green Zone or in Anbar Province--as they've got their own battles to wage.

6) It follows, of course, that Warren's argument that flypaper acts to protect Israel is risible (leaving aside, of course, why American policymakers should be hugely pre-occupied with creating "a good, solid, American excuse, from which Israel has been extracted" (Warren's words) as the very center of a war strategy ostensibly, one would think, primarily concerned with the U.S. national interest, rather than any other countries--yes even including close and important allies).

7) UBL and his henchmen know full well that a mega-terror attack on the scale of 9/11 in a London, New York or Los Angeles would have a hugely larger impact than dozens felled in the latest car bombing of a Shi's shrine near Karbala. You can hang the flytrap from Casablanca to Jakarta and al-Qaeda operatives will still be trying to hit major Western metropolises. Bank on it, as they well see how the intense media coverage of a half-assed 7/7 operation compares to that of terror attacks that kill two or three times as many in Iraq with some routineness. They are still coming after us, and they are not all in Iraq. Not by a long shot. This is because they realize hitting us in our towns and cities smarts much, much more, and also because people trained for operations in Western cities might not be the best kind of jihadis to send to the banks of the Euphrates.

8) Dare I even raise it, as so few seem to give a shit, the moral angle: As this excellent conservative blogger, a person who toils in the real world of finance in New York where cheap arguments and B.S. gets called mighty quickly, puts it: "...has anyone thought about why we're justified in using another nation as flypaper in the first place, even if it was a viable, effective strategy? What gives us the right to use a sovereign nation as a catch basin for carnage so we can go on blissfully consuming and merrily flipping real estate here? Instead of flypaper, this should be called the "Night of the Living Dead Nation" strategy---using the undead, zombie-like carcass of a failed state for our own benefit. Beyond the sheer selfish immorality of it, has anyone thought about the potential for blowback? How would you feel if we were invaded by the Chinese on a false pretense, and they stated openly that their strategy was to attract and fight the scum of the earth in the streets of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago so they did not have to fight in Beijing?" A fair question, one that too few thoughtful bloggers on the right deign to address. Why? Do Iraqi lives just not matter?

9) Regardless, TCR's query begs another problem with flypaper related to the blowback issue he tangentially touches upon. What if, you know, B.D. is wrong? Flypaper is really happening. It's true! Iraq is jihadi central, big time, and they are pouring in in massive numbers. And what if, just, we lose Iraq, with more and more Iraqis radicalized (or cowed by insurgents and/or militias) because we have failed to provide security there because of said influx? Than what?

10) A final problem with flypaper. It's a lie, and it will fly back and smack the President hard in the face when the inevitable next terror attack occurs in the U.S. Those listening and relying and believing his stump speech, credulous people in the heartland, who really think 'we are fighting them there so we don't need to here'--well, they will feel profoundly deceived. That's not good when you are already languishing at 40% in the polls.

Look, we don't need to make up fake arguments about why we are in Iraq. We went in because Saddam was an uniquely dangerous individual whom was commonly believed to be in possession of WMD. In a post 9/11 world, caution demanded that the burden of proof that he had disarmed be on him. He never convincingly met this burden, by showing the world beyond a reasonable doubt that his regime didn't possess WMD, and Bush acted pursuant to various UN resolutions to bring him to task. But we were wrong, and he didn't have WMD, yet History had marched on by then. In turn, of course, the goal was not to disarm the regime, in the main, but now to go about the hard work of creating a democratic Iraq. But we are flailing, currently, in achieving this goal. And, if we fail, the ramifications will be immense. A splintering of Iraq could lead to interventions in that country by Saudi Arabia, by Iran, by Turkey. Ethnic cleansing within the country is a real possibility even if neighbors don't stir up too much trouble. Terror havens may take root in a prospective Sunni para-state.

Thus the critical need for honesty and serious thinking and fortitude. The stakes are immense. Failure is not an option. And the chances of success will be bolstered if we have a President who appears, not a broken record spouting tiresomely the same old about 'fighting them there so we don't fight 'em here' or 'god's gift of freedom'--but who is instead spelling out a convincing war strategy to win this conflict. What do I want to hear? Well, it's more what I don't want to hear. Even as the country is in the midst of huge turmoil, we keep hearing about troop withdrawals. Why? Such talk won't helpfully 'concentrate minds', or otherwise mitigate the potency of the insurgency, or reassure all those Iraqis out there reportedly so consumed about the specter of perma-bases and their oil supplies being stolen by the American interloper. It will more embolden insurgents and maximalists who will wait out the Americans to pursue their varied nefarious agendas. And the notion that Level 3 Iraqi forces, many of them who will flee the second they don't have U.S. backup, are going to take the fight to the enemy, by 2006, well, it's just utter bunk.

So, yes, I want to feel comfortable the President understands this, and understands that a cohesive Iraqi national army, representing the three main factions in the country, is going to need to be systematically built, in non-rushed fashion, over the coming years. And as that Army learns how to fight, the U.S. Army (wherever possible reducing its footprint but still available as it most assuredly will need to be) is ready and present and able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the New Iraq. This blog has been very critical of the Administration of late, and the hate mail and angry comments are growing, but that's the blogosphere, and you all are entitled to your opinions. And, yes, I do know this: John Kerry would very likely have had us pulling out large amounts of troops already or imminently, and we wouldn't even have had a chance to succeed. With Bush, there is at least hope.

But, unfortunately, the President is not explaining the stakes or the duration of this war frankly enough to the American people. Nor are his key surrogates. His Vice President said the insurgency was in its "last throes", and then his Secretary of Defense said insurgencies typically last 12 years. One report says troop-rotation planning is underway for 100,000 troops in theater for four more years, another says troops out by end '06. Is it little wonder the American public is confused? We need clarity and leadership Mr. President. And you are not providing it in requisite fashion at this juncture, in my view, and I say this as a prior and current supporter of this administration. Step up to bat and talk Texan plain and simple--but the real deal--not spin and empty bromides. The time is now.

UPDATE: More flypaper here!

Posted by Gregory at August 25, 2005 05:40 AM | TrackBack (16)
Comments

An excellent, excellent entry. I agree on nearly every point (I say "nearly" because certainly, if I put my mind to it, I can find something somewhere with which I'll quibble ... something ... somewhere ... )

Posted by: von at August 25, 2005 11:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I too agree on nearly every point, including the statement that Kerry would have been in the process of pulling us out by now.

Two requests for clarification/further thought:

1. Does B.D. believe that Kerry would have had some success (by virtue of not being Bush) in asking the rest of the world to pitch in in a meaningful way and thus "internationalize" the conflict? Perhaps in combination with some of the steps in Juan Cole's ten-point plan?

2. Is the reply to Kevin Drum still on its way? In my view B.D. has now taken a big step towards the position of moderate, slightly hawk-ish liberals like Kevin (and myself). The only big remaining point of contention seems to be what to do. I am personally not sure what to think, but I agree with Kevin (and now B.D.) that "stay the course" won't cut it.

Posted by: Mads Kvalsvik at August 25, 2005 11:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is one of the best discussions of this issue that I've read. I have one problem with your argument here:

"He never convincingly showed the world his regime didn't possess WMD, and Bush acted pursuant to various UN resolutions to bring him to task"

We had UN weapons inspectors in country. They were allowed in through Bush's insistence, and with the strong arm of the US military to back it up, which is all to Bush's credit.

What is not to Bush's credit in that matter is that their efforts were ridiculed and discounted, and their work cut short. Then and now, it's hard for me to interpret Bush's actions at that point as anything other than (a) annoyance that Saddam actually let them in, and (b) annoyance that they failed to find anything, thus calling into question his primary, most urgent, and most supportable reason for going in.

As you and others note, we're there now, and absolutely no good will come of leaving the job undone, half done, or badly done. So, I hope Bush and his crew read your post, get their freaking act together, and restore American support to finish the job well.

Cheers -

Posted by: Russell at August 26, 2005 12:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The war in Iraq has the benefit of ply paper, but nowhere did you consider what Iraq would be like if we left abruptly.

The war would resume against all Iraquis, no?, and it would fall, hard and very bloodied, to another ba'athist dictatorship, or something slimier perhaps.

And a point that is not too fine....we DID NOT invade on false pretenses. THere was no pretense. A majority of the US, senators included, believed there were WMD's in Iraq before the war started. I still believe that. I also beleieve the majority of them were transported out of country just before and during the first weeks of the war.

excellent comments though, overall, thanks...got to you from Andrew.

Posted by: ted at August 26, 2005 12:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well let me not join the chorus of praise, as I think you've gone way out on a limb and started to saw.

It is now clear that Saddam's WMDs-or-not were not an imminent threat, but unless you buy the "Bush Lied" line, that's a red herring. Having taken over the country and found nothing of the sort, should we have just pulled out? It was the only rationale we needed to go in, and yes, it was wrong. Mea culpa.

How are terrorists created, anyway? Transusbstantiation? Even if we hadn't gone into Iraq, we'd still have nations full of very angry young fanatics waiting for their opportunity to kill a Yank. The people we're dealing with were not members of the Al-Anbar Bridge Club prior to the invasion. I'd say that this was a conflagration waiting to happen, and sometimes the best way to put out a fire is with dynamite.

Last, how do you know how many terrorist attacks there would have been outside Iraq had the invasion not taken place? OK, there have been a lot of attacks. It also rains less in Boston on days the Red Sox win home games versus away games, statistically speaking. Both metrics are true, but inaccurate.

-cwk.

Posted by: the snob at August 26, 2005 12:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A very articulate post - clear, focused and pointed. There are few of this caliber on the left or right.

That said, it stops short of where it needs to go. I have no quibble with this:

We need clarity and leadership Mr. President. And you are not providing it in requisite fashion at this juncture, in my view, and I say this as a prior and current supporter of this administration. Step up to bat and talk Texan plain and simple--but the real deal--not spin and empty bromides. The time is now.

But, what should the President say? In other words, if "stay the course" is not longer sufficient (and it isn't) then what alternative course of action is appropriate?

I think that there is core of supporters - on the left and on the right - who recognize the massive downside of "failure" in Iraq. They are willing to set aside partisan differences because the goal is worth it: success in Iraq is good for everyone, not just Bush. However, everyone is waiting for some sort of realistic, practical, effective plan that will move us in that direction (because "stay the course", as noted, isn't working).

I have no objection to Bush speaking some plain Texan talk, but he needs to present policies that solve the problems in today's Iraq, not the Iraq of more than two years ago.

Posted by: baltar at August 26, 2005 01:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well-argued, and I agree with much of it. But I think neither flypaper advocates nor you have nailed the matter. Flypaper advocates assume that the number of Jihadis is finite, to be consumed and exhausted. You, likewise, assume that personnel is the only relevant Jihadi resource, and that it is largely infinite.

I would suggest, however, that you need a new model: we should be considering Jihadi resources to be*regenerative* and that they consist beyond personnel to include material, financial, and organizational/intellectual/logistical resources. Indeed, as far as attacks on the West are concerned, personnel is the least significant of these resources. To create carnage on the scale of September the 11th, you need more than a group of suicidal maniacs--you need lots of money and lots of organizational, intellectual, logistical know-how. The average Jihadi in Iraq could not make it as a Western bomber.

It seems undeniable to me that the Iraq war has increased the rate of regeneration for all of those resources. By how much, we can only speculate. More Jihadi personnel, though mostly not of West-bombing caliber. More Jihadi money. More Jihadi organizational/intellectual/logistical resources as talented inviduals offer their services. We have also created a continual strain/drain on those resources in Iraq. Does the drain exceed the increase in the regeneration rate? Maybe. I would speculate so, but I really don't know.

But The question I pose to you is: are Jihadi operations in Iraq being financed with *only new* (i.e. post-invasion) money sources? Are they being directed by *only new* organizational resources? Now that, I really don't think so. You must admit that, at the very least, Iraq is diverting at least *some* Jihadi financial and organizational/logistical resources that would otherwise have been occupied with planning and carrying out attacks elsewhere. "Flypaper" it isn't. But it is at least a diversion.

Now, to have argued this as a justification for the Iraq war before the war would have been utterly immoral, for the reasons you have outlined. But to mention it now--now, that the deed is done--as a temporary side benefit of staying there, finishing it, isn't out of bounds, I don't think. Particularly when finishing it right could bring down those regeneration rates to pre-invasions levels or lower.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at August 26, 2005 01:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am very confused by your post. You state:

"So, yes, I want to feel comfortable the President understands this, and understands that a cohesive Iraqi national army, representing the three main factions in the country, is going to need to be systematically built, in non-rushed fashion, over the coming years. And as that Army learns how to fight, the U.S. Army (wherever possible reducing its footprint but still available as it most assuredly will need to be) is ready and present and able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the New Iraq."

and

"But, unfortunately, the President is not explaining the stakes or the duration of this war frankly to the American people."

On August 24 in Nampa, ID President Bush stated:

"We will stay on the offense. We'll complete our work in Afghanistan and Iraq. An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq, or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations. So long as I'm the President, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror."

and

"America and Iraqi forces are on the hunt, side-by-side, to defeat the terrorists. And as we hunt down our common enemies, we will continue to train more Iraqi security forces."

President Addresses Military Families, Discusses War on Terror

On August 23 in London Major General Douglas Lute stated in London:

“You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.”

While he cautioned that any troop reduction would be conditional on continued political progress and ongoing improvement in Iraqi force training, he said Centcom planners believed “the political process will play out, that we will see a constitution, that we will see, by some political machinations, the Sunnis brought into the process and we will proceed to national elections in December”.

“If we see that and if we see progress on the second front, which is continued progress with the Iraqi security force next year, this time we'll be in the position to make some adjustments in our force structure.”

The same Financial Times article quoted Scott McLelland.

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, insisted that Mr Bush and his top generals remained united on the issue. “Any suggestion that there is disagreement between the President and our military commanders in Iraq is absurd,” he said.

“We are all on the same page when it comes to our strategy of standing up Iraqi forces so we can stand down our forces. We have always said troop levels will be determined by our commanders, based on conditions on the ground.”

US general sees significant withdrawal in Iraq

What is not clear about these statements to you? What President Bush is saying makes sense to me and addresses your questions.

McQ and Q and O gets it too.

"Note the two "conditions". National elections in December and continued progress with the Iraqi security force. Meet those to the satisfaction of the US command and we begin to pull out troops as at that point the mission will be in transition from one in which US troops have the main security role to one in which Iraqi troops have the main security role. This transition may happen quickly or it may not. But regardless, those two conditions are what will drive any troop reduction."

and

"I was an operations officer for about 12 years at various levels. Ops officers are the most plugged in of the plugged in about what's really going on. They're the guys who have the responsiblity to plan all future ops as well as run current ops. I'm inclined to give a lot of credence to Lute's words. But I also understand Bush's caution. Prepare for the worst isn't a bad maxim in this case. But per Lute, I think the situation is better on the ground than some would lead us to believe or he wouldn't be playing "I bet my stars" by saying what he's saying. At that level, it is not career enhancing to be wrong."

Standing up Iraq, standing down our troops

I know you hate to hear it, but you've become consistently hysterical. You need to calm down, listen, and really think about what the administration and military are telling us.

Posted by: Marlin at August 26, 2005 02:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wouldn't have dwelt on the flypaper concept. Had I heard it before I must have discounted it then.

I do think that it is more relevant to recall the "Pay me now... or pay me later." television commercial. The profile of the problem might have been lower before the decision to face down terror havens, but it was very real. The sooner dealt with, the better and the lower the potential cost in life and treasure.

But having begun to deal with it, it has to be dealt with with some fortitude. I simply can't abide the shortsightedness of those who feel abandoning Iraq means it is no longer our problem. Nor can I abide diplomatic ostriches at the UN. Don't talk about flypaper; talk about them.

Posted by: sbw at August 26, 2005 02:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You can't claim that we haven't found WMD in Iraq set to be used against the US at a moment's notice and then not expect hate mail. Good article.

Posted by: aleks at August 26, 2005 03:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Very nice post, I agree with all you points. I also think they were all obvious and pointed out, especially #8, by some of those 'liberal' bloggers when the argument first came out.

Glad to see some conservatives finally get it.

Posted by: Dperl99 at August 26, 2005 03:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As I wrote in September of 2003 in a couple of postings on iSteve.com:

"Jumbo shrimp," "military intelligence," and now ... "blog wisdom!" -- Since midsummer, the big blog boys, including Tin Pencil-Sharpener nominees Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, and James Taranto of the WSJ, have been promoting the "flypaper" or "draining the swamp" theory to explain why our getting into a guerilla war in Iraq is really a good thing. See, now we've got all the bad guys right where we want them -- all the anti-American Muslims in the world are flocking to Iraq where we will kill them all and then there will be no more of them anywhere ever again. As Gregory Cochran points out, the Soviets tried out the flypaper theory in Afghanistan from 1979-1988, killing a million or more Muslims, which is why there hasn't been a single Islamist extremist in Afghanistan ever since.

http://www.isteve.com/Web Exclusives Archive-Sep2003.htm#37873.7085509259

One obvious problem with the Flypaper theory is that there's no glue on the flypaper. President Bush has been inviting guerillas into Iraq with his "Bring 'em on" bluster. If these foreign anti-Americans fighters in Iraq start losing, they'll come to realize that Andrew Sullivan is a more masterful asymetrical war strategist than they are, and they'll just leave Iraq. So, the upside is small.

The downsides are numerous. How exactly are we going to turn Iraq into a shining city on a hill of prosperity and democracy while also using it as our designated killing floor? How are we going to keep the oil and water pipelines running if we keep inviting in more trained terrorists? How can we win the hearts and minds of civilian Iraqis who might not appreciate the President deciding to treat their neighborhoods as a global battle zone? How can we get more cooperation from Iraqi civilians if they are in danger of being murdered for cooperating by all the guerillas we've attracted.

http://www.isteve.com/Web Exclusives Archive-Sep2003.htm#37873.7085509259

Posted by: Steve Sailer at August 26, 2005 03:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...unless you buy the "Bush Lied" line,..."

Bush lied.

Posted by: TonyB at August 26, 2005 03:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great article Greg. #8 is what turns "flypaper" from a merely stupid theory into a morally bankrupt one.

Posted by: Guy at August 26, 2005 03:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A thoughtful piece.

Some commenters remind us that the state of knowledge concerning Iraqi WMDs has to be considered materially different in March 2003 from what it was in October 2002. I don't care what anyone thought in October 2002 -- by March 2003, we knew that something had gone seriously wrong with the intelligence, because as the Blix teams kept going where we told them the stuff was (and we really really wanted a smoking gun, so we weren't holding back) they kept finding that not only was there nothing there, but there was no sign of anything having been there for many years. Sure, they may not have been able to solve the mystery, but they certainly revealed that the intelligence from exiles and other self-interested folks was not to be trusted. I think war supporters ought to be adult enough to acknowledge this. Yes we're there. But let's have a little humility.

The other factor that I think has just got to be accounted for in thinking of Iraq as the central front in the war on terror, in which we cannot fail, is how little this view is (or should be) shared either by our AQ adversaries or by our Iraqi clients. Both have their own reasons for viewing this completely differently; this matters because when you don't understand and account for the motivation of either the adversary or allies, disappointment is sure to follow.

First AQ. It's no loss at all to them if Iraq ends up being what looks now to be the best case scenario: moderately oriented towards Teheran, having worked out a deal that allows considerable but not excessive local control within the regions, wealth shared with the oil-less Sunni home provinces. What's the harm to AQ? They didn't need Iraq in the 90s and before 2003, and they won't need it in the future. Even a "loss" in Iraq would be blamed on Shiite heretics and Kurdish apostates (or is it Shiite apostates and Kurdish heretics?) selling out to the Crusader. No PR loss and no operational loss (in my view, the caliphate goal is just a pie in the sky thing to shoot for -- no one actually believes in or wants it). Central front? Nope, just an easy place to kill Americans. Flypaper, if you will: fight the Crusader (and his puppets) in Iraq so you don't have to fight them in Pakistan, Egypt, or SA.

This is why, it seems to me, that the war against AQ in Iraq is a one way ratchet. "Victory" in Iraq is nearly meaningless in the struggle against AQ. A loss exposes Egypt, Pakistan and SA to an AQ that has defeated the Crusader. It is already clear enough that it is the will of Allah that the Crusader not capture UBL. How else can one possibly explain his ability to remain free 4 years after the 9/11 attacks? Let it be manifest that Allah also wills that the US leave Iraq under circumstances that look like defeat, and the loss is only magnified. It is further magnified by what will be the sure domestic consequence of a loss in Iraq: much diminished willingness to expend blood or treasure to defend Egypt, Pakistan, or SA.

It seems to me, then, that our strongest interest here is to avoid a loss. And, therefore, that "stay the course" and "we have a long way to go" are exactly the wrong way to go about it. How about "we have already acheived our principal war aims," and can draw our forces down in an orderly fashion. Not starting in August, but laying groundwork in August so that the October resolution -- whichever way it goes -- is the starting gun.

Instead, we have calls to perpetual war, and to a victory that we define so differently from our Iraqi allies as to be unacheivable. We will never make Ramadi safer than Atlanta was during the Olympics, or Baghdad safer than London is now. Never. Will there ever be regional governments in Anbar, Samarra, and others that are as aggressive about cracking down on militant Islamism as we would like? Not unless we clone Saddam. There will always be a Sadr/Hakim split, and there will always be great Iranian influence. We're not going to create a secular state, and even if we can get a national government that promises women's rights, the provincial governments (and at lower levels) will be where the action really is on this, and we are not going to even try to wage a culture war there, much less prevail in it.

Seems to me that the best way to win -- and we do have to win -- is figure out what the best realistic result that can be had over the next 12 months is -- not a fantasy, but best realistic case based on the facts we actually see on the ground -- and define 75% of that as victory. Then hope to do even better. Then get out.

Then go get UBL, for Allah's sake!

Posted by: CharleyCarp at August 26, 2005 04:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg. Why can't you make the next little leap of imagination to see that w's little experiment in "error" is and was a TOTAL clusterfuck from the get-go? You mentioned the immorality of our using a foreign nation as Flypaper....Do you really believe then in the "Ooops! No WMD after all!!" alibi from such a morally bankrupt administration? The neo-con dream of a chicken in every petro-nation's pot was dreamed up long ago. The intelligence was "fixed".

Posted by: brian at August 26, 2005 04:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ugggh. It is so hard to keep the reasons we went to war with Iraq straight. WMD, no it was Evil Dictator, no it was Democracy Middle East, no we have to Honor Our Dead.

You wonder why Bush's poll numbers are so low? It is because the people who pursued this war are morons of the lowest caliber. There is no way out gracefully. The internal divisions within Iraq were held together by Saddam's nasty regime. Now we are going to get to watch Kurds v Shiite v Sunni and it is just going to get nastier.

And all of those insurgents trained in urban warfare, bomb making, beheading- a lot of them are going out to start their own little terror cells. Does anyone feel any safer?

Posted by: homer at August 26, 2005 04:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ever take calculus? Here you’re focused on quantities when you should be concentrating on the rates of change. We know, definitively, that there is a mechanism for the creation of virulent Islamic terrorists in the Middle East that is independent of whatever we do; whence Afghanistan is as provocative as Iraq for the 7/7, East Timor, the Reconquista, and the Crusades (we’re Crusaders after all!) are caussus belli same as the Israeli flavor du jour. Argue all you want, just listen to your enemy, have at least that much respect for him before you put words in his mouth, but what churns out terrorists will still churn out terrorists even if we are sweet to the Arab world, or absolute bastards for that matter.

There is an absolute mechanism for creating terrorists and it is indigenous to the Arab world. Period. The conflicts you’ve mentioned would have gained combat experience as well for committed cadres, including Afghanistan, again as provocative as any other conflict (remember the Soviet experience of Afghanstan, that trained al Qaeda in the first place). But IEDs are decreasing in effectiveness on whole, with only limited professional cadres learning from and making gains in combat, most of the others are a wash for one thing. Professionals will increase their craft anywhere from Kosovo to Chechnya and we know that because that’s what they DO, Iraq demonstrates no more an increase in this capacity than any other. It, of course, IS a superb magnet for amateurs that would otherwise go for summer training camps in the lovely desert where they can learn the mystic art of spontaneous explosion behind the wheel of cars, vans and SUVs; beats the heck out of flight school (too much paperwork). We know that it is a superb magnet for amateurs because we manage to see them blow, and be blown, up every day, day after day, and that you can’t argue with.

The entire criticism of the flypaper theory is that western intervention causes terrorism, which is categorically untrue, or increases it, which is specious on its best face. Worse, a focus on the terrorist acts is like focusing on war casualties; it tells you nothing of what is actually happening. The goal is to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure so that it might become extinct, and not to keep it at a minimum in such places as Israel, yes, but everywhere else. To do that you need to hit the Middle East hard and catastrophically; everything else is management of the problem, a slow bleed.

And the moral argument must be weighed against non-intervention, in that case allowing Saddam Hussein to stay in power. I give you Assad’s Syria, who bequeathed it unto the Eye Doctor o’ Doom as an example. How much more friendly do you think a Qusay or Uday Iraq would be to Iraqis…and for presumably decades at that? The morality argument would hold for Jordan, for Kuwait, for Bahrain, even Iran or Saudi Arabia, but doesn’t hold in Iraq; anything is preferable to a Hussein dynast.

Posted by: Brad at August 26, 2005 04:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Another thing...Bushes latest rational for staying the curse has had him saying "We cannot dishonor the sacrifice of those who have died by leaving now.." or some such.
If you follow that -simple- rational to its' logical conclusion...We would NEVER leave Iraq. Each fallen soldiers sacrifice would need to be validated by the next fallen soldier's sacrifice ad naseum.
How can the situation in Iraq be redeemd? How was the situation in VietNam redeemed? We left. We -are- the problem with Iraq now. Us and 1500 years of "Religious" Islamic clusterfuckery. Fundamentalist nations NEED ruthless leaders (Look at Amerika under Bush-Rove-Dobson-Robertson etc) Forgive the soft bigotry of my low expectations (or don't) but Cultures in thrall to Allah NEED cruel despotic dictators imo.

Posted by: Brian at August 26, 2005 04:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
It should give you pause to see the nature of the people who support you.

Posted by: Tia at August 26, 2005 05:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Really good post. I'd also like to see Bush make a seriously substantive speech, but I don't think it's likely at all. Consider the consequences.

He needs to effectively get across just how critical it is for us to be successful in Iraq. But the flip side of that is that it makes the Administration's mistakes all the more damning. Right now, it seems most people are simply upset with his missteps in that they cost American (and many innocent Iraqi) lives. But that's small potatoes if this war goes into the toilet. If people truly realized that, then the cavalier attitude that he, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have had in glossing over some of their more serious misjudgments will seem almost criminal.

Furthermore, it does not seem realistic that true victory in this conflict will be achieved within 2 or even 3 years. I certainly could be wrong, but I just can't see us being completely out of Iraq (I'm ignoring permanent bases for now) in that time frame. And the longer we stay, the more strain we're putting on the troops. Their tours of duty are going to become ridiculously long and potentially unsustainable. The truth is that we need more people in the armed services, and Bush needs to make a real appeal for more people to sign up, even knowing that it means they'll fight and quite possibly die. This conflict is THAT critical. But imagine the reaction if he leveled with the public in this manner.

Finally, the Administration tried to sell this as a relatively painless war. We regular citizens weren't asked to sacrifice a thing. We were told to go about life as usual and enjoy some tax cuts. I can understand the political rationale for this, and I don't exactly enjoy paying taxes, but by not asking for anything from us, most regular citizens don't feel connected to this war in any meaningful way. We haven't been asked to "invest" in it. And it's probably too late to ask us to do it, even though everyone in this country really SHOULD sacrifice something, be it time or money or service, to help see this through.

So, convincing the public of the importance of the war, appealing for more people to enlist, and asking for sacrifice from each and every citizen are all things Bush SHOULD do given the magnitude of the situation. But he won't because each and every one of them is political death, both for him and probably a good portion of the Republican Party. Yes, ideally that shouldn't matter, because this is so much more important than short-term political ramifications and a few careers. But I’m not holding my breath.

Posted by: Jason at August 26, 2005 05:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"How was the situation in VietNam redeemed? We left."

Feh. There are 1 million + dead South Vietnamese Boat People who would love to know how that "redemption" worked out. When you're done with them, you can explain it to the million + victims of the Cambodian re-education camps installed in the wake of our pull-out.

To the anti-war protestors: peace at what cost?

Posted by: STATE at August 26, 2005 05:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I have read many excellent comments but one in particular stikes me as disingenuous. Apparently, some of you are mind readers and prophets and know without a doubt that Kerry would have already begun pulling troops. We don't know that. We can't know that. I don't see any responsible leader pulling any troops out of Iraq just yet and allowing a civil war with mass causalities. It would be unconscienable and political suicide.

However, I don't know what Kerry would've done and don't really care at this point. It's irrelevent. Yet, some will reach for any soothing tribal balm to assuage the pain of Bush's ineptitude. Denial is an important defense against pain and the Kerry scapegoat can never take away the anguish of Bush's pathetic war plan.

Rick

Posted by: Rick at August 26, 2005 06:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Harsh Oil Reality Of A Tri-Partite Iraq: The process in Iraq is a complicated one indeed, and the more we are there the more confused the entire situation has become. Civil war now seems almost inevitable, and although the US forces have done yeoman's work in creating schools, hospitals, roads, et al in the Shi'ia controlled south, and have had the able support of the Kurds to do the same—and more—in the Kurdish controlled north, it is the Sunni controlled area of central Iraq that dominates the world news each evening. It is there that the soldiers from the coalition forces die each day. It is there that the schools are in shambles. It is there that the hospitals do not function. It is there that the terrorists flourish. As Nigeria was a makeshift country forged by the British colonialists of the 19th century from the hundreds of tribes that had (and still have) very little to do with one another, and just as Yugoslavia was a quasi-nature of even more disparate cultures held together by the sheer dint of force of President Tito, so too is Iraq a nation forged by the British from three very different cultures now rending at the seams.

Few understand that the Kurds in the north have in their region one of the largest unexplored oil reserves in the world, and it may indeed actually be the largest. Suffice it to say that it is enormous. The problem is that the Iraqi constitutional convention is putting forth a federally oriented constitution that grants a good deal of regional autonomy to the various ethnic groups there, creating an inherent instability. Eventually, the Shi'ia will form just such a region in the oil rich south; so too the Kurds in the oil rich (and soon to be oil-richer) north. That leaves the oil-poor Sunnis in the middle. They know this all too well, and it is perhaps the central reason why they fight as they do, having lost control of their once fabulous fortunes in the north and the south.

The constitution, as it presently stands, mandates that all of the revenues and profits from all current known oil reserves in the three regions will be shared by the Iraqi federal government. BUT (and this is a huge "but" ... a very, very huge "but") all future oil discoveries will be controlled by the various regions. This was the only way that the constitution might even be modestly palatable to the three groups involved. Even so, we wonder how it shall be that the Kurds will continue to allow their present oil wealth to be split three ways with the Shi'ia and the Sunni. We wonder how the Shi'ia will allow their oil wealth to be split in the same fashion between the Kurds and the Sunni. Just as the Ogoni tribespeople in the southeastern Nigeria have fought for years to have control of the oil wealth that lies beneath the soil and offshore there, instead of having the revenues flow to Abuja and the federal government, so too will the Kurds and the Shi'ia fight against the Sunni. Were we in that position that is what we would do. It is what any faction anywhere in the world would do. To think otherwise is nonsense and naïve.

There will be a separate Kurdistan at some point in the future. The Turks, having fought the notion of a land-locked Kurdistan on its southeast corner, will now support such a nation, for the Kurds will have every reason to support the movement of their oil through Kurdish-Turkish pipelines to the Turkish port at Ceyhan. If Turkey supports an independent Kurdistan, which for all intents already exists given the level of autonomy and stability in that region, then eventually it will be a reality. If Iran supports the creation of an independent Shi'ia nation in the present Iraqi south as a "buffer state" to separate it from the Sunni controlled central region of present day Iraq, then it too shall eventually be independent and oil wealthy. The Sunnis, as they say, are caught in the middle. They know that and they are creating chaos, strangely, in order to hold the old Iraq together. They are fighting a rear-guard action and they are facing a very bleak future.

Posted by: DG at August 26, 2005 07:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

#4 is pretty weak. First of all not everything in this world revolves around what the United States does. Pointing out a bunch of terrorist attacks doesn't really prove one way or another whether or not the "flypaper" strategy works. Bombs going off could have local reasons that have nothing to do with the United States.

Second, it's disingenuously knocking down a strawman. Nobody ever said that all terrorist attacks would stop in the world if we fight jihadists in Iraq.

Third, do you think that al-Qaeda ever imagined that four years after 9/11 they would be using some of their resourecs in the attempt to stop Iraq and Afghanistan from forming into democracies?

"1) It's assumes a finite number of jihadis willing to die."

The idea that previously normal people have suddenly transformed into psychopathic mass murderers because of Iraq seems to be a bit of a stretch.


"3) It further ignores the fact that some jihadists, terrorists and fundementalist radicals are gaining valuable experience in terror tactics in Iraq, as CIA reports have indicated, and then heading back out of country to theaters like Europe to pursue attacks there."


The same thing could be said about Afghanistan or Chechnya for that matter. Anybody willing to learn terror tactics could find out those things numerous ways.


Posted by: andrew at August 26, 2005 08:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1. Credit for belated realisations and critiques, but "failure is not an option" has three meanings: 1. is unthinkable 2. is inevitable 3. is already history.

2. The increased world-wide post-invasion rate of terror attacks may be coincidence, not causation, but the assertion that it must be purely co-incidence is groundless and brainlessly partisan.

3. Don't the Downing Street minutes and the Plame mode of defence-of-WMD-intel strongly suggest that the WMD rationale was not so much an innocent mistake but a fig leaf for Blair? Feith has recently voiced his regret that the WMD rationale was over-emphasised.

4. The best indicators of US resolve remain the permanent bases and the administration's corporate connections. The best indicators of its limited specific resolve are the trade offs in the draft Iraqi constitution.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 26, 2005 10:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is true that Kerry would undoubtedly have followed a course of action that would have guaranteed a relatively speedy departure of US forces and leaving the Iraqis to fend for themselves, for better or worse. Re-electing Bush gave him a chance to create something more.
But IF that chance is blown, and we fail in Iraq anyway (especially when we COULD have suceeded) we will be even worse off than if we had not tried in the first place. Kerry's course will look like wisdom. There's no prize for second place in war. The lack of seriousness with which the administration has pursued this war has disillusioned this life-long Republican and Iraq war veteran. Inadequate planning, inadequate troops and inadequate vision have marked this enterprise from the start. Pragmatists and realists are derided by idealists and ideologues but slogans and spin in service of wishes don't win wars -- bombs and blood directed by STRATEGY do.

Posted by: Seth Owen at August 26, 2005 02:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That is not to say we are condemned to fail. Far from it. Let's recall some basics. George Bush unseated perhaps the cruelest, most odious leader on the world stage in ridding Iraq of Saddam.

Greg...I'm just curious.....how enthusiatic were you in support of the Iranian Ayatollahs in their efforts during the Iran-Iraq war?

Saddam would always have been a "bad guy" ---- it would have been virtually impossible for a "good guy" to run Iraq, given the centuries of ethnic and religious hostilities within the borders of Iraq created by Great Britain.

But it would be nice if, just once, right-wingers like yourself recognized that the degree of "odiousness" of Saddam Hussein was not a given --- that Hussein was, in fact, willing to work with the west, and was attempting to create an Iraqi society far more "westernized" than the rest of the Arab world. Hussein did our dirty work for us in "containing" the Iranian Islamic revolution --- and we supplied him with the arms --- including WMDs --- to accomplish that containment. Hussein asked for Western intervention in his dispute with Kuwait --- and was rebuffed. Hussein offerred to comply with UN demands for withdraw from Kuwait----but the US added an additional condition not found in the UN resolutions, i.e. that the Iraq military could not take its weapons and equipment with them back to Iraq.

Hussein was a rat, but he was a "trainable" rat. Instead, the US backed him into a corner----and Hussein reacted predictably---like a cornered rat.

The US needed Saddam Hussein to be an "odious dictator" because his status as a bad guy was the only justification that the US had to maintain military bases in the middle east ---- bases that served the overall strategic purposes of the US. So we kept pressure on Hussein, and he reacted predictably---descending into a paranoid despot.


Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 26, 2005 02:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It should give you pause to see the nature of the people who support you.

Tia, truth does not become less true because it can be misused or put into the service of a political cause that is not your own. As I've said above, I can't find anything to disagree with in this piece, including:

"[W]e don't need to make up fake arguments about why we are in Iraq" (indeed, taking out Saddam was the rational choice, even if, with hindsight, its luster has dimmed)

and,

Thus the critical need for honesty and serious thinking and fortitude. The stakes are immense. Failure is not an option. And the chances of success will be bolstered if we have a President who appears, not a broken record spouting tiresomely the same old about 'fighting them there so we don't fight 'em here' or 'god's gift of freedom'--but who is instead spelling out a convincing war strategy to win this conflict.

Wishing for victory will not give us victory. Hopeful words and speechifying will not put more boots on the ground. It is critically important that we -- those who support the war effort, who may even like to see it redoubled -- express our dissatisfaction with a war strategy that appears to be on the verge of defeat. For that is the only way to turn it around.

Posted by: von at August 26, 2005 03:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Of course, if "over there" was really the casus belli, then the woeful planning and misjudging of the conflict is still a major reason for the mess we see today. I don't think Kerry had the mettle to be a war president, but Bush doesn't have the advisors and perhaps many more important traits good war leaders have shared.

Posted by: Chris at August 26, 2005 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
What an excellent piece. This is B.D. at its finest.

While I agree with the bulk of what is written in the piece I will echo three criticisms from above:

1) what Kerry would have done and in what time frame is not a given.

2) The reason for the invasion that you accept as being valid - that Saddam did not adequately prove his lack of WMD - is bunk. Inspectors were in the country, the documentation shows that - aside from some minor and temporary glitches - they were indeed obtaining unfettered access to any and all sites. Remember, the administration said it definitely knew where the WMD were. Still none were found.

There was no reason to push the invasion button when the inspectors were turning the country inside out - slowely, yes, but surely; unless there were covert reasons for the war and the fear was that the overt reason - WMD - would not be operable if the inspectors were allowed to arrive at their ultimate conclusion pre-invasion.

3) Your assertion that Saddam was the worst man in the world and therefore his removal is an unqualified benefit and unimpeachable justification for the invasion. I don't know what your metric is for scoring badness, but surely there are other actors out there with records at least as bad (in Africa? ex-Russian republics? maybe even China? Afghanistan? Iran?).

Old saying, "better the devil you know". We've learned to work with a lot of devils over the past hundred years or so. The net benefit of Saddam's removal cannot yet be calculated because we don't know what will replace him. We don't know what events will unfold. Saddam had been pretty quiet in recent years. The tally of death and destruction and human suffering in the country that results post Saddam could end up greatly surpassing that of the Saddam years.

Posted by: avedis at August 26, 2005 03:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just to add in with all the other, this is an excellent post. But the thing I don’t understand and it is more of a mentality I guess is when you said:
“Step up to bat and talk Texan plain and simple--but
the real deal--not spin and empty bromides. The
time is now."
The time is not now, the time at the latest was Nov of 03, six months after “mission accomplished. This was the start of the first major spasms coming out of a growing insurgency. Remember the bodies hanging from that bridge in Fallujah, the beheadings, massive car bombs, etc. The time to take straight and not spin was almost two years ago. He was offered again the chance to talk Texan in the first attempt to retake Fallujah, nothing. Again in the second attempt to retake Fallujah, again nothing. Ever month of every day since 11/03 he had had the opportunity to speak candidly and he hasn’t. Any rational person would have set the bullshit aside a long time ago. And what have we gotten from Bush, a mountain of platitudes. Why? Given that two years on he has failed to offer anything substantive, I am left to conclude that he simply does not have anything substantive to say. One reason is what the poster Jason said,
“He needs to effectively get across just how critical
it is for us to be successful in Iraq. But the flip side
of that is that it makes the Administration's mistakes
all the more damning.”
To talk straight would mean to admit errors. And this administration has proved ever resistant to admitting its fallibility. Secondly, I believe that he has backed this country so far into a corner that words escape him. The reality of his incompetence and the repercussions to our nation are simply beyond his comprehension. He brought this nation into a situation where we can not fail. But due to his piss poor post-war planning, that is the best that can be said about it, failure may very well be a reality. If the stakes in Iraq are as dire as Bush makes the out to be and given his track record, it is now time for him to step aside. The time to talk Texan came and went a long time ago.

Posted by: William B. at August 26, 2005 03:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No offense, but you seem to fall into the trap that the MSM often does. There doesn't have to be one reason we are in Iraq, there doesn't even have to be 10 reasons. There can be many more.

Flypaper is just one of those myriad reasons. It is a fact that jihadists are being drawn from many different countries to fight in Iraq. Sure some of these folks might not be attacking the US mainland if given the opportunity, but they are the people most susceptible to being recruited by al Queda and other terror networks. There are a large number of fools now getting their 72 raisins because of the Iraq war.

Posted by: JB at August 26, 2005 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wishing for victory will not give us victory. Hopeful words and speechifying will not put more boots on the ground. It is critically important that we -- those who support the war effort, who may even like to see it redoubled -- express our dissatisfaction with a war strategy that appears to be on the verge of defeat. For that is the only way to turn it around.

Considering that youare

a) 31 years old
b) in reasonably good phisical condition since you are about to participate in a thriathlon.
c) reasonably bright, you're a lawyer after all.
d) support Shrub's great adventure in Iraq

When are you going to enlist?

Army

USMC

or are you like Sebastian another chickenhawk willing to send other people's kids to die in the wars you support but are not willing to serve in?

Posted by: Don Quijote at August 26, 2005 04:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There's a very interesting comment upthread by DG on the Turko-Kurdish relationship that bears thinking about. If the Iraqi Kurds' most valuable asset can be securely traded to their north and not to their south; if they face recurrent terrorism from Sunni Arabs to their south but not to their north; and if their current reliance on American protection is tempered by the realization that the Americans will not be there forever -- if all these things, or even two of them, are true the Kurds and the Turkish government may have serious thinking to do about the future of their relationship. It is conceivable that this thinking could lead them in unexpected directions.

On the "flypaper" idea: I know this is one that has stuck in Greg's craw for a long time. I've always thought of the theory mostly as a product of the blogosphere and thus of little consequence by itself. In fairness to Greg, President Bush's recurrent rhetoric about fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them at home might be construed as evidence on the other side.

In any event, the relevant thing about this flypaper theory is not that it is a "lie." It is certainly possible, even likely that some of the people we are fighting in Iraq would be looking to blow things up somewhere else if Saddam Hussein were still in power; moreover if against the odds a stable Iraqi government does establish itself and the insurgency declines the blow to Islamist morale could be substantial.

No, the problem with the flypaper theory is that it has always been an ex post facto justification for a major change in policy undertaken for other reasons. This is a dangerous thing in government. It encourages self-delusion by responsible officials; it inhibits holding officials accountable for their mistakes. It also leaves major hostages to fortune, as Greg points out; a terrorist attack in the United States occurring while the Iraq war is still going on will be vastly more damaging to an administration that has publicly committed to the idea that its policies in Iraq make such an attack less likely.

Only in our never-ending campaign politics does it have much use, as a plausible defense of the administration against its critics. Merely plausible arguments are used all the time in election campaigns; they are effective because they only have to be plausible until the votes are cast. Asking them to stand the test of time, to hold up in the real world, is asking too much.

Posted by: JEB at August 26, 2005 04:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I find the spin confusing.

"Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy."

"Stand up an Iraqi army so we can stand down"

So which is it? Turn security over to locals and pull out or stay and protect fellow Americans from a savage enemy 'over there'?

While not exactly at odds, it's hard to see where they dovetail into a comprehensive policy.

Posted by: FredTaylor at August 26, 2005 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

there seems to be confusion between a principle benefit, and a side benefit.

If flypaper were the reason we went to Iraq, or the reason we are staying there then

A. Why would we call on Syria to prevent the movement of Jihadis into Iraq?

B. Why would we pursue political initiatives aimed at ending the insurgency?


a political end to the insurgency, or an effective Syrian effort to seal the border from their side, would mean an end to the attrition of Jihadis in Iraq - yet both those things are clearly desired by the admin, and by supporters of the war.

Rather whats meant is that the death of the jihadis is an offset. Wed much rather that the insurgency end, we build a stable, more or less democratic state in Iraq. That would advance the WOT much more. But UNTIL that happens, while the insurgency slows that process, and takes American and Iraqi lives, AT LEAST we're also seeing lots of dead jihadis, who wont do us harm outside Iraq. (as for the training ground argument, Im not sure it works - look at the recent attacks in Aqaba - the jihadis IN iraq are getting experience in planting IEDs and Carbombs - yet when they go outside Iraq, they try to use rockets to attack a ship - something they certainly did NOT learn in Iraq)


Now Dubya doesnt articulate this well. But then what does he articulate well? Most of BDs post was an extended rant that Dubya cant articulate strategy, or communicate details. I too would rather have a Dubya who could articulate strategy. I also would have liked to have had a Clinton (an otherwise excellent prez, imho) who could keep his fly zipped. But you go to war with the President you have, so to speak. Its more likely we'll get Rummy to resign then we'll get an articulate Dubya.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 26, 2005 04:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Don Quijote, you magnificent b@st@rd (I read your book!).

Way to slice the chicken hawks, and two great recommendations. Now is not the time for the brave to serve on super carriers.

So, what if you hate the war and the president but want to get into the fight? :-/

Posted by: Chris at August 26, 2005 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When are you going to enlist?

Army

USMC

or are you like Sebastian another chickenhawk willing to send other people's kids to die in the wars you support but are not willing to serve in?

Posted by: Don Quijote at August 26, 2005 04:06 PM | Permalink to this comment


*crickets chirping*

Posted by: dr. bong at August 26, 2005 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NIce post! At the core I agree with many of your comments but some of your points are a little shaky. The fly paper theory that Bush consistently touts is not as misguided as you believe. You point out numerous terror attacks that have occured since the war began, but the attacks you mention are concentrated in the Middle East. Bush does not say we fight them there so they cant do anything anywhere, he says here. I take here to mean the US primarily and our core allies (Europe, Japan, Australia). If you see the attacks here have gone down, 9-11 3000, 3-11 200, 7-7 50, 7-21 0. THe fact that attacks have heated up in India, Pakistan, Turkey, Israel, Morocco, etc... seems to support Bush. These terror groups realize the entire Middle East is up for grabs. The invasion of Iraq has the potential and intention to change the middle east which is why attacks have heated up. Anyways nice post!

Posted by: Roy Bettencourt at August 26, 2005 05:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank you particularly for number 8 on the list. I've long thought that the flypaper justification is perhaps the most extreme form of NIMBYism I've ever heard of.

Posted by: Joe at August 26, 2005 05:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have some quibbles. Actually, I have more than quibbles, but that's where I'll start.

1. Are the number of jihadis finite or infinite? That answer is trivially easy to answer, and the answer is not now nor shall ever be "infinite." If you don't mean infinite, if you instead mean to contrast "growing" with "shrinking", then try using those words instead. Given that, it's also trivially easy to prove that the numbers of car-bombers and other human bombs are shrinking, not growing, since each successful one dies. Do honeybees sting more than once?

2. Is Iraq creating jihadists who run off somewhere else instead of going to Iraq? This is nonsensical. If a newly minted jihadist were inspired to jihad by the jihadist propagandists' claims of widespread blasphemy, rape, murder and robbery by US troops then why would he go to Jammu and Kashmir to defend the innocent Iraqi moslems? There are no US troops or Iraqis there. There is a certain evil logic to jihadist actions, not this insane behavior posited here.

3. Agreed. Truly a danger. The best we can do is to make sure that the cockroaches die in Iraq.

4. What do any of these, other than the bombing *in Iraq*, have to do with Iraq? With one exception, Nothing. They all took place in Islamic countries or in countries engaged in long-running conflicts with their own Islamo-fascist neighbors. They all have plenty of jihadists who have other things on their mind than Iraq. The exception is, of course, Spain. While claimed by Islam as an Islamic country (for it was held by Moslems about a thousand years ago), the reason for the 3/11 bombs was to weaken the elected government and prompt the country to get out of the Iraq coalition. It worked, but strangely enough now that Spain is out of Iraq the jihadists continue to try to sow new terror plots there. Is this punishment for Iraq, or is it something else? I believe it is something else. As various Al Qaeda figures have stated, espana is slated to become the islamic state of "al andalus" as soon as they can manage it. Where is the causality that leads from Iraq to this?

Allow me to stop addressing each point and respond more generally to your overall point, which is hidden in a mass of sound and fury and impotent rage.

Jihadists are created from normal people by brainwashing and propaganda. Jihadists kill people and sow terror. That is what they do. That is what Jihad is all about. Just read the evidence in the Koran. While it is terribly sad that they kill Americans and Iraqis and lots of others when they go to Iraq, it is necessary to control them while Iraq rebuilds itself. We're not going to control them by quitting. Iraq cannot control them. And the authorities in the countries they come from aren't controlling them, they are responsible to some degree for brainwashing them and setting them on their jihadist track. While we continue to exterminate the jihadists who pop up in our crosshairs, the US must continue to pressure Moslems all around the world to abandon the culture of jihadism. While the jihadists have some very persuasive arguments directly from the Koran for their beliefs, there are several key beliefs that are not strictly Koranic.

a. They believe that anyone who dies in jihad goes straight to paradise and all his sins are forgiven. This ignores the fact that suicide is not jihad. It also encourages human bombs to spend their last hours in a drugged out haze, to spend time with prostitutes, and if it is their predilection, in homosexual orgies. All will be forgiven when the bomb goes off. This belief leads to degenerate behavior that would most certainly dissuade people from associating with or encouraging jihadists.

b. They believe that not only does the jihadist obtain direct admittance to paradise for himself upon death, but also for 70 other people. There is no other doctrine of redemption in Islam, and this one is fairly new historically speaking. The jihadist kills others and dies himself, goes straight to paradise, and the sacrifice (of himself and others) sends 70 moslems straight to paradise, regardless of their acts and sins. They could be drinking, pork eating, cursing, thieving scumbags who committed every sin that was prohibited in the Koran but they would still go to paradise. Compare this with Christ, who allowed himself to be a sacrifice that would redeem the souls of all humanity, if only they believed in God. One kind of redemption saves all humans who want to live good lives, the other redeems killers and their associates.

Publicizing these and other problems with Jihad is part of the information war that must be prosecuted.

Bemoaning dead innocents, some of whom are not innocent, but merely were delivered to the morgue without their weapons, and blaming america for their death, is wrong. Do jihadists, jihadist propagandists, and the religious teachers who brainwash jihadists bear no guilt or blame for their own actions? Are they merely automatons without free will to act for good or evil? Are they merely the innocent victims of american and israeli plots? We must not get confused here. Killers are responsible for their own actions. The US did not force or brainwash jihadists to kill innocent Iraqis, Americans, Japanese, Kashmirites, Coptic Christians, Serbian Christians, Armenian Christians, Assyrian Christians, Kenyan Christians, Sudanese Christians and Animists, Israeli Jews, Thai Buddhists, or any others who are being murdered by jihadists worldwide.

Words matter. Each of us is part of this effort. We must see things clearly for what they are, and not confuse good intentions with evil ones. Jihad as exemplified by the world-wide jihadists such as OBL and Zarqawi and their Qutbist gangster-pirate-enemy-of-humanity allies is most definitely an evil ideology with goals that are even vaster and more deadly than the worst excesses of Stalin's, Mao's, and Hitler's regimes.

It is Jihad that is the enemy, Jihad that has declared war on the World, and Jihad that must pay the price and become a dead ideology, spoken of only in the dusty memory of a distant, dark, and repulsive past.

Posted by: Pangloss at August 26, 2005 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One more point to add to your list that I've seen mentioned elsewhere:

How can we argue in favor of attracting terrorists to Iraq and also argue that we're making Iraq a better place to live?

Posted by: Mark S. at August 26, 2005 05:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nice post. I think almost everyone can agree that "flypaper" is just plain stoopid. We always knew that the current adminstration is speech impaired and severely lacking in communication skills. But flypaper? In their quest to find an easily digested sound-bite they have taken focus away from the real accomplishments and the long-term goals. But, on a more personal note, it is insulting. It assumes that I am stupid enough to accept a sound-bite at face value.

This kind of stuff makes me deeply regret that Kerry won the primary and makes me look longingly towards 2008. We need a president who can not only do the right thing, but say the right thing as well. It ain't Bush. I've lost count of how many times his adminsitration has said stuff that is just plain stupid. It's almost like we got Forrest Gump in the whitehouse. They keep choosing the right action with the wrong explanation. The only consolation is that Kerry was the right explanation with the wrong action. How long until the next election?

Posted by: moron99 at August 26, 2005 05:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "former regime elements" are the ones who are financing and executing the IED attacks, which are the greatest danger to Americans. The suicide attackers, a large majority of whom are from the Arab Gulf states, are not in my opinion are not "radicalized" by American presence in Iraq; they have been trained to hate us since they were children. Bin Laden's approval rating in the Muslim world is not skyrocketing; if anything it is down a bit. Maybe even below GWB's current numbers. Nothing will discredit jihadism in the Muslim world more than seeing its results on a large scale. I predict we will be seeing more demonstrations by Iraqis in front of other Arab embassies, protesting their exports.

Iraq is a battleground, yes. But it is an idelogical battleground fudamentally, and we must defeat the jihadis by turning them into democrats. If al Sadr, who hates America with a passion, can be brought into the political process, anyone can.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at August 26, 2005 05:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CharlyCarp nailed it. If the AQ is the enemy, the war in Iraq can only be viewed as a horendous blunder. My guess is that the rational reasons for the rush to invade Iraq were in descending order of importance:
1. Stabilizing the Saudi regime by allowing removal US troops from the kingdom.
2. Removing an obstacle to near-term progress in the Isreal/Palestinian situation.
3. US politics probably affected the timing - i.e. getting it "done" ahead of the 2004 presidential election. They needn't have worried, Bush's failure didn't cost him the election.

Whether justified or not, #1 coincides with a key issue for OBL's organization that apparently has traction in Saudi Arabia. The notion that we in effect went to war in order to acede to OBL's demand is not appealing. Hence this justification was rarely mentioned in the runup to the war. Notably, however, Rumsfeld announced plans for withdrawal of Saudi bases within days of Bush's declaration of cessation of hostilities in Iraq.

Posted by: dm at August 26, 2005 06:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CharlyCarp nailed it. If the AQ is the enemy, the war in Iraq can only be viewed as a horendous blunder. My guess is that the rational reasons for the rush to invade Iraq were in descending order of importance:
1. Stabilizing the Saudi regime by allowing removal US troops from the kingdom.
2. Removing an obstacle to near-term progress in the Isreal/Palestinian situation.
3. US politics probably affected the timing - i.e. getting it "done" ahead of the 2004 presidential election. They needn't have worried, Bush's failure didn't cost him the election.

With respect to WMD's the execution of the war does not suggest that they were a grave concern, e.g. many sites were left unsecured. WMD's provided a plausible reason to go in sooner rather than later.

Whether justified or not, #1 coincides with a key issue for OBL's organization that apparently has traction in Saudi Arabia. The notion that we in effect went to war in order to acede to OBL's demand is not appealing. Hence this justification was rarely mentioned in the runup to the war. Notably, however, Rumsfeld announced plans for withdrawal of Saudi bases within days of Bush's declaration of cessation of hostilities in Iraq.

Posted by: DM at August 26, 2005 06:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Quibbler, because you quibbled.

Finite (Dictionary.com):

fi·nite ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fnt)
adj.

Having bounds; limited: a finite list of choices; our finite fossil fuel reserves.

Existing, persisting, or enduring for a limited time only; impermanent.

Mathematics.
Being neither infinite nor infinitesimal.
Having a positive or negative numerical value; not zero.
Possible to reach or exceed by counting. Used of a number.
Having a limited number of elements. Used of a set.
Grammar. Of or relating to any of the forms of a verb that can occur on their own in a main clause and that can formally express distinctions in person, number, tense, mood, and voice, often by means of conjugation, as the verb sees in She sees the sign.

Synonym, discrete.

dis·crete ( P ) Pronunciation Key (d-skrt)
adj.
Constituting a separate thing. See Synonyms at distinct.
Consisting of unconnected distinct parts.
Mathematics. Defined for a finite or countable set of values; not continuous.

Posted by: Chris at August 26, 2005 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A nice piece. Let down only I think by your regurgitation of the tired canard, "...[Iraq] was commonly believed to be in possession of WMD...".

Charles Duelfer (a bit of an expert on the subject) stated at his Senate hearings that,

"But I must say that when they [Iraq] took the decision in February of 2000 to begin discussions with the U.N. about readmitting inspectors, to me that was a very key indicator that there probably wasn’t large stocks [of WMD] there to be found."

This site from which the above extract was taken also carries quotes from the Russians, Germans and French stating they had a little evidence proving whether Iraq had WMD.

Now while their impartiality on the subject can rightly be questioned, the fact is however, the weapons inspectors found nothing in Iraq and requested more time to continue their search. This request was refused, indicating that either (a) there was a belief that no WMD would ever be found, (b) finding WMD was not a high priority, or (c) the troubling notion that the invasion, war and reconstruction of Iraq were being (immorally?) rushed to fit Bush's re-election timetable. Either way the idea that Iraq was believed to be in possession of WMD was not uniformly held and Bush's refusal to allow the the inspectors to complete their work must raise questions over his honesty or competence.

Posted by: JLC at August 26, 2005 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Roy,
Before 9/11 most terrorist attacks were in the Middle East. They still are. Why? Because the primary goal of Al Qaeda is to overthrow "infidel" government in Muslim countries - especially in the Middle East. They attack the West only to weaken the support base - financial, military, etc. - for the "infidel" regimes. They attack the West - and they still do (London, anyone?) - not to install a Taliban regime in Washington, but to encourage Washington to stop bankrolling Saudi, Egypt, Pakistan, etc. and then the jihadists can have free reign to take out Middle Eastern governments.

Posted by: Elrod at August 26, 2005 07:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The argument that our Pres went to war to bolster his 2004 re-election is prepostorous. The President was hugely popular at the time he began public movements towards war and has only suffered as a result.

If anything, the Iraq War severely hurt his campaign and made re-election all that more difficult. I think there are far more reasonable and compelling arguments to explain the Iraq War without resorting to Michael Moore-ish conspiracy theories.

Posted by: Mark S. at August 26, 2005 07:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy. They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail.

Is this really a statement of a “flypaper” strategy? Or is it rather a broad appeal to a basic instinct that says it’s better to go on the attack than wait in a defensive posture for something to happen and then react?

And Don Quijote, about sending “other people's kids to die”: Take a peek sometime at Jim Lehrer’s display of photos of those servicemen and -women killed in Iraq. Those aren’t kids -- they’re adults who chose to fight. You dishonor and demean them with your careless rhetoric.

Posted by: m.g. at August 26, 2005 08:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

GD hits all the right points. Flypaper is bogus, post-hoc rationalizing. There are plenty of reasons to support the reconstruction of Iraq; they are undermined by faulty reasoning...
http://www.techcentralstation.com/071205E.html

Posted by: Greg at August 26, 2005 08:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Flypaper for what it's worth doesn't even work with flies. It only momentarily diverts them.

Mysteries of Flypaper
htflypaper.html

Posted by: chancelucky at August 26, 2005 08:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

M.G. a 19-year-old is a bleeping Kid, alright.

Posted by: Chris at August 26, 2005 09:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

FYI, Dr. Bong: Those crickets will keep up on chirping.

Posted by: von at August 26, 2005 09:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You're mostly right about the flypaper..and about the rules after 9/11 changing for dangerous problems like Saddam and his Baath regime...but there's another reason too, for invading Iraq, the main reason for the war, I think, and not one Bush could publicly articulate.

I'd call it the Don Corleone reason. Saddam, formerly a US friend, local proxy, was not faithful. He tried to cross the Don and go into business on his own. Making an example of Tessio, so to speak, would punish a bad ally, and encourage other powers which were not exactly complying with US "requests" to cooperate against Al Qaeda and other US regional enemies to open their files and get their own secret police organizations on the Al Qaeda case. Saddam on the end of a rope is a pretty powerful example: "Cross the Americans, and you too could be drug out of a spider hole someplace." This is not a justification that could ever be articulated openly.

If the effort in Iraq is successful, the US replaces a hostile Iraq with a friendly client state, which could then play the old role of counterpoise to Iraq, and has an army employable elsewhere.

Don't know if this will work, it's just as likely to create an Iranian puppet in the Shiite portion of Iraq, an independent Kurdistan that nobody wants, and lots of refugee Sunnis to destablize Jordan and Syria.

Posted by: El Jefe Maximo at August 26, 2005 09:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mark S:

You state: "I think there are far more reasonable and compelling arguments to explain the Iraq War without resorting to Michael Moore-ish conspiracy theories."

Really. Like what?

I have a theory.

Bush is the idiot I think he is. He is an arrogant, belligerent, spoiled child who will never grow up. He wanted to take Saddam out to best his father and didn't care if lying was required to get there. The inspectors were just a necessary nuisance to appease the liberals as was the joke of a presentation at the UN.

As for planning, Bush has had a platinum spoon ride his entire life. I believe he thought everything would just work out for him as it always has, and planning was not required.

Unfortunately, daddy's money and position - that gave George W. the cushy ride of the century - can't help him now.

God help us all!!

Posted by: Mark-NC at August 26, 2005 09:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You missed one more simple reason why the flypaper theory makes no sense:

A terrorist, by definition, uses violence against innocents for political purposes. The "terrorists" that would, theoretically, be caught in the flypaper are said to be out to destroy "American values and the American way of life".

Why would such a person go to Iraq to take on our heavily-armed Marines? Wouldn't any sensible terrorist come directly to the USA, where soft targets abound?

Posted by: AndyS at August 26, 2005 10:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And Don Quijote, about sending “other people's kids to die”: Take a peek sometime at Jim Lehrer’s display of photos of those servicemen and -women killed in Iraq. Those aren’t kids -- they’re adults who chose to fight. You dishonor and demean them with your careless rhetoric.

Not any more than you do with your support of useless, pointless and illegal war that has cost us 200 billion dollars, 15,000 wounded, 2000 dead coalition troops and an estimated 100,000 dead Iraqis and will likely lead to the creation of the Federal Islamist republic of Iraq where Sharia will be the law of the Land and where women will be second class citizen with slightly lower legal status that the donkeys but a bit higher than that of the stray dogs of Baghdad.

Now if the supporters of this war were to put their money where their mouth is, maybe we could get a couple of hundred thousand more troops in Iraq and maybe if we are very lucky we can put a new and improved version of Saddam in power and prevent the creation of another Islamist State and of a civil war that is likely to kill a couple hundred thousand more people.

All of you people who wanted this war should go to the local Army/Marine Corps recruiting station and attempt to redeem yourselves by doing something to fix the first class clusterfuck that the policies you supported have created.

Posted by: Don Quijote at August 27, 2005 12:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Don Q., why don't you sit down with a serviceman and find out whether they would agree with your support. Most of them I know would probably say if this is how "you support the troops, f#@$ing S-T-O-P already."

Or maybe you shouldn't be able to make tax decisions because you're mid to lower class (no money) and while we're at it, you get no choice of when to put boots on the ground or not, because you've never fitted camo utilities to your civilian lard.

You never have to man a post in God-forsaken Africa because the idiotarian idealists want to get some PR to the third world, or some rathole in Asia, or burning islands like East Timor where Clintonistas wouldn't let us have a-m-m-u-n-i-t-i-o-n. Chicken dove

Posted by: Brad at August 27, 2005 02:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The argument that our Pres went to war to bolster his 2004 re-election is prepostorous. The President was hugely popular at the time he began public movements towards war and has only suffered as a result.

If anything, the Iraq War severely hurt his campaign and made re-election all that more difficult. I think there are far more reasonable and compelling arguments to explain the Iraq War without resorting to Michael Moore-ish conspiracy theories.

Without really taking a stand on this theory, I'll point out that it isn't as preposterous as you claim. It's clear that, at best, the President and the Pentagon were seriously in error both about the existence of WMD and the course of events in post-war Iraq. Why is it so hard to imagine that they would be similarly & spectacularly wrong about the effect of the war on the President's popularity?

Posted by: Guy at August 27, 2005 03:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made" (188).

From:

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Posted by: NeoDude at August 27, 2005 03:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No, damnit, their *is* a steady dribble of war casualties.

It's not the reporting.

Get your horse in front of the buggy, punk. sdf

Posted by: Stevie Forte at August 27, 2005 05:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As Juan Cole comments, self-proclaimed "war president" Dubya has been "reduced to pleading with a pro-Iranian cleric to please make nice with the ex-Baathists. And he isn't even succeeding in the plea!"

Posted by: Luther P. at August 27, 2005 05:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq is a battleground, yes. But it is an idelogical battleground funamentally, and we must defeat the jihadis by turning them into democrats. If al Sadr, who hates America with a passion, can be brought into the political process, anyone can.

You need the kool aid to believe that ideology is fundamental. The Kurdish north wants its own oil and autonomy, the Shia south wants its own oil and autonomy (Persians and Arabs have their differences) and the Sunni middle has hardly any oil. The US figured out long ago that they therefore needed a Sunni (e.g. Saddam) in control for Iraq to hold together.

Jihad is more of a global and wider ME problem than a local Iraqi problem. By attracting jihadists the US has released historic local underlying tensions. It will be even harder to resolve those tensions than it will be to inculcate democracy. Each difficulty complicates the other and both were well-nigh insuperable to start with.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 27, 2005 06:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I haven't wandered past this weblog for a while, but I read this entry via Andrew Sullivan, and it is indeed quite good. Excellent analysis and cogent. I disagree strongly on one point, however: the idea (still trying to justify your vote for one of the most ineffective war presidents ever) that Kerry would have tried to pull troops out of Iraq right away. This notion is nonsense, and I know it helps you sleep better at night having supported Bush, but it's simply an unsupportable hypothesis. Not even Howard Dean was calling for quick troop withdrawals from Iraq; Kerry certainly never called for this, even remotely. The only Democratic candidate who called for a withdrawal plan was Dennis Kucinich, who really was advocating an unworkable foreign policy.

I've always found your posts interesting, Greg, because I can see that while you supported Bush, you had a rational enough perspective that you weren't simply trying to paper over the terrible mistakes he has made. I do fault you, however, for being still too partisan, and being unwilling to seriously admit that your man, Bush, despite being of the same political party as you, has made an utter disaster out of the situation in Iraq and the war against our enemies.

I believe the Iraq war was a terrible mistake, a diversion in the very important global war, and the invasion has failed for more reasons than atrocious planning. It failed because we went in without sufficient justification --- and this really has more importance than people often realize. Without justification, your enemy has far more willingness to continue to fight and die to attack you. War is political: it is a violent means to a political end, which is to convince the other side to stop attacking you. If you don't have a moral justification for what you're doing, then they're not going to stop even if you have overwhelming military superiority. Terrorism is a political act, not a military act --- and using a conventional war to fight terror can only work if you have your story straight. And we didn't.

But now that we've made this terrible mistake (which has unfolded precisely as I predicted it would, so far, unfortunately), we do need to stay. I disagree with those who say we should pull out now. And, quite frankly, I believe that Kerry may well have *increased* troop levels. He wasn't bound by Bush's stupid insistence that he never admit a mistake (sending in too few troops). Kerry had some smart advisors, even if he himself wasn't as smart as some. He would certainly not have withdrawn troops. Anyone can see, except the Dennis Kuciniches of the world, that we can't afford to fail, even if Bush has damn well nearly guaranteed failure for us now.

Posted by: Mitsu at August 27, 2005 06:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu,

You're not happy with Bush? Join the crowd. But to suggest that Kerry could have done equal or better is rubbish. Did you even read Kerry's democratic platform? It wasn't just iraq, his whole plan against terror was fatally flawed. He made a grave error in publishing it before the 9/11 report came out. It exposed him for what he was - clueless. The document that was suppossed to be his great statement turned out to be an embarassment that he spent the last three months of his campaign avoiding. His position on WOT according to his own published platform could be roughly summed up in 10 words - "go back to doing what we were doing before 9/11".

Who do I blame? I blame my fellow democrats who were stupid enough to let Kerry win the nomination in the first place and dumb enough to let Michael Moore and Whoopi Goldberg speak for them in the second place. No matter how bad Bush is, Kerry would have been worse. So go look in the mirror. Did you vote for Kerry in the primary? If yes, then it's your fault Bush is president.

Posted by: moron99 at August 27, 2005 02:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

moron99,

You are truly a moron...and your logic is precisely the reason why the US is screwing up Iraq.

Posted by: Dan Frears at August 27, 2005 03:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

moron99,

You are truly a moron...and your logic is precisely the reason why the US is screwing up Iraq.

Posted by: Dan Frears at August 27, 2005 03:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The argument that our Pres went to war to bolster his 2004 re-election is prepostorous. The President was hugely popular at the time he began public movements towards war and has only suffered as a result.

Bush learned a lesson thanks to 9-11....it doesn't matter how incompetent you are, when America faces a national security crisis, the popularity of a sitting president improves.

Now, I would agree that Bush's decision to invade Iraq was not motivated solely by his 2004 election prospects ---- but it is absurd to think that the political advantages of another swift military victory against a "bad guy" like Saddam Hussein were not part of the equation. The whole "Mission Accomplished" fiasco was political theatre at its most cynical --- it was designed to provide footage for 2004 campaign ads (as was the selection of NYC for the 2004 GOP convention---Bush wanted to use the WTC as a backdrop for the convention.)

Bush ran on a myth --- that Saddam Hussein represented a threat to American security, and that Bush had eliminated that threat. The success of that myth is demonstrated by the fact that, immediately prior to the election, and despite the widely publicized findings of various committees and commissions showing that Iraq had no WMDs and no connection to 9-11 and al Qaeda, over a third of Americans still believed that we'd found WMDs in Iraq, and that Saddam was intimately involved with AQ.

Bush ran on a lie, and did everything possible to sustain that lie throughout the 2004 election campaign---and his success at convincing 1/3 of America to continue to believe those lies was instrumental in his re-election. To suggest otherwise is pure nonsense.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 27, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan,

Why don't you offer an alternative? I offerred an opinion that included actual facts and references. I encourage you to track down and download the .pdf of Kerry's proposed democratic platform. I encourage you to discuss why Kerry did not discuss it after the 9/11 report came out. I encourage you to discuss the meaning of what he published.

No amount of pontificating will change the basic facts that were evident long before the primaries started. Kerry is an anti-war icon and has been for over 3 decades. His career strategy has been to demonize and fight against the armed services. His entire career has been built protesting against a more powerful entity. If he himself ever became the most powerful enitity then he would either be cast adrift or become self-destructive. He builds himself up at the expense of others. These were known things before the primary started. He won the primary by diverting people's attention away from himself and focusing instead upon a hatred of Bush. If you ignored them, cast your primary vote for Kerry, and now blame the republicans then you are a true idiot. Out of 250 million people, 249,999,999 of them could have beaten Bush. So the democrats picked Kerry instead.

Posted by: moron99 at August 27, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

/"now that we've made this terrible mistake we do need to stay"/ wow
So when you find yourself in a hole Mitsu, DO keep digging?? "We cannot leave now!!!" Why? Because it would be BAD! It's BAD now...It would be WORSE! WORSE than what? People, this is why war should not be an elective, partisan, pre-emptive or presidential nob polishing pastime.
Your war should be based on neccesity not (as is usually the case) on claims of neccesity....."
Just leave.
Drop 8 million Hallmarks and GO. Someone up post said, but when we left VietNam it was BAD after that. Yup. Yes it was.
Someone 30 years ago said"...we must never forget the lessons of VietNam" (until, perhaps, we begin reaching the end of the era of cheap oil?)
If we just had used nukes in Nam...or, if we had just stayed 12 MORE years....yea. THEN how many more millions killed, Billions wasted before we...just....left.


PS wow. This Pangloss person is really insane. Faith based no doubt.

Posted by: brian at August 27, 2005 04:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

so basically you were for the war before you were against it. effin' flip-floppers.

Posted by: al at August 27, 2005 04:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hysterics is the province of the left, and since you are too intelligent for that, what's up, homes? The lamestream media thrives on the hysterics of the moment, constantly in a twit, tremorous shakes and twitches. You need to do something about that, homeboy. It makes you look like you've gone soft and lame.

Posted by: Burdick at August 27, 2005 05:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Without even reading the platform, I can already tell you it is irrelevant. Nobody cares or reads what is in party platforms, campaign platforms, blah blah blah, whether such platforms are sensible or not (and without having read Kerry's platform, I don't even concede it was as bad as you suggest).

What I do know is that Bush and his circle of advisers are among the most incompetent bunch ever assembled to run a foreign policy in the history of this country. They assumed that the war in Iraq would be a cakewalk (the documentation on this is voluminous), they didn't plan for an insurgency, they wanted to attack Iraq because it was "low-hanging fruit" (when in fact it was Afghanistan that was the comparatively easy victory), and on and on. The problem isn't just Bush, it's his entire team with a proven track record of failure, atrocious judgement, wrong predictions, inability to plan, etc.

To reelect such a team in the face of such evidence of incompetence was a gigantic mistake. However, at least now we all can see, once and for all, who was responsible for the mess. Had Kerry been elected, the right would have claimed that had Bush been re-elected all would have been just hunky dory in Iraq.

As for Kerry being an "anti-war icon" that is really just a bunch of nonsense as well. Kerry long ago traded in his youthful protest ways for a much more staid, conventional, middle-of-the-road politics. In fact, he and his advisers spent quite a long time in the early part of the campaign hedging about the war for fear that he might be labelled too anti-war. The only major candidates to oppose the war were Dean and Kucinich; Kucinich being unrealistic on the far left, Dean pretty much telling the truth about the war though it made him out to be some sort of left-wing activist (when in fact his politics are quite moderate overall). If anything, Kerry was far LESS anti-war than he should have been.

Before the election Kerry made it quite clear that he would not withdraw troops unless conditions stabilized in Iraq. Until those conditions were there, he stated flatly he would not allow Iraq to become a failed state. He accused Bush, however, of the possibility of attempting to draw down troops for political reasons too soon.

Which team was responsible for putting in too few troops in the first place? Bush's. Which team continues to deny that this was a mistake? Bush's. Kerry has been quite clear in his criticism of the Bush Administration's poor planning, including the insufficient troop levels. He may well have been prevented politically from adding troops, but he certainly wouldn't have drawn them down early.

You know, the fact is, Democrats, for whatever wild-eyed fantasies you might have about them, are hardly anti-war nutcases, as you seem to think they are. If anything, for the most part they're afraid to appear too anti-war these days, with the exception of a minority. In my opinion, responsible people, either Democrats OR Republicans, should have been anti THIS war, because it was a boondoggle from the beginning (as Republicans like John Mearsheimer pointed out --- and pretty much all of Mearsheimer's predictions have proven correct so far).

Now that we're in this disaster, yes, I don't see a way we can quickly withdraw. If we do withdraw too soon, just do a simple thought experiment about what will happen there. The country could destablize, descend into civil war, etc. Now in Vietnam, quite frankly, it didn't matter much. There were no Vietnamese terrorists planning attacks within the United States. The consequences of a communist dictatorship in Vietnam were quite far removed from our shores.

A failed state in Iraq has far more grave consequences for our security, for the same reason the failed state of Afghanistan had grave consequences for our security. Unfortunately WE would have been primarily responsible for the worsened conditions of the failed state of Iraq, in this case.

Posted by: Mitsu at August 27, 2005 06:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"but surely there are other actors out there with records at least as bad"

Few to none.

"Before the election Kerry made it quite clear that he would not withdraw troops unless conditions stabilized in Iraq."

He did? I paid close attention to his statements, and I don't think he made that (or much of anything else) "quite clear."

Posted by: Knemon at August 27, 2005 09:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to say Greg that I appreciate your Candor on Iraq. I had begun to think that republicans capable of nuanced thought had vanished from the national scene until i found TCR. The comments here -both right and left- are, for the most part, also some of the most eloquent I've found on any blog. The BD makes RedState seem like a verbal sandbox and gives Kos a real run for the money. Thanks.

Posted by: brian at August 27, 2005 09:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree that the flypaper justification is obnoxious and shouldn't be used as a political talking point. That doesn't mean it doesn't have a kernel of truth, however. Whenever you lance a boil there is going to be some temporary inflamation - trying to remake a dysfunctional Arab political culture (draining the swamp) is going to draw the focus of those who would otherwise be on the offensive on our turf. I think your point about terrorists going to Iraq to learn skills to apply in Western countries is completely off the mark, where is the Salman Pak for insurgents in Iraq today?

As for those that are still trying to argue that Major Frank Burns, er, John F. Kerry could have communicated America's resolve to stay the course as well as GWB, all I can say is I find it highly improbable.

Posted by: wayne at August 27, 2005 10:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey wayne, was it "highly improbable" that Kerry would be less of a dishonest, ignorant fuck-up than Pvt. Gomer Pyle, er, George W. Bush?

You know the answer to that, don't you?

Posted by: edddie at August 27, 2005 10:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, for example, here:

http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/SB108994509460465669.htm

'The three conditions, Mr. Kerry said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, are "to measure the level of stability" in Iraq, "to measure the outlook for the stability to hold" and "to measure the ability ... of their security forces" to defend Iraq. Until each condition is satisfied, he added, "I will provide for the world's need not to have a failed state in Iraq."'

Any thinking person can see that merely withdrawing from Iraq while not attempting to ensure the stability of the country would be a mightily irresponsible move. While we shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the first place, now that we're there, we have to deal with the reality of the situation as it is. You guys who are partisan Republicans might have some sort of cartoon caricature idea of what Democrats are like --- irrational peace-at-any-cost radicals, or something --- but that's not the reality of the Democratic Party, and certainly not of John Kerry. Kerry was, if anything, a bit too cautious, too averse to coming off as anti-war, as I stated above. I personally think this war was an obvious mistake from the get-go, as I said (even though I supported both the Afghan invasion and the first Gulf War), and Kerry was too slow to come out publicly and say that. Had he gotten to the White House he would have consulted with generals, strategists, Middle East experts, foreign policy experts, and tried to come up with some way to make this disaster a little less terrible. If anything, I can't imagine him doing any worse than the "stay the course" Bush Administration has done.


Posted by: Mitsu at August 28, 2005 12:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've scan the thread. I agree the President hasn't made his case on WMD re Iraq. There were a number of other reasons to go which I won't go into here. The WMD story is yet untold. Unfortunately this is what the MSM has focused on and we're getting the "Bush Lied" meme. The MSM can't see the forest for the trees because they're still spitting over the 2000 election.

Well folks AQ et al, Islamofascist, declared war on us first. As in any war as Victor David Hansen has said big mistakes will be made. War is fluid and we must take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Yes, it's short sighted to say the fly-paper theory is a long term solution. But it's sure as heck drawing down the radicial jihadists from Saudi that would otherwise be up to mischief elsewhere. I like the analogy of moths to a flame. The Saudi jihadists are the folks blowing themselves up as of late. There have been recent reports of "red on red" in Iraq. The Iraqi insurgents are even getting tired of the foreign jihadists and have taken up to shooting them.

If you read some other sights pur special forces are taking advantage of this. Go to adopt a sniper site. Our snipers (many from law enforcement swat units who are in the guard units ) are taking every advantage of this. To learn more go to adopt a sniper (google it). The only problem is outfitting them with good equipment hence the support effort from back home.

The real issue is to get the House of Saud to quit funding the radical mosques and madrassahs worldwide. The House of Saud made a deal with the Wahhabi's to not call them out for being the biggest hypocrites in the world of Islam.

Follow the links in this pieces I posted at Roger L. Simon's several weeks ago and see how the Blogos can be used to topple the Mad Mullahs of Iran and also win the greater GWOT:

Here - the key is the treatment of women by Islam

and

Here - A line must be drawn in the sand against Evil

and

Here - The Blogos has the power to inform the American people directly bypassing the MSM

and Simon just linked to this piece

Failure in Iraq? Not so according to Christopher Hitchens (My title)

Roger L. Simon just linked to this new essay by Christopher Hitchens which puts our action in Iraq in perspective. A good read.

*****

August 27, 2005: Hitchens a la Mode

At this time when the press is reaching new levels of cacophony in declaring Iraq a failure we need Christopher Hitchens more than ever to put things in perspective with a little reference to Saki:

One might have thought, therefore, that Bush and Blair's decision to put an end at last to this intolerable state of affairs would be hailed, not just as a belated vindication of long-ignored U.N. resolutions but as some corrective to the decade of shame and inaction that had just passed in Bosnia and Rwanda. But such is not the case. An apparent consensus exists, among millions of people in Europe and America, that the whole operation for the demilitarization of Iraq, and the salvage of its traumatized society, was at best a false pretense and at worst an unprovoked aggression. How can this possibly be?

[...]

RLS Link


Posted by: Ron Wright at August 28, 2005 01:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The recent Pew survey of global attitudes actually showed that anti-Americanism has gone down dramatically in almost every Muslim nation since just before the start of the Iraq war, as has Arab support of terrorism. So your premise that the war: 1) has made us less popular, and 2) increases the number of terrorists is demonstrably false in the first case, and unproven in the second.

Posted by: DWPittelli at August 28, 2005 01:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The recent Pew survey of global attitudes actually showed that anti-Americanism has gone down dramatically in almost every Muslim nation since just before the start of the Iraq war, as has Arab support of terrorism. So your premise that the war: 1) has made us less popular, and 2) increases the number of terrorists is demonstrably false in the first case, and unproven in the second.

Posted by: DWPittelli at August 28, 2005 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

in fact, the war has made arabs richer.

Posted by: grigory at August 28, 2005 04:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your statement below FAILS to acknowledge that the weapons inspectors were in Iraq and were only seeking more time. Why does Bush offer ever-shifting rationales for the war - including the silly flypaper rationale - because he NEVER HAD THE KEY ELEMENT HE NEEDED TO JUSTIFY HIS ACTIONS, I.E., AN URGENT NEED TO ACT ========= "Look, we don't need to make up fake arguments about why we are in Iraq. We went in because Saddam was an uniquely dangerous individual whom was commonly believed to be in possession of WMD. In a post 9/11 world, caution demanded that the burden of proof that he had disarmed be on him. He never convincingly met this burden, by showing the world beyond a reasonable doubt that his regime didn't possess WMD, and Bush acted pursuant to various UN resolutions to bring him to task."

Posted by: steve d at August 28, 2005 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your statement below FAILS to acknowledge that the weapons inspectors were in Iraq and were only seeking more time. Why does Bush offer ever-shifting rationales for the war - including the silly flypaper rationale - because he NEVER HAD THE KEY ELEMENT HE NEEDED TO JUSTIFY HIS ACTIONS, I.E., AN URGENT NEED TO ACT ========= "Look, we don't need to make up fake arguments about why we are in Iraq. We went in because Saddam was an uniquely dangerous individual whom was commonly believed to be in possession of WMD. In a post 9/11 world, caution demanded that the burden of proof that he had disarmed be on him. He never convincingly met this burden, by showing the world beyond a reasonable doubt that his regime didn't possess WMD, and Bush acted pursuant to various UN resolutions to bring him to task."

Posted by: steve d at August 28, 2005 07:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

President Bush, Vp Cheney, NSA Rice, SecDef Rumsfeld, DepSecDef Wolfowitz and others did not tell the truth when banging the drums for war. They spoke with certainty about the presence of dangerous weapons and related programs in Iraq. The level of certainty was not based on evidence, but on conjecture and hope.

That many other intelligence agencies and people thought Iraq had WMDs should not really matter a lot. It was the U.S. administration that made the decisions, not other countries and not even the U.S. Senate. Now, many say the real reason for the war was to bring democracy to Iraq. How disingenuous. And not a reason to send our military over there. We need our military ready for real threats, not to do the bidding of a relatively small group of ideologues who have a "grand plan" for domination over the Middle East in order to secure our "national interests."

If we have learned one lesson from all of this I think it should be that our military is a precious and vital resource for the defense of our country. Period. Thinking up justifications for this war after the fact just won't cut it for the vast majority of Americans, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian or other. Most of us have good common sense and know when we are being fooled. And we don't like it.

Posted by: loyd at August 28, 2005 08:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka opined "Bush ran on a lie, and did everything possible to sustain that lie throughout the 2004 election campaign---and his success at convincing 1/3 of America to continue to believe those lies was instrumental in his re-election. To suggest otherwise is pure nonsense."


Nonsense you say - well you sure are an expert on that topic

Because the idea that toppling Saddam in 2003 and wading into a long and difficult struggle in Iraq was done with the goal of HELPING Bush secure re-election is so idiotic it really belongs on a moonbat reservation all its own

I don't imagine your ilk will ever like ANYTHING "Chimpymchalliburton" does - you are a dedicated Bush-hater first and foremost

And your welcome to say how this or that was a mistake

But complete and utter bullshit about how toppling Saddam in 2003 was done to BOLSTER his re-election chances - are you really that deluded?

Clearly - Afghanistan was popular "revenge" - and just going after OBL with 500,000 men would have been popular too for idiots like you

Why get involved in Iraq?

The economy was doing better - we had our "revenge" - why go into Iraq?

And to prove the point - Iraq made 2004 a horse race ( with horse face : ) ) when it would have been a cake-walk if Kerry didn't have anti- Iraq to run on


You'd make as much sense saying Bush invaded Iraq to get at the great ski resorts he wanted the US to control there

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 29, 2005 05:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Loyd wrote "If we have learned one lesson from all of this I think it should be that our military is a precious and vital resource for the defense of our country. Period. Thinking up justifications for this war after the fact just won't cut it for the vast majority of Americans, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian or other. Most of us have good common sense and know when we are being fooled. And we don't like it."


Well loyd - what I learned on 9/11 was that I wished our military had been used to go after AQ and Islamic Facists of all stripes BEFORE 3000 were murdered

I am sure you would have called a campaign in Afghanistan before 9/11 some "thought up" war too

I for one wish Clinton had done more than send a 10M$ missile to hit a camel in the ass in 1998

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 29, 2005 05:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DWPitelli: The recent Pew survey of global attitudes actually showed that anti-Americanism has gone down dramatically in almost every Muslim nation since just before the start of the Iraq war

Are you implying that anti-Americanism went down because of the Iraq war? This doesn't sound right to me. This is the most recent Pew survey I found: U.S. Image Up Slightly, But Still Negative:

Anti-Americanism in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, which surged as a result of the U.S. war in Iraq, shows modest signs of abating. But the United States remains broadly disliked in most countries surveyed, and the opinion of the American people is not as positive as it once was. The magnitude of America's image problem is such that even popular U.S. policies have done little to repair it. President George W. Bush's calls for greater democracy in the Middle East and U.S. aid for tsunami victims in Asia have been well-received in many countries, but only in Indonesia, India and Russia has there been significant improvement in overall opinions of the U.S.
Posted by: fling93 at August 29, 2005 09:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think someone is naive. Since 1945,the USA has chosen to be forward deployed and offer combat to enemies as early as possible on THEIR home turf.

That is the flypaper strategy.

It's hard to maintain support when it is not as imminently clear as 9-11 that we MUST war and prevail or die here because we failed to fight there. We saw that in Korea and Vietnam,sooner in the GWOT.

It's a concensus policy,no POTUS needs to say it,the people understand it,always have,always will. The problem is we're losing the desire to stand behind the policy,but the policy has been around since we decided never to find ourselves in a Pearl Harbor and European conflagration again.

Someone please tell us which Islamic terror attacks on America I have missed since we've been in Iraq. Iraq is the most substantial Muslim state for many reasons,neither we nor the jihadists can afford to retreat there,now either they or we have the most ability to destroy the other right in Iraq.

I submit it is the jihad and not America that is bogged down in Iraq,notwithstanding any tactical errors we make.


Posted by: Patrick at August 30, 2005 12:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad

The morality argument would hold for Jordan, for Kuwait, for Bahrain, even Iran or Saudi Arabia, but doesn’t hold in Iraq; anything is preferable to a Hussein dynast.

The situation in Saudi Arabia. Sounds bad enough to me, frankly, but it's convenient that those guys aren't bad enough to invade, given that you're not going to invade them.

Is this better than Saddam Hussein?

And if you're a woman, it is indeed possible to be worse than Saddam.

My own reasons for opposing the war were simple: I did not think we would leave it better off, even discounting the years of turmoil around and following the regime change. If we transform Iraq into "another Iran" -- something you will note the women quoted in that last article fear, even though you claim that Iran is a tolerable situation where Iraq was not -- then we will have "succeeded" in stabilising Iraq only by implementing Sharia law where we once had an odious but secular system. But hey, if you're not a woman it's probably a little better, except for the polical instability and the bombs.

And I really think that you need to look at exactly what goes on in other countries in the Middle East before you rush to denounce Saddam as the worst of the bunch. As sickeningly insane as he was, the terrible thing is that he wasn't as bad as it gets.

Posted by: McDuff at August 30, 2005 07:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, the examples cited support the flypaper analogy.


The conceptual and logical problems with this piece are legion. Being so many, it would be difficult to do them any justice here in a comment format.

However, if Greg or anyone else is truly concerned with this analysis (and it is not just some lame excuse to erect political cover), please send me a note by e-mail. I will then write a detailed analysis at my site and we can discuss things from there.

I have an MI background, so I promise to write something the would befit an analytical discussion.

Posted by: Paul Deignan at August 30, 2005 08:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, the examples cited support the flypaper analogy.


The conceptual and logical problems with this piece are legion. Being so many, it would be difficult to do them any justice here in a comment format.

However, if Greg or anyone else is truly concerned with this analysis (and it is not just some lame excuse to erect political cover), please send me a note by e-mail. I will then write a detailed analysis at my site and we can discuss things from there.

I have an MI background, so I promise to write something the would befit an analytical discussion.

Posted by: Paul Deignan at August 30, 2005 08:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I got an internal server error on the first post, so please feel free to delete the second post. (and this one).

Posted by: Paul Deignan at August 30, 2005 08:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mark-NC:

I think most people reading your reply to my previous post would agree that your response is not so much an answer as it is an illustration of the unproductive tantrums common amongst the Michael Moore-loving crowd.

The moment an argument resorts to ad hominem attacks it is an indication of a weak position or a weak mind. I'll leave the choice to you.

Posted by: Mark S. at August 30, 2005 03:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have long been of the opinion that the Bush administration has pursued the right course, but that they have failed utterly to explain the course to the American people and the world. They have also made mistakes along the way, but that is always to be expected in any such huge undertaking, although it doesn't excuse it from happening.

I have been wary of this fly-paper strategy, or the Bush administration using that as its rhetoric. Like you, I see how it will most likely backfire in a big way down the road, although I don't think that al Qaeda will attack the USA any time soon. Why? It just seems like it would set back their goals, as it would put more people back on Bush's side again, put him in the protector role once again like after 9/11. I could be wrong, as I see the possibility that a new terror attack on the USA would, due to things like the fly-paper rhetoric, make some people feel deceived and confused in regards to the president.

Also the moral argument of using Iraq as a terrorist slaughter house is utterly disasterous. Of course, there is no stopping the terrorists from going there, and it's not as if we are asking them to stop by and get killed. I just think the president needs to change his rhetoric a bit, then there won't be a problem with the strategy. Let's not kid ourselves, we didn't plan on the fly-paper strategy. We hoped it wouldn't happen, but al Qaeda is taking advantage of the situation to kill American troops in their backyard.

It isn't our fault that al Qaeda kills innocent Iraqis. It isn't our fault that they have amassed in Iraq to continue the chaos. They don't have to do it, but they are doing it. Just like the insurgents don't have to keep killing US troops. They could just stop, and there would be peace aside from terrorist attacks.

In other words, the fly-paper strategy is a hollow rhetorical argument that will backfire at some point in time, if it hasn't already with London being bombed...

The president needs to get himself a new PR strategy, and fast.

Stay the course, Mr. Bush, but please explain that course more honestly and clearer to the American people.

Posted by: Seixon at August 30, 2005 07:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Seixon - quite a good comment and I fully agree

So does Chris Hitchens by the way

Does anyone have an insight into WHY the Bush admin hasn't made the war aims clearer?

Is there a downside to explaining the scope of the problem and the magnitude of what we are trying to accomplish?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 30, 2005 07:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some poster above said: "The idea that previously normal people have suddenly transformed into psychopathic mass murderers because of Iraq seems to be a bit of a stretch." Others here have also questioned the "creation of terrorists" by our Iraq debacle.

I don't think you guys are taking into account the ability of people to be radicalized by trauma. Suppose, for example, our country were invaded by, say, Canada, on the basis of some trumped up and shifting argument. Also suppose that our neighbors to the north were vastly superior to us militarily, and crushed our armed forces in a matter of days. Now suppose that some Canadian missile killed your child, spouse, parent, or sibling. Also consider that you are unemployed, live in a hellhole, and have no air conditioning, like many Iraqis. What would you do? I don't know about y'all, but I'd be on my way to Toronto with some seriously murderous intent. There are surely a hell of a lot of maimed and dead Iraqis. How many pissed off relatives do you think they have?

Posted by: George at September 1, 2005 06:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

McDuff...
Iraq is not wonderland, with 100 trillion dollars a year to work with and 10 million Navy SEALs, she'd still be condemned to be Iraq. On the other hand, Saddam had rape rooms and Iraqi women were still married to Iraqi men. Its a net improvement to get rid of the former and suffer the latter.

Posted by: Brad at September 1, 2005 06:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fly paper strategy - make it easier for the enemy to attack Americans and hope that they become bored and give up.

Posted by: unaha-closp at September 1, 2005 02:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Now that we have a mess on our hands caused by the bumbling of this administration here is the only option left.
1) Bush must get humble and admit his mistake to the UN and NATO.For trying to bypass the world and do this war alone.
2) As soon as possible withraw all US combat forces from Iraq and replace them with UN and NATO forces (like we did in Bosnia).
3) Leave behind a small NATO/UN/US force to train Iraq military and police.

I doubt Bush would do this since his arrogance and pride got him into this mistake and we all as a nation will suffer the consequences for it."I would have a forign policy based on humility" was his statement from his first debate. Fat chance he'll get humble now...but that is the only way to avoid complete failure in Iraq!!

Posted by: USAF RETIRED at September 1, 2005 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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