I'm going to quote this letter to the Times in its entirety because it touches on a point that has bothered me for some time.
To the Editor:
President Bush's speech on Tuesday night crystallized for me the problems inherent in his arguments regarding our mission in Iraq.
The president made two basic points:
First, he said the reason we are fighting in Iraq is that we are better off fighting terrorism abroad than having to fight it at home.
By this, and by his attempts to connect the Iraqi insurgency to 9/11, I take him to mean that the bad guys we are fighting in Iraq would be coming here as soon as we stopped fighting them there.
The president's second point, however, was that our strategy in this war is to train the Iraqi Army to the point that it can fight the insurgents-terrorists on its own and our troops can come home.
But if the president is right about the first point - that we are better off fighting the terrorists there than here - should our strategy be to let the Iraqi Army take on these international terrorists?
In other words, is the president saying that our strategy is to leave the security of the United States in the hands of an inexperienced Iraqi Army as soon as we can?
Jorge L. Baron
New Haven, June 29, 2005
Most of us mock the flypaper theory because it is such a silly ad hoc idea made up to cover the fact that we had no real reason for invading Iraq. It is those things and we are right to mock it. But more than just silly, it is also illogical, dishonest, and monstrously immoral.
You will recall that the flypaper strategy was first formulated after the invasion, when it became clear that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and had managed to run his country so far into the ground that it wasn't a threat to anybody. Compounded with the fact that Saddam had had nothing to do with 9-11, the right was faced with the possibility that we wasted time, resources, and good will in order to mount an illegal invasion that did nothing to improve our security. Fortunately, they were able to avoid this moment of truth by deciding that the whole thing had been the cover story for a cunning plan to lure all of the terrorists in the world to one place where we could kill them. Whoever first came up with this hypothesis probably thought of it after a exhaustive study of the diplomacy and warfare of James Tiberius Kirk.
On the face of it, it's a silly and naive theory. First, it assumes that terrorists are a limited resource. Gather them into one place, kill them all, and--voila--no more terrorists. Secondly, it assumes the terrorists can only do one thing at a time. If they are fighting American troops in Iraq then they clearly can't spare three men to detonate a truckload of fertilizer in downtown Salt Lake. Can they?
The flypaper strategy should have been laughed into oblivion as soon as it was stated, but, lacking an intelligent face-saving explanation for the war, the wingers had to settle for embracing a stupid face-saving explanation. In the two years since it was first suggested it has been embraced by wingnut bloggers, mainstream conservative columnists, Republican members of congress, and finally by the president himself. By now, they have reduced the theory to the pithy formula of, "It is better to fight them over there than over here."
This brings us to Mr. Baron, who points out how inconsistent that is with our other stated goals. If the security of the United States depends on keeping the terrorists over there, how can we leave our security in the hands of a junior ally. Even assuming the new Iraqi army is up to the task, what if the Iraqis decide their security might be improved by not allowing all of those terrorists in the country. After all, "It is better to fight them over there than over here" is a sentiment a lot of countries could embrace.
Maybe this means we don't plan to ever leave. If that is case, how convincing can our oft proclaimed compassion for the Iraqi people be. We can't deliver peace, prosperity, democracy, civil rights, and painted schools while at the time luring the most violent mass murderers in the world to their land and turning the country into one vast killing field.
Is the flypaper strategy a cheesy marketing slogan (i.e. a dumb lie) or a murderous deception (i.e. a criminal lie)?