Monday, July 11, 2005

That Explosion and Those Flies and This Paper

In the wake of the London bombings there's been some predictable but reasonable snark coming from our side of the aisle about that old "flypaper" theory. This is all fine and good and as it should be. The very suggestion that such a strategy was even remotely plausible should have been greeted with jeers of "ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME?" from the get go. This was just another convinient post-facto justification for the Iraq war that was trotted out for the presidential campaign. Any serious person who thought about it for ten seconds couldn't have bought it. This is why it's so weird that supposedly bright people actually do, or did.

We have two simple ways to refute the "flypaper" theory that are obvious to even non-wonks like me. First, the old Afghan War was supposed to serve as flypaper. Egypt, among other countries, released their jailed fanatics in the hope that those fanatics would get themselves killed in the jihad. While some certainly did get killed, the ones that survived helped to create what's now an international movement. Second, the idea of flypaper just doesn't make any effin' sense. Not every single person who wants to fight the "great satan" is going to go to Iraq. Some are going to find their way here or to Britain or anywhere else. It doesn't take an army to engage in terror attacks. It just takes a small group of people with invention enough to get through unclosable gaps in security and co-ordination enough to carry it off. As everyone is so fond of saying "they only have to get lucky once, we have to get lucky every time." So what exactly is to stop said people from going places and wreaking havok? Not much.

It seems to me that all of this polemical grandstanding about being resolute, letting them know no peace and fighting them wherever they are misses the point entirely. I have yet to hear anyone on either side of our political divide articulate a policy that makes it more difficult for people to perform terror attacks(sure this was the justification for the Patriot Act, but England is even more of a surveilence society than we are, and that didn't help). I also have yet to hear someone articulate a policy that would make it far less attractive to join up with the jihadists - something that is essential in order to win whatever this war is. To someone who's committed to die for their cause the threat of death is no threat at all.

Update: Stupid me. Did I say I hadn't heard anyone on either side articulate a policy? It's nice to have a certain former supreme allied comander prove me wrong. Granted it's more - no pun intended - general than I would ask for but it's an op-ed, not a policy paper.

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