Friday, June 24, 2005


'Flypaper' Theory Becomes Unstuck

Picked this up from The Guardian's politics blog. You all remember the 'flypaper' theory, right? The one beloved of the neocons and their media and blogosphere enablers? The one that stated that invading Iraq would attract all the world's evildoers and hold them in place like a giant No-Pest strip so that we could whack them all and truth justice and the American Way would reign forevermore yadayadayada. Well, it looks like the CIA has just shot that theory full of holes. Turns out that the correct analogy is not to flypaper, but to the ultimate terrorist training ground. Afghanistan is landlocked, mountainous and not overly urbanized; Iraq contains a variety of terrain, from mountains to deserts to vast cities like Baghdad and Kirkuk. This makes it a far better training ground for groups like Al-Qaeda, who are very interested in learning about fighting in urban settings so they can then take the fight to the West's urban centers. This explains why the neocons and their defenders haven't talked much about 'flypaper' recently, eh?

To be fair, this is Porter Goss's CIA that is saying this. I mentioned this point in my previous post on why the counterinsurgency will fail, but didn't provide a link because I think the report is misleading.

There are very few foreign fighters in Iraq and of those, most are not Al Qaida. There are Iranians and Syrians who have family in Iraq, for example.

My guess based on news accounts is that there are at most a few hundred professional terrorists with any link to bin Laden. Even most of those may just be Saudis angry at an American presence in the Gulf. The overwhelming majority of insurgents seem to be Iraqis angry about the occupation.

I sincerely doubt any of them view it as a training exercise. They are suffering somewhere between 10 and 100 casualties for every American casualty they inflict. With the shortage of medical resources I described below, we can assume that many fighters are dying of infections from relatively minor wounds. When captured, they are tortured by our Iraqi little brothers, as Peter Maass reported.

Just as the insurgents should not be glorified-- they have committed horrific acts of terror against helpless civilians on a mass scale-- neither should their bravery be underestimated. But this is far too deadly to be a training exercise.

The CIA report is correct in the same way that any country that has endured warfare becomes a potential source of warriors. Killing is like any trade. Where it is practiced, people become proficient at it and hardened to its consequences. Afghanistan, for example.
Oh, I, too, doubt very much that the outraged Muslims flocking to the insurgency are thinking in terms of getting training in urban guerrilla warfare. They just want to help dislodge the Great Satan. But those that don't die will come out of Iraq with a lot of skills that they didn't have before. And they won't confine the use of them to Iraq.
"This explains why the neocons and their defenders haven't talked much about 'flypaper' recently, eh?"

It's also probably because we're the ones stuck in the flypaper, not the terrorists.

They don't exactly want to draw attention to that pesky little fact.
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