Thursday, July 07, 2005

Defective Flypaper?

As someone who has long been ambivalent regarding the Iraq war, I think this post from Kos deserves a response from war supporters:

Bush's latest rationale for maintaining the course in Iraq adventure has been the "flypaper strategy" -- it's better to fight the terrorists over there than at home. Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism, insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the flypaper rationale was as good as any.

Except that it's not working. The war isn't making the West any safer. In fact, it's creating a whole new class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it could easily be the United States. And waging the war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West. [...]

But Bush (and Blair) took their eyes off the prize -- neglected to finish the job in Afghanistan, let Al Qaida off the hook to rebuild and reorganize, and helped swell its ranks with an unecessary and inept campaign in Iraq.

There are consequences to the mess in Iraq. And today, we're seeing one of them. Unfortunately, it won't be the last.

The thing is, I think Kos's initial premise is irrefutably true--Islamic terrorists are more likely to attack countries who support the removal of Saddam Hussein. Contrary to Kos, though, it does not follow that we should leave Iraq since doing so would embolden the terrorists.

Also against his point is that really, these people are looking for any reason to hate the West and its allies. Recall that the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia was given by bin Laden as his primary motivation for 9/11. We pulled out months ago from there and yet we're still getting attacked.

I've thought about this question before and come to the tenative conclusion that if Iraq hadn't happened when it did, the U.S. would probably have made an incursion (invited or uninvited) into a country beyond Afghanistan. Had we not invaded Iraq I suspect that America would have sent troops into Pakistan (with or without permission) to get bin Laden, thereby destablizing the Musharraf regime.

War opponents are probably thinking right now: well we would have gotten bin Laden! How do you know that?

In the end, I don't think there was any strategic outcome post 9/11 that wouldn't have sucked. Bush (or Gore or Kerry) would have had severe problems with any of their foreign policy strategies. Sadly, very few people on either side are willing to admit this. Instead, we've had a massively useless debate about water under the bridge. Part of the blame for this rests on war supporters but the bulk of it rests with opponents.

I'll end with two more questions, one for war supporters and one for war opponents. To the supporters: Aren't international terrorists smart enough to fight a multi-front war? To opponents: Do you really think Al Gore or John Kerry wouldn't be making the flypaper argument were they in charge?

UPDATE 8:44, Now that Technorati has finally got its act together, here are some other responses to the original Kos post. Seems like many people think he was out-of-bounds: Cadillac Tight, Like You Really Care, Dean Esmay.

UPDATE 7/8 7:32, Kos has written an additional post responding to critics, he argues that terrorism has increased post-Iraq so therefore it was a bad idea. But is that increase in terrorism because of Iraq or simply because, with the passage of time, terrorist groups got their acts together? Another question: In the abscence of Iraq, why wouldn't Afghanistan have set them off? If that's the place from which all terrorism flows, attacking it would seem to be a very big deal.

I can't figure out, though, why he and his readers count the term winger as an insult since it can just as easily be applied to them. But then again, I think the term moonbat is imprecise, too.

UPDATE 9:14, If you want some examples of out-of-line rhetoric following 7/7, see this post.