Sunday, July 03, 2005

Flypaper Debate

Donald Sensenig doesn't accept my notion that:

We can be building up a strong and stable Iraq. Or we can be setting up a permanent battlefield there to draw in jihadis (the “flypaper effect”) and fight them there because it’s better than fighting them there.

But not both. If we are deliberately attempting seriously to do both, we’re making a mistake. …

He writes:

Actually, “building up a strong and stable” and democratic Iraq is the key part of the flypaper strategy; it is what makes Iraq an imperative battleground for al Qaeda.

When I read that I get a strong feeling that I just wasn't very clear, because I don't understand that response. Yes, I understand why Al Qaida wants to stop this alarmong resurrection before it gets too far. But the flypaper thing is supposed to be our strategy, meaning it serves our ultimate goals.

That feeling of misunderstanding is reinforced when I read commentators cheering on Donald, like this fellow:

I think that Donald Sensing is right because I think that if we pack up our bags and go away, the jihadis will not.

Which is exactly what I was not saying. I'm for no timetable, no quick withdrawal, and staying till it's clear to everyone that the job is finished.

But for me, that point of clarity will not be when Iraq is a smoking hell of burned-out towns littered with dead jihadis. It will be when it is a clean, stable, free nation with a functioning democratic system of government, an honest judiciary, a rising living standard, and a humming economy.

Even if we treat that job cynically -- build up Iraq not for the sake of the Iraqis but to convince the rest of the people in the Arab and Muslim world that America's model offers them irresistable benefits -- it can't be done at the same time we're using the country as a shooting gallery.

Look, in the Cold War, we both fought the Soviets (by proxy) where we could, AND built up beacons of freedom and democracy that shone through the Red propaganda and gave the people behind the Iron Curtain a glimpse of freedom.

But not in the same place. Afghanistan was one project, West Berlin was another. It's unlikely the glittering (really rather gaudy) shopping district of the Kurfurstendamm would have exercised such a glamor on the East Germans if it had been the site of semi-weeking car-bombing massacres.

One of Donald's commenters offers up an analogy that suits my argument better than his, I think:

This ‘flypaper’ strategy is a new name for an old concept in computer security, actually. (Or perhaps the computer term is the new one–not sure.) Anti-hacking experts call it the ‘honeypot’ defense ( in which a target so attractive as to be irresistible to the attackers is set up, where attacks can be both highly monitored and highly contained, and where attacks are safely deflected away from the targets we really care about. Whether this is an unprotected machine with fake financial data on it distracting hackers from the real data, or a professional army attracting terrorists away from the next WTC, the same principle applies.

Nice trick. But you wouldn't also use that computer to do your real banking or your e-Bay shopping.