Friday, August 26, 2005

Flypaper, Shmypaper

Gregory Djerejian has an uncanny habit of saying largely what I’ve been thinking but am too clumsy/lazy to put into words effectively. Do read Gregory Djerejian has an uncanny habit of saying largely what I’ve been thinking but am too clumsy/lazy to put into words effectively. Do read his new post on precisely what’s wrong with the so-called “Flypaper Strategy”.

He notes ten reasons, but here are the most important. The others are good, but you really only need these:

1) It assumes there exists a set, finite number of insurgents that we need only kill in order to achieve victory.

2) It presupposes that it offers a strategy that will kill terrorists faster than they are created.

3) It assumes that the attrition being inflicted upon the enemy provides a greater blow to them than the training, experience and in-country tradecraft development they now have access to is benefiting them.

4) It’s just plain immoral.

To this I’d add:

5) It requires the almost certainly fallacious supposition that we, fighting a limited war with necessarily limited means, will have more staying power than an almost pathologically committed adversary who is quite willing to commit to a total (by their lights) conflict with total means.

On point 1, it really is just so blindingly obvious that the fact it apparently needs restating makes me want to fall to my knees and scream like some sort of flaked-out, drug-addled U.S. GI in an Oliver Stone film. We’re talking COIN 101 here. You cannot work on the assumption that the insurgent pool is finite and that whatever you do, as long as you gut nasty guys the numbers will go down. It doesn’t work like that.

As for the morality of the situation, well my personal view is that it’s pretty much immoral. Now, that’s not necessarily a problem in the international sphere. But first of all it had better damn well be effective – and it isn’t. And second of all if you are a commentator and you are going to espouse this theory, don’t then come about spouting all your “Oh we are spreading freedom and building a wonderful new Iraq and we are so moral, blah, blah, blah” at me. Just don’t even begin to commence to think about it. Because the fact of the matter is that the Iraqi people are your pawns. And that’s it. That really is it. And if you can’t see that, well I can only shrug as though I were a Frenchman. And I hate that.

On a last point, Gregory does a good job of putting the theory in historical context. It’s often said by critics of the war that the “liberation” side of the justification for the conflict was all cooked up after the event as a smokescreen to cover for the fact that no WMD were uncovered. I don’t think this is fair, in fact I think it’s plain wrong. I do believe, quite genuinely, that many in the US administration and the British government alike (though the British politicos were less happy to state it outright by virtue of their more legalistic approach to making the case) saw the conflict as a happy convergence of national interest and genuine goodness – hell, I saw it that way at the time. The “Flypaper Theory” however, emerged entirely after the fact as one of the endless “hidden good news stories” cooked up by sections of the commentariat in order to make what was actually a situation going rapidly tits-up appear as though part of a wonderfully subtle, well thought out and brilliantly conceived strategy on the part of the Bush administration. It could have died in the cradle, but unfortunately a surprisingly large number of people who, in the immortal words of Quentin Tarantino, “should have f***ing better known better” decided to pick it up and run with it. The fact that so many people give it credibility two years on makes me want to gnaw my own feet off.

3 Comments:

Blogger J. said...

I think you unnecessarily debase yourself by saying you're too clumsy/lazy to articulate the issue. This is a very good point paper, and I enjoyed it. I'll link to it over at LAT.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous David Tomlin said...

On point 1, it really is just so blindingly obvious that the fact it apparently needs restating makes me want to fall to my knees and scream . . .

It appears to me that some people are emotionally invested in a certain set of ideas about 'terrorists'. This includes that they are both congenitally evil and congenitally insane, driven to murder randomly for no reason. Any reason they give is assumed to be a phony rationalization/excuse. No non-terrorist ever becomes a terrorist because of any external stimulus. To even suspect otherwise is to both deny their insanity and excuse their evil. That the 'pool' of terrorists is finite obviously follows from these assumptions.

For some who hold this view, the emotional investment may be so great as to make logic and evidence irrelevant.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Stefan said...

David, excellent comment. You do find the mindset you describe on the part of many who uncritically accept the facile "flypaper" notion. For example, a reader on Gregory Djerejian's site recently said, in opposition to what Irregular Analyses is calling point one: "The idea that previously normal people have suddenly transformed into psychopathic mass murderers because of [the invasion and occupation of] Iraq seems to be a bit of a stretch."

8:54 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home