The trio of quotations

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The trio of quotations listed below called attention to the growing popularity of what conservatives are now calling the “flypaper” theory of our presence in Iraq.

The thinking goes something like this. These guerilla engagements we’re seeing in Iraq may not be such a bad thing. What we’re doing is attracting all the terrorists to Iraq (i.e., like “flypaper”) so that a) they won’t be attacking us in America and b) we can fight them there on our own terms. As Andrew Sullivan put it early this month, “Continued conflict in Iraq, in other words, needn’t always be bad news. It may be a sign that we are drawing the terrorists out of the woodwork and tackling them in the open.”

Now I can imagine a number of problems with this approach — moral, tactical and strategic.

But isn’t the main fallacy that there isn’t some finite number of “terrorists” out there whom we can draw to one place, kill or arrest, and then be done with it? I mean, let’s be honest: Is there really any shortage of these dudes? Are they gonna run out?

Do you remember Afghanistan? Not this ‘Afghanistan’, but the last ‘Afghanistan.’ The US-Pakistan-backed jihad against the Soviets made Afghanistan into a sort of jihad Club-Med where young Saudis could go for a few weeks or months of firing guns and fighting for God. (Of course, some stayed on rather longer.)

The idea is supposed to be to drain the swamp, not create a new swamp and spend all your time swatting all the mosquitoes that come to hang out and breed.

As a reader (Tom R.) wrote last night in an email to TPM, the “flypaper” theory makes about as much sense as a public health director saying “By creating a dirty hospital, we’re going to create a place where we can fight the germs on our terms.”

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