Flypaper or Body-count strategy?:
The entire ‘flypaper’ argument for why and how we should fight the Major-Combat-Is-Over War in Iraq is utterly intriguing, from a purely argumentative standpoint. It has all the hallmarks of an after-the-fact argument to justify a contemporary bad predicament, despite Andrew Sullivan’s ad-hoc ad-hoc disclaimers.
Did we hear anything from the administration about the great ‘flypaper’ strategy before the war in Iraq? Why didn’t we use the ‘flypaper’ strategy in Afghanistan where we already had boots on the ground? Why didn’t George throw down the "bring ‘em on" gauntlet then? ... The obvious answer to the first question: No. The obvious answer to the second and third questions: Because that was never the hare-brained strategy. Obvious conclusion: As Andrew's own source said, the flypaper strategy is part of a worst-case scenario, not some sort of brilliant ploy to take the battle to the terrorists. ...
Here's why it's both bad argument and horrible strategy:
The ‘flypaper’ strategy and the need to stabilize Iraq are in contradiction to one another. If our strategy is truly ‘flypaper,’ then you can kiss stabilization good-bye. One can't call for a great "bring 'em on" battle and say you're for stabilization at the same time. The idea, I thought, was to destroy and rid Iraq of terrorists so we can help build a stable and democratic Iraq -- not entice terrorists from around the region and world to take us on mano-mano. And President Bush is saying "bring 'em on"? Well, it wouldn't be the first time he's said one macho thing and done another. He's now asking for more UN/international troops in Iraq, after all. ...
... Here’s where I might sound like a Quagmire Critic:
Read “A Bright Shining Lie,”
Neil Sheehan's classic account of the Vietnam War. The generals who lost that war were committed to a ‘flypaper’ strategy, only they called it ‘body counts.’ There were many visionary (and utterly frustrated) younger generals who believed the attrition strategy was doomed from the start. They wanted small commando teams hunting down VC and NVR (similar to what we're doing now in Afghanistan), not to put a notch on their body-count lists, but to rid the country of terrorists and to strike fear in anyone tempted to partake in the struggle. They wanted to give South Vietnam breathing room to regroup, grow stronger and defend itself. ...
How silly is the Iraq ‘flypaper’ argument getting? One of its biggest proponents, Sullivan, is highlighting an ‘Email of the Day’
from a Civil War buff comparing the Battle of Gettysburg to the alleged ‘flypaper’ strategy in Iraq. Andrew, who’s British, obviously doesn’t know his Civil War history and can be forgiven. It was Lee who rejected the vehement arguments of Longstreet to avoid a fight at Gettysburg and to simply outflank Little Roundtop. Lee had choices. He chose wrong.