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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Best Selling Flypaper

Remember the "flypaper" theory? Some supporters of the Iraq war argued that it would attract terrorists from all over the world, where the US military could find them and kill them. This would reduce domestic terror.

I never did figure out what made Iraq so special in this regard. After all, if the US invaded any country without WMD or a link to al Qaeda, toppled the government, occupied it for some time, and proceeded to construct the state and economy in its own image, then terrorists might well decide to go there and confront the US.

Hell, President Bush could have thrown a dart at a wall map to pick a potential flypaper country. Maybe he could have picked one with a better climate?

In any case, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which advises the Director of Central Intelligence about "midterm and strategic" concerns and produces National Intelligence Estimates, recently issued a 119 page report that among other things evaluated the war in Iraq and the threat from global terrorism. Apparently, Iraq is successfully attracting terrorists:
"At the moment," NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."
However, before flypaper adherents get too excited, recognize that Iraq is also serving as a recruitment and training center for terrorists that one day soon might disperse all over the world. These are Dana Priest's lead paragraphs from the Washington Post story:
Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."
Not so good. Priest refers to Iraq as a "breeding ground" and "haven" for terrorists. These inflammatory words might have been written by the reporter, but it is clear that they reflect the sentiments of those who drafted the NIC report:
"The al-Qa'ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq," the report says.

According to the NIC report, Iraq has joined the list of conflicts -- including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and independence movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the Philippines, and southern Thailand -- that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology.
On the bright side, the NIC noted that the chance of great power war is perhaps the lowest it has been in a century.

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