The Spider and the Fly
August 21, 2003
By Michael Shannon

As you read this another act of sabotage is being considered, planned or carried out, another "improvised explosive device" is being planted, another 18-year-old American kid from some town you never heard of is staring out into the pitch-black desert night straining to see what is or is not staring back at him, another Iraqi family is sweltering through yet another broiling late summer day with no electricity to ease the sting, another 18-year-old Shia from some town you never heard of is contemplating jihad against the American infidel, and another American family just opened their front door to two military officers in their class A's, there to tell them that Johnny wont be coming home.

Only the most ill-informed or fanatically partisan person would argue that the post-war situation in Iraq is going according to plan. However, that is precisely what some of the most devoted sycophants within the Bush administration - aided by some of the most shameless toadies from without - remain committed to convince you and I of. And while even the most addled of them balk at attempting to portray the effort as a whole as a shining and glorious highlight in the history of America, they all focus on one aspect in which they steadfastly maintain that the plan is working as designed.

Their contention is a simple one: the continuation of combat in Iraq is - contrary to popular wisdom and all supporting evidence thereof - beneficial to the United States and its interests. They claim that by engaging not only the Iraqi insurgents but also by drawing other militant Islamic warriors into the Iraqi theater we are not only fighting these people in a site of our choosing but by their very presence in Iraq they are not free to wield their wickedness elsewhere. It was David Warren, writing in his Essays On Our Times website, July 5, 2003, who gave this line of thinking its nom de guerre: The Flypaper Strategy.

This thoroughly repugnant term, which has been picked up by other conservative writers - Andrew Sullivan in particular - directly implies that the soldiers of the American Armed Forces are the bait to a trap from which our Islamic enemies will enter but not leave alive. President Bush proved that he himself is a big proponent of the strategy with his remarkably ill-considered challenge to "bring 'em on," issued a few weeks back from the safety and comfort of the White House. But where he and all the other adherents to this philosophy have failed is in not asking themselves who exactly in this wretched situation is the spider and who is the fly.

As the reality that the US is involved in an ongoing guerilla war within Iraq has become ever less deniable, the upper levels of the political and military leadership here in the United States have gone to great lengths to pigeonhole those who oppose the American forces as Saddam loyalists and/or criminal "deadenders." With the shift in strategy evident the past several weeks by those who resist the US occupation to include non-military sites as targets, those labels no longer seem to be operable. Mr Warren and his ilk should have been more careful in what they had wished for, because it seems as though it has been granted.

Neil MacFarquhar writing in the New York Times on August 11, 2003, reports, "in much the same way that the Russian invasion of Afghanistan stirred an earlier generation of young Muslims determined to fight the infidel, the American presence in Iraq is prompting a rising tide of Muslim militants to spill into the country to fight the foreign occupier." While it remains highly speculative that the manpower and resources deployed in Iraq by non-Iraqi guerilla fighters/terrorists has left the Islamic militant movement unable to strike elsewhere, it is this kind of reporting that shows that the second tenet of The Flypaper Strategy may actually hold some water.

Whether it does or not, does not change the reality of life on the ground in Iraq for our soldiers. They are the ones that by design or circumstance find themselves squarely in the bull's eye and with an ever increasing burden of sites and places to protect. And while there is no question that as a matter of military prowess and power the American Armed Forces are superior in every measurable way to their Iraqi foes, the steadily rising death toll shows that our young men and women bleed and die just like soldiers always have.

The United States may have every advantage in the tangible methods and means of warfare. It is in the intangibles, particularly time, where the Iraqi/Islamic fighters have a distinct advantage. For the spider is perfectly content sit and wait for his victim to come to him.

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