Sunday, October 10, 2004

 

Flypaper against terrorists

Found this interesting comment on LambdaMOO:


FWIW, though, when Bush proposed a `flypaper' approach,
that the terrorists should go to Iraq and blow up stuff
there, was that also an unworthy goal? It feels very
much that you're taking Bush's positions and applying
them to Kerry despite that he didn't say so.



Speaking of flypaper, Thomas Friedman's column had an interesting observation:


Let's start with a simple observation: There have been some 125 suicide bomb attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq in the last 16 months, carried out most likely by Sunni Muslims. We need to think about this. There is some kind of suicide-supply chain working in the Muslim world and in Iraq that is able to draw recruits, connect them with bomb makers and deploy them tactically against U.S. and Iraqi targets on an almost daily basis. What is even more unnerving about these suicide bombers is that, unlike the Hamas crew in Israel, who produce videos of themselves, explain their rationale and say goodbye to families, virtually all the bombers in Iraq have blown themselves up without even telling us their names.

We don't really know how they are chosen, trained, indoctrinated, armed and launched. What we know is that the suicide bombers have killed and maimed hundreds of Iraqis, many of them waiting to join the police or army, and in doing so have done more to block U.S. efforts to reconstruct Iraq than any other factor. To put it bluntly: We are up against an enemy we do not know and cannot see - but who is undermining the whole U.S. mission. In fairness, this sort of network is very hard to crack, especially when it has the support of many Sunnis, but our ignorance about it is part of a broader lack of understanding of changes within Iraqi society.


There is an old argument against social engineering. Hayek pointed out the problem with 'planned economies'. A social institution like the market can be thought of as a giant computer that accepts the input of all its members and averages the information into a simple variable like price. A 'planned economy' is doomed to failure because no official, no matter how smart, can evaluate all the information necessary.... he couldn't even find all the relevant information! There's an older argument between classical liberals and conservatives. You cannot simply go around altering time tested institutions because you don't really know why they are there. You can't be sure of everything they are holding together so radical change is something to be feared.

Bush has embarked on a huge flip flop; nation building in a grand scale while running against tiny nation building projects Clinton undertook in Haiti, Serbia and tried in Somalia. The longer the US stays in Iraq with a weak hand the greater the chance that this thing is going to fall apart.

Or to keep the analogy simple, fly paper is great if you have a finite number of flies. If you have a pile of rotting food, though, the fly paper is just going to mask the real problem.

Comments:
I kind of wonder what would constitute failure in the mission at this point. We wanted to get Saddam; we did. Democracy always seemed like something of a pipe dream, a bonus; yet there were the elections. Now there are signs that we initiated a change throughout the whole Middle East. Of course there may be setbacks, and the continuing terrorist insurgency is a problem. But it's hard to think what reasonable minimum criteria for success we haven't already met.

We don't agree on much, but since we spar on both EconLog and now on Evangelical Outpost, I decided to put you on the blogroll over at my Towards a Good Samaritan World blog.
 
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