The Flypaper Strategy Sticks Around

Kevin Brock, the Deputy Director of the new National Counterterrorism Center, told the AP that al-Qaeda has not established a “significant operational capability” in America since 9/11 — and the only attempted AQ operation since then fell apart due to the incompetence of its cell leader. Brock also said that while the American effort to secure itself must remain vigilant due to the changing nature of the Islamist threat, the actual effort of terrorist operations have been directed elsewhere:

Brock said he doesn’t believe the invasion and war in Iraq can be blamed for the threat reports that come into his center each day. “That would be too simplistic,” he said. “There is too much of a diverse nature to these threats.”
Had the U.S. not invaded Iraq, Brock said, terrorists would still carry out attacks. “But now they are mostly carried out in Iraq. That is where most of the people willing to commit suicide are going.”

That flypaper strategy that has almost disappeared from debate over the past two years apparently worked as planned. We drew AQ into the open in Iraq, because they understand (better than some American politicians) that establishing a democracy in the crossroads of Southwest Asia represented an existential threat to Islamofascism. The AQ ‘philosophy’, such as it is, argues that the only legitimate way of life for Muslims is to live under brutal and intractable tyrannies appointed by Allah himself, and so are unchallengeable and unaccountable for their brutality. Once democracy shows that Arabs can choose their own leaders and hold them accountable for their actions and simultaneously practice their religion without interference, they will overwhelmingly choose democracy. AQ could not allow that example to establish itself.
So why fight in Iraq, rather than Afghanistan? They tried a stand-up fight in Afghanistan and lost — badly. They got surprised by the quickness of the American response and the speed in which the Taliban mismanaged the war. They’ve tried some of the same tactics in Afghanistan that they use in Iraq, but the Afghanis already know what living under the Taliban’s rule was like and have no illusions about wanting it to return.
The Iraqis, however, knew what Saddam’s secular Ba’athist dictatorship was like, not an Islamic theocracy, which might have had more attraction for Iraqis, at least at first. When AQ attacked Americans, some Iraqis might have supported them. However, as more AQ assets died in that effort, the terrorists turned their attention to Iraqi recruits for security forces and lost any sympathy they may have had.
Now they mostly kill Iraqis while having almost no support even among the Sunni (who favor the native “insurgents” but spurn “foreigners” of any stripe) and don’t even pretend to be liberating Iraq any more. They want to stop democracy and explicitly say so, calling it a heretical doctrine. AQ flocks to Iraq to fight us there, because that front matters most now. And if we don’t fight them there, AQ would be freed up to attack us anywhere else around the globe — including here at home.
I’d rather fight them in Iraq and put the democracy in their backyard that even they acknowledge would present a tremendous defeat for Islamofascism. Too bad that some here can’t acknowledge what even AQ admits.