Stuck On One’s Own Flypaper

“See the engineer hoist by his own petard” is an ancient adage about the law of unexpected consequences. Many centuries ago, engineers in armies would contruct ‘petards’ — wooden boxes filled with gunpowder — and use them to blow holes in fortified gates and walls. The unintended consequences included premature explosions that injured or killed the engineers and those around them. “Hoist by his own petard” has ever since meant “blown up by his own bomb”.

In one of their now favorite but after the fact rationalizations for the war in Iraq, folks in the Bush Administration like to talk about the ‘flypaper strategy’ — the notion that by fighting terrorists in Iraq, we don’t have to fight them elsewhere. There are many problems with the logic of this assertion — the number and spread of terrorism has risen dramatically after the invasion of Iraq, there are attacks and foiled attacks in lots of nations other than Iraq, and Sadaam Hussein really had little to do with the terrorists who attacked the United States. And there is also this: Shouldn’t we prefer and actually seek to fight them elsewhere — since that’s where they are most dangerous?

But, in an update on being hoist by one’s own petard, we also must ask: who exactly is stuck on the flypaper in Iraq?

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