I think that the flypaper theory, which I believe Canadian journalist David Warren may have named, needs to be appreciated at the strategic level.
Going into Iraq dared Al Qaeda to meet us there. Occupying Arab land and installing a Shiite dominated government was a major strategic challenge to them militarily and, more importantly ideologically and politically. They have no choice but to respond or they lose all legitimacy. In this sense, Iraq has become an attractor for Jihadis and many of them have died by American hands.
I would have expected the admin to consider the strategic impact of invading Iraq with respect to Al Qaeda, as well as the neighboring countries so its not surprising the concept was explained to journalists pre-invasion. It’s just not the kind of thing the President would mention in speeches, etc. (by the way, quoting the major speeches and legislation is the best way to refute the idea that we had a WMD-only argument for regime change)…
Tactically and operationally the occupation has not gone as hoped and planned for, as you’ve described in NR. But the ‘flypaper’ theory is not necessarily invalid and, at least strategically, unlikely to have been an afterthought.
ME: There is no doubt that the administration thought about the strategic threat a new Iraq posed to al Qaeda. But I don’t think it expected or wanted militants to flock to Iraq and start a vicious insurgency so we could then kill them. The insurgency was mostly a surprise, and an unpleasant one.