"In contrast to the vitriolic rants you'll find on some political blogging sites, Palmer gives in-depth analysis and commentary." --Dan Cook, The Free Times

12/07/2007

The Iranian NIE (New Incredulous Explanations)

In my mind, one of the biggest political stories going on these days concerns the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's capability to develop nuclear weapons. This fall there has been a steady drumbeat to war, as was evidenced by the Kyl-Lieberman resolution in the Senate and President Bush going so far as to warn us about "World War III." But according to the NIE, Iran stopped its weapons program four years ago and is farther away from getting the bomb than was commonly thought.

That alone is a big story, but that led to a new story that's not being addressed at all: the criticism from conservatives who are skeptical about the NIE's validity. These conservatives are trying to downplay the meaning of the NIE because "the intelligence has been wrong before" and because "Iran is still a threat." (You can read some of these criticisms from the Boston Globe, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, and the National Review.)

I'm all for a free exchange of ideas and a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to the government and the media. But it should never serve as a distraction from the real issues at hand. And I worry that this is exactly what is happening now. And the general public is too apathetic and too distracted to care.

One common criticism I've been reading is that the intelligence is not to be trusted because it was wrong the first time regarding Iraq. So why should we trust the intelligence now? Because hopefully the intelligence community has learned something since taking us to Iraq. And if they haven't, then someone should be held accountable for getting the intelligence wrong again. And if this recent NIE is also inaccurate, heads need to roll because this is too important to not get right the first time.

And why are these people so critical of the intelligence to begin with? By extension, they are criticizing the intelligence gathering community. This community consists of military personnel and Department of Defense personnel. But aren't these neoconservatives who are so big on war with Iraq and Iran supposed to be the Pentagon's allies? Why are they denigrating the very community they rely so much on to accomplish their geopolitical objectives?

Why are these people more concerned with the accuracy of the intelligence than with the disconnect between the intelligence's findings and Bush's rhetoric about "avoiding World War III?" And rather than breathing a sigh of relief that the Iranian threat might not be as ominous as was once feared, why are they bellyaching about how the intelligence may be faulty? Would these same detractors be questioning the intelligence as fervently as they are now if the intelligence said that Iran had an actual bomb? Or is it only okay to criticize intelligence findings if these findings contradict your political wishes?

And why isn't this story getting more play in the media? Why isn't the public hopping mad about this? This isn't another one of those inside baseball stories that nobody outside of Washington cares about. This is about our national leader making irresponsible and provocative statements about the threat another country poses, which has led to chest-thumping from Republicans in particular raising the specter of a pre-emptive nuclear war. And these irresponsible statements are based on information that is not true now and was not true at the time these statements were made!

Where is the outrage? Where are the congressional Democrats? Where are the hearings? Where is Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Where is Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee? Where are the Democratic presidential candidates? And where is the contrition among the Republican presidential candidates? Where are the voters who should be asking these Republican presidential candidates and Hillary Clinton about what went wrong?

Why are supposed "news" channels like CNN and MSNBC devoting their precious airtime to stories about Natalee Holloway and Stacy Peterson? Why are we more concerned with a presidential candidate's speech about faith than with our chief executive's rhetoric about World War III? Why are we more concerned with which superstar endorses which presidential candidate than the obfuscations the president's press secretary gives about what the president knew and when he knew it? And why is the president allowed to take credit for being so cautious about something now that he had been so reckless about in the past?

It's like Bizarro Land. It just doesn't make any sense. This nation is in trouble.

3 comment(s):

Nikki said...

what does Bush gain from an insistence on war. haven't we already been down this road and has it proven to be politically popular? I don't understand the warmonger Bush stance.......where has it proved to be helping him or any other elephant in the polls.....what is his motive? to just kill people or have our soldiers killed? I don't buy it........oil? why would such an unpopular predident take such an unpopular stand? his base doesn't even like him....where is the benefit. to me it doesn't make sense to say that he is just hell bent on war. for what reason?? Iran has no nukes?? hmmmm. Bush is the most hated man on earth because of the war in Iraq.....so let's cause WW3 by invading Iran to increase his popularity with his base????

Anthony Palmer said...

I think the problem is that partisanship has blinded politicians and average voters alike so much that they are sacrificing actual governance for settling old scores.

I really think that a lot of people are looking at the US now and wondering exactly what happened to us. I think it was Tom Friedman who wrote an excellent column in the NYT a few days ago about a mock NIE that was addressed to the Iranian president. Highly recommended.

It's like the political opposition in this country has no say if their views contradict their own. Very scary.

Silence Dogood said...

Lamentably, like the fake news confrence foisted on the American public by FEMA during another national crisis, most people just don't care, However (as usual) you clearly state here what the real issues surrounding this story seem to be. I am amazed and disappointed by Bush's extreme lack of competence on interpretation of intelligence and manipulation of even adverse (to his wishes) intelligence reports, to plow onward with his conviction. He said he wouldn't let opinion polls change his course, O.K., but now, apparently not even actionable intelligence will swerve him from his "resoluteness" which now appears more like fanaticism and blind dogmatism. This was a horrible story and if the NIE is to be so flippantly discarded for the sake of personal peceptions (not backed by alternate sources mind you)then why waste billions upon billions of tax payer dollars on intelligence gathering??? Intelligence had been "wrong before" once when we decided to go into Iraq or take all sorts of other actions - was the thought, well intelligence has been wrong before, so whatever our intelligence sources tell us we should do just the opposite?

Gasp...sigh...we are the same public who decided to take the administration word for it that we were having a "jobless recovery," whoa! And now people are surprised by the dramatically decrease in the stability of the stock market - maybe because when it is "jobless" it's not really a "recovery," but I digress in a major way. Though it is very, very, very frustrating.

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