Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Politics of the National Intelligence Estimate

John Bolton has a great essay today at the Washington Post, which points out the deep flaws in NIE Iran report. The article's worth a good read, but I wanted to cite the final conclusion here:

...many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as "intelligence judgments."

That such a flawed product could emerge after a drawn-out bureaucratic struggle is extremely troubling. While the president and others argue that we need to maintain pressure on Iran, this "intelligence" torpedo has all but sunk those efforts, inadequate as they were. Ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.
These are points I stressed in my earlier posts on the NIE, here and here. I'm especially bothered by Iran's new bellicosity this week, which puts the lie, in my opinion, to the benign image of Iran that's being bandied about by the media and left-wing Bush-bashers.

Let me also point readers to an awesome post over at Falling Panda, "
News From Iran Shows Bush Doctrine Works." The author, Dan Joseph, really did a comprehensive analysis of both the domestic and international influences and consequences surrounding the NIE:

For several years now we have heard conspiracy theories floated by Iraq war opponents everywhere that the Bush administration had pretty much settled on attacking Iran. To hear them tell it, it wasn't simply going to be a strategic bombing of the rogue nation's nuclear facilities, but rather an all-out, Iraq-style, ground war.

Of course, there is no evidence that the administration was planning such an attack. But with the mission in Iraq going badly, it was political rhetoric which succeeded in making the far-left and the Democratic base hate the president even more and unite the left around the idea that a war against Iran was inevitable unless John Edwards or some other far-left dove was brought in immediately to stop it.

Now, keep in mind: all of this fear-mongering of another Bush war came against the backdrop of an Iran which most believed was in the process of (or close to being in the process of) building a nuclear weapon. Despite the obvious danger of such a prospect, the left showed that they were far more concerned with an imperialist America actually using its military than they were of a radical Islamic nation with a nuke.

Now a new NIE intelligence estimate tells us that Iran halted their development of nuclear weapons in 2003.

The left seized on this finding immediately and pointed to it as evidence that the Bush administration over-hyped the threat posed by Iran, with the goal of bringing us into another war. We've come to expect this type of knee-jerk reaction from the tin-foil hat crowd and Bush haters, but as is usual these days, on matters of foreign policy the opposition let their mouths get a couple steps ahead of their brains on this one.

Read the whole thing. Joseph's piece is a classic. I especially like this part:

I shouldn't even have to point out that those who are trying to score political points off of this NIE report are the same folks who have been calling the President a liar or implying that he misled the nation in the lead up to the Iraq war.
Bingo! Not only does the report embolden Iran, it has inflamed the intemperate, ill-informed anti-Bush attacks across the web.


UPDATE: Today's Christian Science Monitor includes an article with an eye-opening title, "Iran's Nuclear Know-How Unimpeded."