Monday, February 02, 2004
I'm starting to really worry about paranoia.
Take a look at the latest from Michael Ledeen at NRO.
We are approaching the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, and we are past the anniversary of the re-introduction of weapons inspectors into the country. There are no substantial signs whatsoever that Iraq had a functioning nuclear weapons program - certainly nothing on the scale of, say, Libya or even Saudi Arabia, to say nothing of Iran or North Korea. Not only that, there are no substantial signs of a large-scale biological weapons program. David Kay, whom Ledeen calls a "good man" and someone he "like[s] a lot" has testified that Iraq had essential nothing in the way of weapons of mass destruction, and no prospect of getting any in the short term. Were we bluffed? Was Saddam himself bluffed? Still worth debating. Were the weapons there? Not worth debating anymore.
Before the war, we heard a lot about clientitis in the State Department and inertia at the CIA. We heard, from Ledeen and others, that career men in these departments were unwilling to bring forth intelligence that would be used to justify military action, and therefore deliberately sabotaged policy. Precisely because of this presumed bias, Cheney and Rumsfeld authorized the creation of an alternative intelligence shop that would evaluate the same source material as the CIA had, but in the "correct" way - giving more weight to allegations by dissidents and defectors, less weight to other, contrary intelligence.
Before the war, I thought there was probably a grain of truth to these stories. But how can I believe that anymore? The CIA wasn't wrong because they were suppressing evidence of WMD production and collaboration with terrorists. They were wrong because they over-estimated these threats - reasonably, given their pre-1991 failures, but wrongly.
But Ledeen can't help himself. He had a "good person" ready to take Kay to an underground lab from which enriched uranium was transferred to Iran. Kay was intrigued, but the CIA, according to Ledeen, stonewalled. No follow-up. Mysteriously, no one could be bothered to investigate evidence of actions that formed the key basis for American foreign policy.
What are we supposed to make of this story? Just how vast is this conspiracy to cover up the truth about Iraq's weapons programs? Just how perfidious are the enemies of our country ensconced in the State Department and the CIA - so perfidious that they would willingly destroy America's foreign policy rather than give the neo-cons the satisfaction of being right?
This paranoia is worse than unbecoming. It is dangerous. America's credibility is already in a parlous state because we justified the Iraq war on the basis of lousy intelligence made more lousy by an over-aggressive sales job. The utter unwillingness on the part of the war's chief advocates to reevalute the sources who were pitching them this stuff is making our credibility problem much, much worse. And the consequence of that credibility problem is that next time we won't be able to act preemptively, when we need to do so.