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December 04, 2007

Podhoretz Digests the NIE, Finds It Doesn't Agree

Posted by Damozel    | Once again, the trumpetings of the blow-hards from the far right have abruptly ended in a horrid sneering sour note as Norman Podhoretz and other hawks try to work out a way to prove they haven't in fact been wrong yet again. Will they ever learn to hold off their war dances and moderate their hawkish calls to arms till they have more reliable data than what the Bush Administration is telling them?  And will the hawks ever learn that distortions, misrepresentations, palterings with the truth, exaggerations, and hyperbole when---as always occurs---they are finally revealed end up making you look like a liar?  Because it's not only their own credibility they damage. .

Anyone who reads closely or who has been following the news might well have concluded that Iran might certainly develop nuclear weaponry in the not-too-distance future even if it is not an imminent threat.  Exaggerating the imminence simply causes everyone who listened to you to discount even credible long-term threats

But the far right, which has been wrong on every material point since it first carried the Bush Administration on its collective shoulders to the White House, is so desperate to be proven right about something that it simply filters out any evidence that doesn't support its agenda.   And it goes on believing the Bush Administration, despite having been shown time and again that the Bush Administration is just as bent on being vindicated as its desperate enablers.  But by being so loudly, trumpetingly, blaringly wrong about so many things so much of the time the Right is soon going to have no credibility left.  That's not good.   Of course hostile regimes (which Iran certainly is) always present a danger to those to whom they're hostile and always require careful watching and, at the very least, adroit diplomacy. It's not good for anyone for the kernel of truth in some of the in-your-face foreign policy 'insights' of the Bush Administration's enablers to get thrown out with all the nonsensical, self-serving chaff. 

Here's Podhoretz acknowledging that the NIE has "just dealt a serious blow to the argument some of us have been making that Iran is intent on building nuclear weapons and that neither diplomacy nor sanctions can prevent it from succeeding."(Dark Suspicions about the NIE)   Because Podhoretz, being a 'pundit,' can't just say, "Good news!  Iran's perhaps not nearly so much an IMMINENT danger as we all thought!" as you or I would do.   Instead---having swallowed the Bush Administration's rhetoric hook, line, and sinker----Podhoretz and other extremists must now cast doubt on the credibility of the report that cast doubt on theirs.

These findings are startling, not least because in key respects they represent a 180-degree turn from the conclusions of the last NIE on Iran’s nuclear program. For that one, issued in May 2005, assessed “with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons” and to press on “despite its international obligations and international pressure.”

In other words, a full two years after Iran supposedly called a halt to its nuclear program, the intelligence community was still as sure as it ever is about anything that Iran was determined to build a nuclear arsenal. Why then should we believe it when it now tells us, and with the same “high confidence,” that Iran had already called a halt to its nuclear-weapons program in 2003? Similarly with the intelligence community’s reversal on the effectiveness of international pressure. In 2005, the NIE was highly confident that international pressure had not lessened Iran’s determination to develop nuclear weapons, and yet now, in 2007, the intelligence community is just as confident that international pressure had already done the trick by 2003.

I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view (including as is evident from the 2005 NIE, within the intelligence community itself) that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons.

I also suspect that, having been excoriated as well for minimizing the time it would take Saddam to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal, the intelligence community is now bending over backward to maximize the time it will take Iran to reach the same goal. But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again.
(Dark Suspicions about the NIE)   

Jesus H., just give it up.   That's an argument that swallows itself.   If the "'intelligence community" is as corrupt and partisan as all that, Norm, then neither you nor the Bush Administration have a scintilla of reliable evidence for your positions either.  Why not listen to the senior military officials who recently were quoted as saying that military action against Iran is not currently necessary?  Note that all of them conceded that Iran requires both careful watching and what I'll call vigorous diplomacy; they just didn't feel the time had come for air strikes.

This is what happens when pundits are partisans:  at the end of the day, they undermine not only their own reputation for being wise and impartial commentators on the facts, but also the facts themselves.  If Podhoretz is correct and the "intelligence community" can't be relied upon to provide intelligence because they too are partisan, there isn't a fact anywhere in sight.  And if there are no facts on which we can rely to guide our actions, then the best action for the nation is no action till we get information that is reliable.  Going after Iran under those circumstances is simply madness.

When all the information one gets is filtered through one source or another, it's hard---or rather, impossible---to know who has the correct story.  But precedent shows that the Bush Administration's propensity to gamble US lives and resources for huge but hazily and misleadingly articulated stakes.  So when the Bush Administration speaks, a prudent Republican or Democrat should have learned by now to listen with a degree of skepticism and to demand more data before agreeing to commit the nation to further military adventures.

So anyway, here's where I stand based on what I know or "know," which is only the information I've been given:  The reality is that Iran is and will remain a threat to US interests until such time as international diplomacy finds an effective way to deal with it.  To recognize this is simply common sense.   And here's where I stand based on what I believe (which is based on my understanding of history and my personal and religious biases):  To respond to any threat with military action unless there is really NO OTHER CHOICE is a misuse of the military and a waste of resources; and, in addition, a tactic which history shows over and over will eventually undermine the nation's ability to use any other means to achieve its ends..

2wheels (photo, "Spinning Wheels," by Felice*)

Podhoretz's spinning and via Memeorandum, check out Shaun Mullen at The Moderate Voice (Bomb Bomb Iran. Oh, Wait a Minute!)Cernig at The Newshoggers  (Neocons Climb Into A Black Helicopter)Booman at Booman Tribune (What the Loss of Iran as Bogeyman Means);  Joe Klein at Swampland (Norman is Disappointed);  Dr. Steven Taylor at Poliblog (On the NIE);  and---for fun---The Heretik (More Than Centrifuges Now Spin)

Memeorandum on Podhoretz here.

BN-Politics used the photograph(s) in this post under a Creative Commons license that allows commercial use and sharing. Before copying the photo(s), follow the link to the owner's page and consult the licensing terms.  Photo ownersdo NOT necessarily endorse views  expressed in this post.


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