The National Intelligence Estimate
Pajamas Media has a link to what the NIE really said: In From the Cold has obtained portions of the NIE and notes it lists out the both the successes and failures of the War on Terror. And the successes are quite numerous, though the NYT failed to mention them. For example, U.S.-led efforts have “seriously damaged Al Qaida leadership and disrupted its operations” and “progress toward pluralism and more responsive political systems in the Muslim world will eliminate many of the grievances jihadists exploit.” Readers should, as they say, read the whole thing.
One scientist studying life on Mars remarked that the real bombshell would be if investigations showed there had never been life on the Red Planet. A negative result would raise deeper questions about the conditions under which life arose than a mere finding that life was relatively commonplace throughout the Solar System. For the same reasons it would have been absolutely astounding to discover an NIE with only debits on the balance sheet. That would have been the exceptional result.
But just as the supporters of the war cannot expect to find a war effort without blemish, critics of the war probably cannot to hope for one without achievement. A nonpartisan assessor might probably ask, what did we do right? What did we do wrong? What can we do better? But that would imply a common purpose. And that may come one day; it may just take a little time, like everything else.