Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Now you see it, now you don't

Matthew Yglesias quotes Barack Obama as saying:

By reporting that Iran halted its nuclear weapon development program four years ago because of international pressure, the new National Intelligence Estimate makes a compelling case for less saber-rattling and more direct diplomacy. The juxtaposition of this NIE with the president's suggestion of World War III serves as an important reminder of what we learned with the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: members of Congress must carefully read the intelligence before giving the President any justification to use military force.

Yglesias comments:

There's a very subtle dig here at Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, noting that both of them, unlike you or I or Barack Obama, had access to the classified version of the 2002 NIE on Iraq, a document that debunked substantial elements of the administration's case for war, but which neither Clinton nor Edwards (nor a great many other members of congress) bothered to read before voting to authorize the use of force.

But what would they have read in the earlier report? Norman Podhoretz describes what is publicly known.



This latest NIE “judges with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”; it “judges with high confidence that the halt was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work” ... 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.”

What changed the picture was new information, not the fact that people had developed better habits at reading NIEs. The content of the current NIE was different from the content of the old NIE. The AFP reports:

President George W. Bush said Tuesday that a "great discovery" as recently as August prompted the US intelligence community's stunning reversal of its long-held view that Iran had an active nuclear weapons program.

Bush provided no details on the nature of the new intelligence, which set off an in-depth intelligence review of the evidence and assumptions that underpinned a 2005 assessment, which had held with "high confidence" that Iran was determined to acquire nuclear weapons.

Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, came to Bush in August and said: "We have some new information."

"He didn't tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze," Bush said at a White House news conference in describing the encounter.

Granting that the "new information" actually exists and the intelligence process hasn't been corrupted to the point where information is custom-manufactured to suit a political agenda, revising an estimate is exactly what analysts should do when in possession of new facts. In other words, if we grant Mike McConnell the benefit of the doubt with respect to his integrity, revising the estimate is what his duties compelled him to do.

The deeper question, one raised by Norman Podhoretz and Michael Ledeen at Pajamas, is whether the "new information" isn't politically driven or otherwise invalid. I obviously can't say. What is known from the press, however, suggests that the information is "new information" come to light only in August, "great discovery" of such detail that it "was going to take a while to analyze".

What does this suggest?

In intelligence analysis information is not only examined for comprehension but for reliability and credibility. In other words the intelligence community going to look at how credible this "new information" is and which parts, if any, are believable. Apparently the initial take gives them "great confidence". But it's always good to remember that only a few years earlier they had "great confidence" that the opposite was true.

And then there is the question of interpretation. Israeli intelligence believes that the Iranian nuclear weapons program stopped for a while, then it got going again.

In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "it's apparently true" that Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program in 2003. "But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Barak told Army Radio. "There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."

"Only time will tell who is right," is a charming way to put it. That puts me in mind of song about finding out if something is there or not by waiting to see what happens.

My Bonny peered into the gas tank
The heart of its contents to see.
I lighted a match to assist her,
Oh bring back my Bonny to me.

Leaving aside questions of intelligence corruption, failure etc, partisan politics by looking for consistency in estimates has damaged the way the public should look at intelligence. The intelligence picture changes all the time. Any student of military history knows that grease pencils are used on map overlays because information is constantly updated. Initial reports are often inaccurate. Corrections are messaged in. If battle maps were treated like NIEs they would be inked into the map itself instead of marked in grease pencil on plastic overlays. A politician's idea of a battlefield situation map would be one with enemy formations already typeset into the printing plates before being issued to the troops.

There are many reasons to be concerned about recent changes in the NIE estimate, though sadly, few of them have been raised by the politcians. The first is: how could the intelligence community have been so wrong? A revision of this magnitude indicates a blind spot or inadequacy which needs to be addressed. Any manager faced with the prospect of having to revise his balance sheet 180 degrees around would probably ask his accounting department how such a thing could happen. The second question is if the same standards of reliability failed so miserably in detecting what is now regarded as wrong information in the past, then how can we be so sure of it's ability to judge new information now? Think of it: politicians are quite ready to believe as gospel truth statements the diametrical opposite of statements made by the same intelligence agencies. Would they be ready to believe a new estimate that flipped 180 degrees again if newer information became available in a few weeks time? I would, if I had confidence in the process. If not, I'd be looking to fix the process. These are the questions I'm interested in, though like the rest of the public, I'll have to live another 10 years before I read about the explanation in one of Bob Woodward's books. That's where the truth eventually winds up doesn't it? Doesn't it?

59 Comments:

Blogger 49erDweet said...

Sometimes. But not always.

The greater question is well-phrased: "Would they be ready to believe a new estimate that flipped 180 degrees again if newer information became available in a few weeks time?" And the answer is --------"Of course not! It's not the answer they wanted.

Cheers

12/04/2007 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

We need a constitutional provision allowing the Executive Branch's Intelligence advisors to "Revise and Extend" their remarks and statements any damn time they feel like it.

Oh, yeah, and absolute protection and indemnification from being held responsible for the truth or verifiability of their statements.

Just like congresscritters currently enjoy.

12/04/2007 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

What I find interesting is the internal political dynamics in Iran. Who wanted to freeze the program? And who was arguing against? And who was the great decider of the case?

It could have been fear of the US that motivated the freezing. But if it was, the "nuclear freeze" party wouldn't argue that way directly because it could be used against them by their political enemies. I think the uncovering of their secret program around that time was used as the reason. They'd want to plug the leaks before proceeding. And who got blamed for the betrayal?

Also, they probably teamed up with North Korea and Syria and hoped to finesse a few bombs through that association. If the US attacked Iran in the meantime, they could play the victim.

Perhaps in August a segment of the Regime made a secret deal with the US. They could have offered the information to prove good faith. That's something for President Ahmadinejad of Iran to think about--he may have a large part of the governing elite cutting their own deals. Maybe that's why he called his opponents "nuclear traitors" and canned Larijani. Hey, maybe he knows where of he speaks. (Also, it could be the Iranian military not wanting to commit mass suicide for the guy.)

If the NIE is true, it must have the Iranians scratching their heads. If it's not true they're still scratching their heads. I know I'm scratching mine.

12/04/2007 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I'll deduce from the structure of the result that the NIE estimate was sensitive to a very few variables, none of them easily observable. If the estimate were founded on a large number of relevant datapoints you could never have a 180 flip unless the universe changed. For example, if you were flying to the North Pole by dead reckoning and found yourself reaching Antarctica instead, maybe your compass was broken. But if you were following landmarks, going past Canada and then suddenly you were in Antarctica then the whole frigging map was wrong, which is much more unlikely. Or if you like another example, it is not very surprisng to find an army to your front had moved this way or that in the night since last you checked. But to find it totally to your rear or in another continent means some broad mismeasurement has been going on.

So I'm guessing that a big swing like this means they now have a source they didn't have on certain subjects that are absolutely critical to making the estimate. Read it one way and the Iranians "are go" read it another way and the Iranians are "no go".

I don't want to make too much of it, but following that line of reasoning you would really start to worry because your intel is therefore narrowly based. What you want right away is collateral. But what if you can't get collateral because of the data depends on one or two things, like what the leadership decided or didn't decide in secret? Then you are at the mercy of the accuracy of your narrow source.

12/04/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I should have been more obvious in making ironical statements about Bob Woodward. I don't think he tells the whole truth either. Some things never become clearer with the passage of time. They just become less important.

There's the idea that the "truth is out there"; that some human being, like Howard Hunt, Cord Meyer or a Dallas police officer, knew who was on the "Grassy Knoll". Sometimes I wonder whether anyone knows the whole truth.

12/04/2007 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Andy Johnson said...

Expecting members of Congress to read -ALL- the words is a foolish goal. They hire staff to read written words. They hire staff to write words that they say.

Most of the laws are written by NGO's who use no letterhead, undated, unsigned, unidentified format on cheap paper to show the staff how its done.

A simple comprehension test should be administered on every bill over 10 pages long. Those who pass can vote. Those who fail have to take the test again and again...

This latest NIE is another attack by the CIA on the Presidency. The CIA wants to run the Executive and manipulate the Congress. It's easier than actually finding people who will betray their country.

The CIA is filled with people "having a career"... Doing the job may jeopardize the career.

12/04/2007 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Dewage said...

Wretchard said:
So I'm guessing that a big swing like this means they now have a source they didn't have on certain subjects that are absolutely critical to making the estimate.

Misinformation or a double-agent could be a factor, too. There was that Iraqi nutcase "Cueball" who conviced the whole world there were nukes in Iraq, for example.

And what does it mean to "stop developement" anyway? It's 5pm and I stopped eating four hours ago -- but I also know I'll be eating again in two hours.

The U.S.'s Manhattan Project was huge and well hidden. Why can't some petty piracy with lots of oil money do the same thing? And a bigger question is if he was monitoring the U.S. the way he's monitored Iraq and Iran, when would ElBaradei admit that the U.S.'s nuclear development was irreversable? The day before the test? The day after? Sometime in the 52 years since Nagasaki?

12/04/2007 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger agmartin said...

So Iran may have halted its nuclear program in late 2003. IIRC Libya ended its program and the cover was blown on Khan's nuclear proliferation network about the same time. Could these events be connected?

12/04/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Whenever we have a space launch failure we have to not only figure out what went wrong and why but also why our policies, procedures, and even basic philosophies failed to detect the problem in advance. The technical part of the failure is the easy part to identify and fix.

In some cases, such as the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, the failures of the management system were so terrible that a real house-cleaning is required. But a mental house cleaning was too hard to do, unthinkable, in fact.

It is astonishing how the real, basic, root causes of failures are almost Never addressed. At best, quiet changes are made that ultimately cause sweeping course revisions, with the real reasons never ever even stated. This allows people to continue along with their basic beliefs unchanged, convinced that they “just got unlucky once” or “it’s all whatshisname’s fault.” At worst, people continue along their old paths, as happened with the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Basic, systemic, philosophical failures are almost never ever fixed. It’s easier to just fail again, or wait until most people retire.

12/04/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

So I'm guessing that a big swing like this means they now have a source they didn't have on certain subjects that are absolutely critical to making the estimate. Read it one way and the Iranians "are go" read it another way and the Iranians are "no go".

Paging General Asgari to the white courtesy telephone.

One simple question:

How is it that we are supposed to trust any information obtained through any means at all related to one of America's absolute worst enemies for nearly the past three decades?

One word: taqiyya.

In the current political climate there is such enormous pressure to discredit Bush (read: BDS), that there is little credibility that can be given to such profound reversals of position. Even the Arab appeaser, Condi Rice, is saying that easing any pressure in Iran would be a "big mistake".

How is any of this supposed to reconcile?

Furthermore, examine the penalties of being wrong. If we trust that Tehran is telling the truth and then are suddenly confronted with a nuclear armed Iran, who is to blame?

If we go in and cripple their nuclear R&D effort now and find out later that bomb building had indeed ceased, what significant loss will there have been? Even in the most mistaken possible case, Iran is still punished for its history of terrorist sponsorship and constant belligerence in the MME (Muslim Middle East). How is that not a win?

Given that Iran has made Herculean efforts to conceal, harden and dissemble about the extent of their nuclear R&D facilities, we would be absolute fools to take them at their word right now. The penalties for being wrong are simply prohibitive.

Even if Iran were to open the doors of their facilities for direct inspection by US military advisors, how could we possibly know that these are, in fact, all of the sites that they have actually built? This is where Iran and other Islamic countries must begin to reap the bitter harvest of having practiced taqiyya.

Allowing oneself the religiously sanctioned right to lie, cheat and steal in the name of advancing one's theocratic ideology banishes any possibility of suddenly reversing the erosion of credibility imposed by such deceit and perfidy. None of this even takes into account the ulterior motives of domestic agencies in thwarting current republican agendas, nor does it adequately address why anyone should be quick to trust those who have clamored for America's death all these long years.

12/04/2007 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Chavo said...

IF this report is true, I'm wondering if this might be "a little side step" on Irans part. Ahmadinajad's constant sputtering about the destruction of Israel, shutting down their nuclear program in 2003, while still producing (or trying to produce fissile material), moving it to Syria, while Iran and Syria convertly try to figure out how to assemble a bomb. I remember reading recently that the Syrian reactor site wasn't a reactor at all, but a bomb assembly plant. Was this the information the US received from the Israeli's that instigated a review of what the IC knew?

Just wonderin'

12/04/2007 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Dewage said...

The U.S.'s Manhattan Project was huge and well hidden. Why can't some petty piracy with lots of oil money do the same thing?
12/04/2007 05:09:00 PM
///////////////////////
Actually this statement is not even wrong.

Its off the map.

And therefor it may point to the truth of the matter.

The Russians had so completely penetrated the Manhattan project that they were getting reports on the project from more than a dozen sources. They were getting designs for the bomb almost as fast as US designers. When Stalin met with Truman he was not only thoroughly abreast of the Bomb developments but he also knew in detail what American positions were as to the disposition of postwar Europe from high level Americans in the state department spying on behalf of the Soviet Union.

It was this incredible penetration the US government that McCarthy was referring to eight years later--or in about the time frame that we might talk about the Clintons taking money from the Chicoms.

By the time McCarthy got around to talking about the spies--they had mostly stepped out of government;

Still it was knowledge of the Venona cables which confirmed russian spying that destroyed the Phillip Graham the husband of Catherine Graham editor of the washington post.

12/04/2007 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

Here's what doesn't make sense to me:

Exhibit A: The richest country in the world, with the largest defense budget and the largest intelligence budget on the planet by a factor of five or more.

Exhibit B: A part of the world where bribery is so endemic as to impoverish entire countries, where basically everyone and his uncle is for sale and resale on a daily basis.

So how come the US can't find the human intelligence it needs, in what should be the easiest part of the world in which to attain this objective???

12/04/2007 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So then, there's a possibility Saddam was lying about his program to freak out Iran, and Iran was lying about its program to freak out Saddam, and the U.S. will have to blow both of them up just to make sure that both were lying and not fudging. It does have a certain symmetry, and the word "nemesis" floats forward in the conscience.

12/04/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Nomenklatura said:

"So how come the US can't find the human intelligence it needs, in what should be the easiest part of the world in which to attain this objective???"

What do you do if you bribe 20 Iranian informers and get 20 wildly different answers?

12/04/2007 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

It is worth reading the whole 9 pages of the declassified NIE report.

First, the report describes the exquisitely bureaucratic processes the 16 agencies went through in writing the report. There's that sinking feeling!

Then there is this wonderful part about their private definitions for words that are in common usage:

"Because analytical judgments are not certain, we use probabilistic language to reflect the Community’s estimates of the likelihood of developments or events. Terms such as probably, likely, very likely, or almost certainly indicate a greater than even chance. The terms unlikely and remote indicate a less then even chance that an event will occur; they do not imply that an event will not occur." [Emphasis added].

Now that we know "almost certainly" is spook-talk for better than 50/50 chance, are we happy to live in a world where Iran has "almost certainly" not restarted its nuclear weapons program?

12/04/2007 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Charles said:

"The Russians had so completely penetrated the Manhattan project that they were getting reports on the project from more than a dozen sources."

Soviets had penetrated almost everything of military value during the Cold War. Read up on the following spies:

Julius Rosenberg
John Walker
Robert Hanssen
Aldrich Ames
Christopher Boyce

The Soviets made complete fools out of us. Why did we bother making anything classified? Supposably the Chinese government knows ***everything*** about our recent nuclear weapon designs. Someone (not yet caught) spelled the beans on everything.

It's a miracle that we survived the Cold War.

12/04/2007 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Yes likely Gen Asgari came across with a whole lotta documents. He might be legit. The documents might be legit. Or they might not. He might not.

How do you know?

You can't ... unless the information is something you want to believe in. Like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

If you want to REALLY believe that all problems are solved by talking really really fast like an Aaron Sorkin show (while striding around looking important) ... well this NIE is for you.

If you doubt the hard men in Tehran who made their careers by ordering or carrying out executions (or both) ... will just fold up their tents by talking, you might want something else.

Obama is a fool. So is this NIE. You can quote Mr. T on that one.

12/04/2007 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Some the answers to the questions don't probably don't lie in Teheran at all but in Washington. In situations where too much error exists in the admitted variables, we must exclude the variables. That's to say, we have to become far more modest about what we can confidently say about the subject.

I think all we can really be sure of at this point is that Teheran wants a nuclear weapon and has taken steps to acquire it; and that given a chance it will eventually get it. This, I think, is safe ground. Go any further into specifics and a morass awaits. The safe way forward is to base policy on that unexceptionable premise. All the rest, for me, is a maybe.

12/04/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger amr said...

There has been no mention of a connection to the disappearance of Iranian Gen. Ali Reza Asgari from Turkey in February of this year that I found other than here (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3422381,00.html). General Asgari was reportedly very well connected and knowledgeable of Iran’s military establishment. If he defected to the US or Israel, his information could have taken some time to crosscheck, thus taking until August to confirm it sufficiently to warrant a NIE which contradicted the previous intelligence estimate.

According to Powerline, “ The proper way to read this report is through the lens of the long struggle the professional intelligence community has been waging against the elected civilian administration in Washington. They have opposed President Bush on nearly every major policy decision. They were against the Iraqi National Congress. They were against elections in Iraq. They were against I. Lewis Libby. They are against a tough line on Iran”. Also a Mr. Vann Van Diepen is one of the estimate's main authors, who has spent the last five years trying to get America to accept Iran's right to enrich uranium.

I am of the opinion that the public releasing of the NIE was necessary due to the previous leaks to the NYT probably from the intelligence community, but I would assume the decision to release this information was not done lightly due to the impact on President Bush’s already low creditability among most in the media and a large segment of our citizenry. Such a concern would be justified based on today’s MSM reports and questions at the news conference.

12/04/2007 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

So how come the US can't find the human intelligence it needs, in what should be the easiest part of the world in which to attain this objective???

Are you joking? First off, Arabic and Farsi speakers loyal to the USA are rare as hen's teeth. Second, just as with how consanguineous marriage is used to shore up family security, so do terrorist organizations in particular and the entire MME (Muslim Middle East) political structure in general rely rather heavily upon familial ties.

Read up on high context cultures if you are unfamiliar with the subject. Many people in low context America simply cannot wrap their minds around the yawning gulf that divides Muslim and Western culture.

Exactly ALL of this militates against obtaining reliable information, especially about the very most sensitive miltary or organizational pursuits of Muslim majority nations.

Finally, as I mentioned before, if you toss in taqiyya and kitman, all bets are off with respect to getting the least sort of verifiable hard data out of these places. This is why I make note of how Islam needs a real whipping over its reliance upon taqiyya. It is a moral and ethical crime of staggering proportions to demand that all others play fair while you yourself break every rule in the book.

Islam cannot be trusted with a fountain pen much less nuclear weapons or even negotiation about them. Negotiations mean nothing to people for whom they do not exist. Hudna is all that there is in the MME and woe the fool who thinks any Islamic country will keep its word about anything. One merely need look at the diplomatic three-card-monty that ElBaradei has so capably assisted Iran with to know that Muslims will do anything to thwart the West at all turns.

12/04/2007 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

We still have the issue of what we should do about it. No matter how good we think this report is, there will always be some level of uncertainty. There is at least some likelihood that we are being played -- either by the Iranians or our own intelligence groups or even the Administration. It seems to me that the sensible thing to do is respond to known motives rather than known capabilities. Iran is an enemy and should be treated as such. I don't think we're going to turn them into bosom buddies by anything the State Department can do.

12/04/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

What is abundantly clear is that Iran has been covertly building a nuclear infrastructure for decades. Anyone who believes that Iran has only peaceful intentions should ask why they have hidden this work for so long in violation of international law. We are in a bad spot with this, Iran is determined to eventually become a nuclear power and we can't make up our minds to stop them. We shall therefore have to wait until they USE a weapon against someone and only then stop them at a terrible cost.

12/04/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

eggplant said...

Soviets had penetrated almost everything of military value during the Cold War.
//////////////////
There was a break of 20 years in the USA for about two decades from the early 50's to the early 70's.

I think that McCarthy actually succeeded. There are no reports of USA spies during this period. (Though there were a few brits lefts over from the 30's in 40's spy rings.)

The russians came back in force during the 1970's, but the americans recruited at this time on were motivated by money or cussedness and not ideology.

However, Russian technology thieving habits may have actually led to the undoing of the soviet union starting in 1980..

William Safire tells the story brilliantly and briefly here.

12/04/2007 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Nomenklatura said...
Exhibit B: A part of the world where bribery is so endemic as to impoverish entire countries, where basically everyone and his uncle is for sale and resale on a daily basis.

So how come the US can't find the human intelligence it needs, in what should be the easiest part of the world in which to attain this objective???

NahnCee said...

So then, there's a possibility Saddam was lying about his program to freak out Iran, and Iran was lying about its program to freak out Saddam, and the U.S. will have to blow both of them up just to make sure that both were lying and not fudging. It does have a certain symmetry, and the word "nemesis" floats forward in the conscience.
/////////////////
The paradox has been put several ways.

A man says:"Everything I say is a lie."

And then he says: "I'm lying."

Pontius Pilot put it this way: "What is truth?"

There is a great blessing that has come to us through the crucifixion of God's Son as payment for our sins--so that each of us who accepts God's Son can be reconciled to God--and God to that person....

12/04/2007 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Alcee Hastings (D-Fl) Resigns From House Intelligence Panel

12/04/2007 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

Nevertheless, Iran still has 3000 centrifuges as confirmed by the IAEA. They claim they are trying to work their way towards a number an order of magnitude higher. Certainly this qualifies as dual use technology? They are in underground facilities as confirmed by Iranian accounts and commercial satellite imagery that I imagine we have all seen. With some degree of OPSEC, it should be almost impossible to ascertain whether the cascade is being used for peaceful use or making bomb grade uranium.

I'm trying hard to determine some possible scenarios. I have come up with three:

1. The Iranian nuke program is utterly incompetent and broken. A-i-N is not only bluffing the world, but lying to the Ayatollahs to avoid shame. Bush did the trade-off analysis and figured that even though changing the NIE would hurt him politically, driving a wedge between A-i-N and the Ayatollahs justified the damage. Based on what we know about Nasser's ICBM program and Saddam's nuke program and the culture, I assign this a medium probability.

2. The Iranian nuke program is maskirovka, either a front or a red herring to hide something nastier. I assign this a low probability. The probability that Iran has discovered some weird physics weaponry is vanishingly small. A bioweapon using a particularly clever vector and/or a difficult to manufacture vaccine (e.g. one that Iran has, but would be very hard for anyone to develop without special knowledge) is a slight possibility.

3. The intel community is spreading disinformation to either discredit Bush, bluff the Iranians into some desired action, protect some incredibly valuable source or method, etc. I have now ventured into Angleton's "wilderness of mirrors." Your guess is as good as mine as to the probability.

12/04/2007 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

Charles,

I find Safire's account hard to swallow for several reasons.

1. It was the GRU, not the KGB that was responsible for technical collection.

2. Designing, fabbing, testing, and de-bugging custom chips (ASICs) is not an easy task. Perhaps there was firmware in the controller ROM that over rode the user programmed instructions?

3. The Soviets had a pretty good record of blowing stuff up without CIA intervention. The N-1 moon rocket, Chernobyl, the Kursk and the Nedelin Disaster all come to mind.

Occam's Razor sez: Soviet incompetence.

12/04/2007 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

What people seem to be missing in focusing on the details of the new NIE is that this document represents a fundamental shift in the US position vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program. Previously the US said that it would not allow Iran to develop the capacity to enrich Uranium or create Plutonium even for peaceful goals because the difference between a nuclear program destined to create electricity and one intended to create weapons was too small to control.

Of course there was little, to no, legal basis for this policy; every country has the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful means. But the US policy was based on the reality that there was no effective way to stop a country that has mastered nuclear energy from developing a weapons capability. Since the policy was not based on legal principles, it meant that only war would have ultimately stopped the Iranians from becoming a nuclear power.

But the interesting aspect of the new NIE is not the information contained within it. The US never really had good proof of a specific weapons program anyway. Instead the policy was that this didn’t matter and that any program of uranium enrichment was unacceptable. What is startling about the new NIE is that it makes such a sharp distinction between weapons programs and energy production programs. This is a major change in policy. The fact that there is no evidence of a weapons program is old news; the fact that the US is saying this fact matters is stunning.

This change in policy reflects an acceptance of reality by the Bush Administration after seven years of living in the clouds. It also represents Condoleezza Rice’s ultimate triumph over the hardliners within the Bush Administration. The tough approach to the NoKo’s failed catastrophically, even if now they are making noises about giving up nuclear weapons (as if!). In Iraq, the US did manage to free the Shia from Sunni hegemony but this just let them slip into Iran’s orbit. The Sunnis have managed to resist US attempts to impose its will on Sunnistan; this is best represented by the return to power of the same tribal structures that supported Saddam Hussein for so many years. And on the Iranian nuclear issue all the bluffing was getting nowhere and the military options were weak to non-existent, especially considering the number of US troops within easy retaliation

Bush’s desire to not be ranked in future history books as the worst President ever probably was the motivating factor to start negotiating with the Iranians. Iran could help calm down Iraq but the price would be US capitulation on the nuclear issue. Of course the dropping of sanctions would follow. Since ambiguity is part of the nuclear game, perhaps Iran has agreed to not openly test nuclear weapons once it does produce its first weapons.

But by focusing on the weapons aspect of Iran’s nuclear program the door is now open for a normalization of relations with Iran. And this means US companies will be in line for contracts in Iran. With many in the Bush Administration getting ready to transfer back to the private sector, many back into the oil industry, there should be plenty of fat contracts to be had if a normalization process with Iran picks up speed.

And Condoleezza Rice is going to be re-evaluated as perhaps one of the most effective heads of State ever.

12/05/2007 01:00:00 AM  
Blogger ledger said...

I believe the NIE report id due to partisan politics designed to hamstring Bush.

As Carl points out Iran still has a very heavy sunk cost to produce the A-bomb and it’s not going away by talk. They are going to use that sunk cost.

As Charles has noted hiding the Manhattan Project was a failure. Stalin knew all about it.

[Potsdam]

After President Harry S. Truman received word of the success of the Trinity Test, his need for the help of the Soviet Union in the war against Japan was greatly diminished. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, had promised to join the war against Japan by August 15th. Truman and his advisors now were not sure they wanted this help. If use of the atomic bomb made victory possible without an invasion, then accepting Soviet help would only invite them into the discussions regarding the postwar fate of Japan. During the second week of Allied deliberations at Potsdam, on the evening of July 24, 1945, Truman approached Stalin without an interpreter and, as casually as he could, told him that the United States had a "new weapon of unusual destructive force." Stalin showed little interest, replying only that he hoped the United States would make "good use of it against the Japanese." The reason for Stalin's composure became clear later: Soviet intelligence had been receiving information about the atomic bomb program since fall 1941.



See: Potsdam and the Final Decision



As for Obama bashing Hillary for taking a position on Iran, there has been word that Bush has communicated the dangers to Hillary and other Presidential candidates. The danger is there. Some candidates took the information as "real" and other did not. That’s probably why Obama is lashing out at Hillary.

[John of the Castle]

Some Dem candidate rhetoric has changed over time, and it was reported that President Bush had been talking to the candidates about that very issue - not painting themselves into corners - and, of course, now we have this...

[Question by mil blogger to the President]

"Mr. President, since you clearly see the war as necessary, and lasting beyond your administration, how do you set the conditions to ensure that the effort will continue beyond 2008, regardless of who wins the White House?"

His answer was along the lines I expected, and neutrally stated. Mr. Bush responded, "The private rhetoric of the occupant of the Oval Office may be much different from their public rhetoric once they have access to the information the President has access to." He added that "Iraq has asked for a permanent political, economic and military relationship with the US" which I took to mean that Mr. Bush would be putting formal relationships into place that would make it more difficult for his successor to just repudiate things
.

See: Following through, 50% down page

12/05/2007 01:43:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

The US never really had good proof of a specific weapons program anyway.

Not quite true. One specific facility has been identified that almost certainly points to atomic weapons research. I am no longer able to locate the aerial reconnaisance images of this Iranian facility from several years ago but it exhibited the classic spoked array of lengthy conduits radiating from a central open-air test site.

This is the structural signature of a high energy explosive test pit with its attendant triggering and monitoring channels extending to and from it. It is the typical design of a facility used for detonating and characterizing the precision lensing charges needed to implode a nuclear device.

There are no other similar test site layouts that this sort of facility can be confused with and it was in proximity to another hardened weapons research facility.

I have ZERO doubt that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. A peacetime electrical generation program would not be budgeted the immense and lavish overhead of purchasing multi-million dollar subway tunnel boring machines to create deeply buried underground processing and research sites. Nor would this serve to explain why nearly every major facility has been buried beneath substantial earthworks in order to provide hardening against attack.

It is these acts by Iran that constitute a self-admission of pursuing nuclear weapons. Considering the prospective penalties for ignoring such flagrant indications, the West would be insane to let such a concerted effort go unobstructed.

When Iran says "Death to America" it can mean only one thing and we are idiots not to believe them. It is long past tea to begin taking quite seriously even the most outlandish pronouncements by these Islamic madmen. We must do so even if it is only to show them how intolerable their constant saber-rattling is. No longer should these bellicose thugs and Muslim gangsters be given a pass when they vow to destroy us. Make them pay for every single threat they make so that they finally learn the virtue of silence.

12/05/2007 04:13:00 AM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

wow...

I am so relieved............

now that i know the iranians love us americans, israelis, jews & christians. (sunnis too)

I guess those statements, pronouncements and predictions by iran that israel will be wiped off the face of the earth, a world without america & other such grand concepts were all bluster...

I guess those 10,000 rockets that hezbollah has been restocked with contain rose petals

I guess those iranian students whose bodies hand from cranes as their bones are picked by vultures are happy now...

I guess that canadian-iranian women who was raped & murdered wil rest easy now that iran is as innocent as a new born baby...


Iran has lied for decades about it's nuke programs...

So why give them an ounce of slack?

Iran supports terror across the globe, nukes or no nukes...

If the report is correct fine... and yet Iran still doesnt not allow iaea inspections...

If the report is wrong who is threatened?

sunnis, israel, europe & russia.... and lastly the USA

I predict the truth is simplier than the left wishes to believe...

Iran is dangerous, with or without nukes, iran MURDERS anyone who gets in her way...

Mr Dinnerjacket? PERSONALLY has sent 100,000 iranian kids to their deaths as human mine sweepers....

Students in Iran are murdered

American Soldiers are killed by proxy

Israelis are hammered by rockets supplied and funded by iran

Hezbollah's arm is global BECAUSE iran wishes it so, (including being rearmed)

This report increases the chance for war, not decreases it...

watch for iran to RAISE it's international demands...

12/05/2007 04:48:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

El Baboso said...
Occam's Razor sez: Soviet incompetence.
////////////
Your call might be right. The Soviets were capable of incompetence. But none of your arguments goes against the basic outlines of the story.

1.)There was a major soviet gas pipeline that blew up in an explosion that could be seen from space.

2.)The USA put a bug in the software that the Russians stole--knowing the Russians would steal the software. The software was designed to regulate the flow of gas in the pipeline. The bug was designed to create the sort of explosion that could be seen from space.

3.)Think this caused some serious loss of confidence in the Soviet nomenclature. You bet. Probably Star Wars helped too.

That's the problem with Putin. He thinks the Russians can keep up the pace by just spying and selling oil.

The speed at which technological information becomes obsolete mitigates against the value of technological spying these days.

A country has to develop its own scientific & technological base and play the government/ university/corporate/entrpreneur game just as its played in the West.

btw Israel has learned how to do this --and is doing it very well.

Israeli companies are players in a large number of technological verticals these days.

This is as it should be.

12/05/2007 05:14:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

One last thing.

A lot of the price of oil is based on war risk--and specifically the risk of war with Iran.

This US intelligence estimate will likely pull that risk out of the price of oil.

This means that (when you include current saudi production increases) the price of oil could well fall by a third to a half.

12/05/2007 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

My bottom line is that we still owe Iran one for the hostage situation during Carter's reign. I'm not going to concern myself too much about whether they're buying nukes from North Korea, they bought information from Pakistan's Khan, or they're creating them from the sand up with their own little pink fingers. I think a nuke on Tehran would be a wonderful learning tool to get the attention of the Muslim mind.

And I tend to agree with Powerline that this current report was written and released by anti-Bush spooks within the DC bureaucracy, possibly in collusion with the NY Times. Be nice if we could nuke and clean out some of the different "intelligence" agencies, too.

12/05/2007 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger Carl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/05/2007 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger Carl said...

Charles said...

This means that (when you include current saudi production increases) the price of oil could well fall by a third to a half.

Actually, removal of the fear of major action against Iran could cause a crash in oil prices to a very low level considering the low cost of production and the expected slowing of demand in the West and China due to economic contraction caused by the credit crisis.

12/05/2007 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Falling gas prices are hard to run against in an election year.

12/05/2007 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Carl said...
considering the low cost of production and the expected slowing of demand in the West and China due to economic contraction caused by the credit crisis.
//////////
high oil prices also typically slow industrial economies.

12/05/2007 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Its worth noting that two of the many soviet spies inside the manhattan project, Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, were responsible for Russia's silicon valley in the 1960's.

Like many others they left the US in 1948 when the first spying revelations came out. A similiar scenario occured during the Clinton when many Clinton supporters left the USA after reports came out of chinese spying.

12/05/2007 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

The new intelligence estimate may reflect a different way to judge information as set down by American intelligence agencies according to the Washington Post
Lessons of Iraq Aided Intelligence On Iran

Buried in the story above is a slightly more open assessment of sources. This is something that really goes against the grain of spook culture. But the Iraq intelligence failures were not something that anyone wanted to replicate.

I am swinging around away from the rogue agency idea. There's too many hands in this.

This is really important stuff from intelligence agencies. To measure the new intelligence procedures it may be helpful to look at the first big intelligence estimates of the cold war in the late 1940's from the NSA based on the Venona cables. The way the information was released was so badly botched that the political and cultural damage is still with the USA to this day. I tell the story here

12/05/2007 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Israel doesn't agree, and I tend to trust their intel more.

12/05/2007 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

exhelodrvr1 said...

Israel doesn't agree, and I tend to trust their intel more.
////////////////
even if the Iranian stopped bomb making they could still restart production again once bush is out of office. As early as 04 they were talking about just outwaiting Bush.

So even if the Israelis are wrong -- they're right.

but for now the can has been kicked down the road.

this could mean more or less trouble down the road. which is it? beats me.

12/05/2007 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Charles,
"this could mean more or less trouble down the road. which is it?"

I think that depends on what happens internally in Iran.

12/05/2007 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/05/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

12/05/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger geoffb said...

The NIE seems to me to be about weapons development programs. There are two flavors to nuclear weapon programs. Plutonium weapons and U-235 weapons.

Plutonium can be extracted from spent fuel rods of a reactor, designed and run produce plutonium, by chemical means. Plutonium weapons however are difficult to develop as they require the lensing explosives mentioned above by Zenster.

The centrifuge arrays are for extracting U-235 isotope from the natural mixture of uranium. This cannot be done by chemical methods and is where the difficulty lies in the U-235 nuclear weapon process.

My take is if they have shutdown their weapons development program it is because they already have the designs they think they need and are only awaiting the production of sufficient amounts of either plutonium and/or U-235 to manufacture the weapons. Plutonium designs could have come from the Khan network or from North Korea. U-235 designs could be from most anywhere as long as you don't need them to be much smaller than WWII US size.

12/05/2007 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

The more I think about this the more I'm convinced that some group within the U.S. Intelligence community opted to preempt against President Bush on an Iranian military action. My suspicion is that a classified NIE was cooked up that made military action against Iran a non-option. Then one of the players behind this NIE leaked it to the MSM. President Bush was then left with the option of either publishing an unclassified NIE to counter the leaked version or die the death of a thousand leaks from the MSM.

This whole thing smells like classic KGB black propaganda except it was done by our own spooks against our own government.

12/05/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger geoffb said...

eggplant said,
"This whole thing smells like classic KGB black propaganda except it was done by our own spooks against our own government."

Over my lifetime it seems our own spooks are always doing something that they see as in their own interest but that is not in the best interest of the USA. Not all of them, but their community seems to not be able to police their own and wants to simply sweep messes they make under a rug.

12/05/2007 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

geoffb said...

"Over my lifetime it seems our own spooks are always doing something that they see as in their own interest but that is not in the best interest of the USA. Not all of them, but their community seems to not be able to police their own and wants to simply sweep messes they make under a rug."

The nature of their business requires them to compartmentalize everything. That way a traitor like Aldrich Ames can't give away everything to the bad guys (people like Ames seem to do that anyway).

I'm reminded of the Praetorian guard which was supposed to protect the Roman emperor but often ended up killing him and bringing in their own replacement. The benefit in having an intelligence community maybe less than the peril in having one.

12/05/2007 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Sorry if someone else has already posted this, but it seems to me that if Iran did actually stop their nuke weapons program in 2003, then clearly a significant factor was what was going on in Iraq. This, of course, further validates the President's course of action, as "better behavior" from nations such as Iran was one of the specified hoped-for results. Combine that with North Korea's recent actions (assuming that they can be taken at face value), and you have some pretty powerful evidence that the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do.

12/05/2007 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Here's an interesting little sidebar:

3. The Soviets had a pretty good record of blowing stuff up without CIA intervention. The N-1 moon rocket, Chernobyl, the Kursk and the Nedelin Disaster all come to mind.

Safire makes only passing mention of a Soviet cosmonaut being amongst the squad of Line X technology procurement spies planted in North America. Does anyone wonder what this astronautical chap was after?

This earlier and more extensive article about The Farewell Dossier makes specific mention of our disinformation campaign with respect to aerospace technology.

Legend has it that the Soviets had launched, as it were, a singularly intensive drive to acquire all of our plans for the Space Shuttle. NASA, being a civilian agency, had much of the shuttle's documentation available to the public. However, certain critical subassemblies, such as the propulsion, avonics, and guidance packages were classified.

The Soviets made no pretense about their desire to obtain these restricted documents as well and eventually managed to secure them somehow.

The result was Buran, the Soviet space shuttle and—much like their Tupolev Tu-144 SST, a near carbon-copy of the BAe Concorde—perilously close to a direct knock-off of the American space shuttle. While its propulsion system differed, the overall appearance left little doubt in the imagination as to the paternity of this design. Just how perilously close remains to be seen, though.

Unfortunately, the stolen classified designs supposedly had nasty little variances like dihedral angle and wing chord dimensions that—although America spent four years painstakingly vetting such intracacies from some 64 different craft configurations—underwent no such meticulous scrutiny by the thieving Soviets.

The upshot was a 14.5 BILLION RUBLE program that produced a white elephant ... er, "snowflake" that never once saw the hard vacuum of space. The Buran disinformation program—quite possibly more than any other single counter-espionage campaign—may well have led to the Soviet Union's final economic bankruptcy.

12/05/2007 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

The Wall Street Journal has an article citing various State and CIA people who made the NIE. They echo Kevin's desire to "stop the Evil Bushhitler! Amerikkka Warmonger" and naive trust in Iran.

Apparently the entire NIE rests on ONE intercepted comm from a General complaining that the weapons program was halted. THAT's it.

Kevin and other Liberal lunatics believe "Peace in our time." China, Europe, Russia have taken the NIE to drop all sanctions. They are dead.

There exists now no pressure on Iran -- Democrats are calling for full diplomatic relations and "apologies" to the "Death to America" regime. All carrots and no sticks.

Meanwhile Israel does not agree and will likely face the options of either nuke first or get nuked in return. Since the Neville Chamberlain Dems and Intel people believe in the Aaron Sorkin fantasy of how the world works.

Buried in the NIE is the admission that Iran spent hundreds of billions from 1980-2003 to develop nuclear weapons. Suddenly it is "shut down" and the basis for this judgment in ONE INTERCEPT?

Bolton and others detailed the idiocy of the State Dept. Figan's direction of the NIE -- a man who believes nuclear proliferation does not exist and got North Korea wrong (State and CIA predicted two months before NK's test that they were years away).

If State and CIA were wrong on: North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, South Africa, how can we trust them on Iran? Particularly when the men who put it together explicitly say they were reacting to Iraq and acting to "stop Bushhitler's Amerikkka!"

12/05/2007 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Whiskey_199 said:

"The Wall Street Journal has an article citing various State and CIA people who made the NIE. They echo Kevin's desire to "stop the Evil Bushhitler! Amerikkka Warmonger" and naive trust in Iran."

I don't like "Time" magazine and will not link to them. However their website said the following:

"The anti-war group was composed of Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Admiral William Fallon, who oversees the U.S. forces that would have had to wage that war. In recent months, all have pushed back privately and publicly, on the wisdom of going to war with Tehran. Indeed, the Pentagon's intelligence units were instrumental in forming the NIE's conclusions."

Again this quote comes from "Time" magazine so treat the details as MSM disinformation. However a coherent picture is starting to emerge that President Bush was sandbagged by this NIE. The originators of this gambit were from deep within the US federal government.

From here on, President Bush is truly a lame duck. Let's hope the next President or the Israelis can deal effectively with the Iranians before they go fully nuclear.

12/05/2007 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger kl01 said...

Selective disclosure of formerly secret information is an act of manipulation.

To paint a somewhat complete picture of the situation the intelligence agencies must at least give a general assessment of the Israeli raid on Syria in September. What was the nature of the target, what did the raid accomplish?

According to leaks and rumors this was connected to Iran's nukes, and the world came close to WW3 on that day.

Unless there's additional disclosure this NIE is pretty much worthless.

12/05/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Whiskey,

Congratulations, you have made it to step 2 of the grieving process – anger. It’s that liberal loser Kevin’s fault. Some on the thread are still in step 1 – denial. It’s all a rogue element within the CIA’s fault. Next comes bargaining and then depression. I am already at step 5 – acceptance because I’m not grieving. You see, I never actually bought into the fairy tale in the first place so I’ve lost nothing.

But with so many people grieving, who died? Well it wasn’t actually a person, more a persona. That is: the dick swinging American President who was going to wow the globe with his girthy resolve. All the swarthy “others” were going to shake in their cheap synthetic material boots and start behaving like good little third world children. But that is just not how things work. You have to have real leverage to get things moving your way. Talking tough is no substitute for carrying a big stick. But our friends in North Korea and Iran knew the stick was an illusion. They called Bush’s bluff and found his hand wanting.

So please stop framing me within the ideological chains your masters impose on you. To me American politics is just a bland version of the Harlem Globetrotters, played by the Republicans, spanking the Democratic imitation of the Washington Generals, almost every time. No, there will be no partisan gain from all this. Bush will keep twirling the ball on his fingers and the ass clown Democrats will keep stumbling all over the parquet. Our wealthy elite would have it no other way. In fact the media will certainly soon be producing stories about how this is all the Democrat's fault.

But you know deep down that you have been had. Bush is now demanding that Iran still has a lot to account for. Just the tone of those words tells you the truth. And it hurts. Just like when you found out Santa Claus was a myth.

12/05/2007 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

"It also represents Condoleezza Rice’s ultimate triumph over the hardliners within the Bush Administration. . . .And Condoleezza Rice is going to be re-evaluated as perhaps one of the most effective heads of State ever.
" - Kevin

Well, considering the alternative, a nuclear armed fundamentalist theocracy, I certainly hope that you're right. The current Annapolis fiasco leads me to doubt your precognitive capability though.

12/05/2007 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

No Kevin it is "not your fault" it is the fault of refusal to face reality by people who should know better that guarantees a world-wide nuclear war and the deaths of hundreds of millions.

It is the refusal to respond to the re-arming of the Rhineland that guarantees the Holocaust and fifty million dead.

The problem of people like yourself set in the Cold War mentality is that you deny the fundamental change in risk.

The "swarthy other" *your words not mine* can now reach out and kill lots of Americans. Proven on 9/11. Iran does not need a massive air force, navy, or Army to kill American cities. Merely nuclear weapons and the ability to hand them off to deniable proxies. They don't even need ICBMs which even NORTH KOREA can build.

In a world where Pakistan and North Korea, proven failures as nations, can build nuclear weapons my appetite for risk of going up in a nuclear flash or seeing a US city going up is very low.

This NIE stands with the Kellog-Briand pact "outlawing War" or the Treaty of Washington or any other idiot utopian (and let's be honest, weak and cowardly) effort in the inter-War period to constrain dangerous and aggressive regimes.

Unconstrained by any serious effort to delay Iran's nukes, we have guaranteed war with Iran at the worst possible terms for ourselves.

Ken Figars gave sworn testimony in July this year that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. Now he's the main author of the NIE saying it dropped them in 2003. What changed that assessment for Figars? Evidence suggests the defecting general and ONE intercept of a comment by an Iranian General.

It smacks of wishful thinking.

I will suggest to you the frantic "Let's make a deal!" efforts of Olmert backed up by Barak and with no real criticism by Bibi is ominous. Almost as if Israel has decided the existential enemy is Iran and plans to strike them first before they are hit.

But well, the NIE has achieved "Peace in our time!" How Neville Chamberlain.

12/05/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Whiskey_199: Unconstrained by any serious effort to delay Iran's nukes, we have guaranteed war with Iran at the worst possible terms for ourselves.

Excellent overall commentary, W_199, but the above observation really hits the mark.

If there is one single lesson that we should have learned from the 9-11 atrocity it is that we must bring the fight to our enemy. Allowing our foe to dictate the terms of engagement ensures that they will inflict maximum harm with minimal chance for reprisal. Saudi Arabia's participation in the 9-11 atrocity is a pluperfect example of this. They have yet to experience even minor discomfort for their predominant role in killing thousands of Americans.

The era of gentlemanly conduct in battle is long past. Instead, we are confronted with an enemy who will leverage against us every single best trait that Western civilization has to offer.

Our sense of humanity will oblige us to avoid collateral fatalities even as they seek to maximize them amongst ours and even their own populations.

Our sense of decency will make us averse to torture even as they revel in the most gruesome abuse and murder of prisoners of any stripe.

Our adherence to wartime protocol will oblige us to militarily engage those who refuse to don uniform or segregate themselves from civilian populations.

As previously noted, this sort of asymmetrical warfare can only eventuate the very worst sort of outcome. Frustrated with lack of substantial progress, the West will be obliged to begin a campaign of disproportionate retaliation.

With each new terrorist atrocity, entire MME (Muslim Middle East) cities will be turned to rubble. With warning at first but finally without it as exasperation builds.

As priceless monuments and treasures of Western patrimony continue to be demolished, eventually the Islamic shrines—Qom, Medina and, finally, Mecca—will dissolve into dust or high-temperature plasma, some during their most crowded celebrations.

This is what our lack of timely response guarantees. This is the legacy of Western civilization pursuing Peace in Our Time™. This is what Islam would not have any other way. We have yet to understand this, despite the 9-11 atrocity reading us the Riot Act™ writ large.

12/05/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger always right said...

One question,

Since when is the nuclear weapon (WMD, if you will) the "Litmus Test"?

Oppopents of the Iraq war wanted you to believe the whole justification is for the WMD (which they claimed we didn't find any). Hence it is the wrong war, a unjust war, etc.

If we are only concerned with this one asspect of the potential Iranian threat, we are here bogged down all day discussing and guessing taquiyya or not.

Since its Monday release, there is still no clear picture. Yet it consumes so much energy, discussions, etc. There is no end in sight (as yet). Which suits mullahs just fine.

12/06/2007 12:32:00 PM  

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