Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Spy vs. spy: the problem of the false negative vs. the false positive

The excellent Callimachus has expanded on some of the points in this post of mine, about those who think Bush lied concerning WMDs in Iraq.

Callimachus tackles a subset of this group, those who say Bush didn't lie--well, not exactly, and not precisely--but that he nevertheless consciously and purposely did the next best (worst?) thing: he sifted through the intelligence information and took only that which fit his already-made decision to attack Iraq for other nefarious reasons such as to steal its oil. Or he told confederates and advisors to shape intelligence information to bolster his argument, and to block anything that didn't.

Callimachus writes, of espionage in general, and the need to evaluate possible threats such as Saddam's:

There are fundamentally two types of mistake you can make at it: to fail to perceive a threat, or to perceive one that does not exist.

Of the two, the former is more catastrophic -- think Pearl Harbor, or Sept. 11 -- and so if the two errors represent the Scylla and Charybdis of the system, the conscientious espionage worker will strive to sail between them, but tack slightly closer toward the error of over-assumption.

The intelligence trade has two components: collection and analysis -- call them hands and head. Agents in the field will gather a mass of data and information: tips from credible sources, rumors, the gleanings of wiretaps and intercepts, newspaper reports. Among them will be some true facts, and some wrong ones and some good guesses, and some bad guesses, and some deliberate deceptions planted by the other side.

It's the analysts' job to try to weed through them and find the best bits of information and use them to construct a coherent picture of what the other fellow is up to. Of course it's "cherry-picking." That's the whole nature of this part of the business. And, again, there likely will be a bias toward seeing something rather than not seeing it.

In fact, Callimachus is describing the age-old scientific problem of the false negative vs. the false positive. They are both bad. But in the case of self defense, the false negative is, as Callimachus points out, a good deal more dangerous, if one is looking at it from the point of view of the need to prevent a threat from becoming a reality.

In the case of the "Bush lied" or "Bush cherry-picked the information" people, however, they seem to act as though a false (or partly-false) positive is far worse than a false negative would be. Is this because they feel this country is so invincible that they don't believe any threats are real? Or is it because, in their hearts, the most important thing is to keep their own hands clean? Or is it some combination of the two? Sometimes it even seems to me as though they think the function of prewar intelligence was to have acted as defense attorney for Saddam---to make sure he was considered innocent till proven guilty.

Actually, I'm probably being too kind to them--or, at least, to some of them. For a certain number, if in fact Bush's intelligence-gathering had been guilty of a false negative rather than the false positive that appears to have been the case, they'd be saying the false negative was worse, instead (just look at the 9/11 Commission for examples). The bottom line seems to be, at least for some, that whatever Bush happens to have done is defined as worse--false negative or false positive. And unrealistic perfection is the standard by which he is to be judged.

In this respect, those who act this way are very fortunate to have been out of power during these trying post-9/11 times. As such, they have the wonderful luxury of constant Monday-morning quarterbacking. They get to criticize errors, whether those be of the false negative or the false positive variety. They get to pretend they had nothing to do with the situation that built up to those errors, such as 9/11. They get away with being altogether vague about what they could do differently to prevent such errors, if they were in power. Or, if they are specific, they get the luxury of knowing that, at least for now, their suggestions will not be tried and found wanting in the field of reality (this is always true of a party out of power, by the way).

And, most importantly, they get to enjoy whatever the Bush Administration may have actually done to prevent further attacks on this country, and thus to have preserved their right to speak out in any way they see fit. And this, of course, is as it should be.


At 2:42 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Goesh said...

Excellent Post, as usual. No wonder your site meter reads 300K+. The Dems keep looking to make hay, not realizing that most Americans take the threat of islamic fundamentalism seriously.

At 3:20 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous mizpants said...

This is really sharp, Neo. I admire the graceful way you amplify and follow out the logic of other people's insights.
And this insight is a really useful one. Would that I could keep it and others like it in mind when I argue with adamantly anti-Bush friends and relatives!

At 4:13 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

It's interesting to ask the "Bush Lied (or Bush Mislead) people to explain the "real reasons" for his actions, if they are not the ones given.

They are often very reluctant to provide what they see as the "real reasons". I think they are aware that they face two possible dangers and want to avoid them.

On the one hand, the reasons that are offered may be persuasive to people - that is, they may think "Well, if thats the real reason then I agree with Bush".

Or they may hear the suggested reason and think "The person suggesting this is a sick lunatic".

I think that most of the "real reasons" being tossed around fall into one of these two categories.

At 4:45 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous bbq wings said...

This sets an incredibly low standard for the prosecution of a successful foreign policy. One cannot simply “err on the side of caution,” as this post seems to suggest. One must be able to gauge the severity of threats and deploy scarce resources carefully to meet those threats.

The Iraq War represents an enormous failure on these counts. Iraq wasn’t simply overestimated as a potential threat; it turned out Iraq posed no threat whatsoever to the United States or our allies. Saddam was as weak as ever and had no WMD. He was unconnected to the immediate threat of Islamic terrorism. Furthermore, North Korea is now a nuclear power and Iran is on its way, yet we are constrained in our options for dealing with these countries because of our commitment in Iraq and our damaged reputation (another resource that the president has not been careful with).

Whichever error the president made, a “false positive” or a “false negative,” it was a colossal error. The explanation that he was erring on the side of caution is unsatisfactory. The threat posed by Iraq was hardly imminent or all that dangerous. Part of a successful foreign policy is being able to accept a certain level of risk and danger, and Iraq certainly fell into that "acceptable risk" category. Absolute security is impossible, and the pursuit of it doesn’t provide real security, usually proves counterproductive and results in acts of aggression and unjustified violence.

Which leads to a final powerful reason why this war was a mistake and why your argument is flawed. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and their country has been plunged into a war with no end in sight because of the “false positive,” because the President perceived a risk which was ultimately non-existent. That suffering and death is tragic and will likely continue for a long time. It is easy for us to ignore just how bad it has gotten in Iraq.

But just as importantly, our pursuit of security has proved counterproductive. The United States is perceived as an aggressor and a rogue state, a dangerous country which shows no restraint in the use of violence. The ranks of those willing to fight against us and commit terrorism have swelled. Countries whose support is necessary to fight a global war have left our side. Our security has not improved. This “false positive” vs “false negative” abstraction of yours simply hides the fact that the president’s stewardship of our national security has been an abject failure.

At 4:53 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

Ah, if only Bush had invaded North Korea and Iran, then the country would have united behind him and the world would look on us with respect and admiration.

At 5:09 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous bbq wings said...

Shit, would've made a lot more sense than invading Iraq.

At 6:06 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Rather have Democrats not in power and bitter, than in power and preening.


Fortunate for us.

At 6:14 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

In response to bbq wings flawed arguments.

The United States is perceived as an aggressor and a rogue state, a dangerous country which shows no restraint in the use of violence.

That fact is true. Also true we have not been attacked. It is the reason. Among others.

Bad guys fear fear, we make people afraid so they don't get nuked or invaded. Good for us, good for them. Bad for pacifists.

There is a purpose to the deaths of Iraqis. Good for us, good for them. If the Left can justify the justice of the Vietnamese boat people, there is no reason why bbq doesn't understand that the deaths are for a purpose and in the greater sense, unavoidable.

We are backing the Revolution here, a Revolution for the down trodden that people who don't like Bush, want to squash.

All revolutions have had their enemies.

This time, the enemies aren't capitalists, they are socialists. Big surprise. No surprise to me.

They understand this, and they fear. Good for us, bad for them.

The reason why they want us to invade NK and Iran is because they think we would fail there, as opposed to our successes in Iraq. For a empty slogan bearer (Iraqis call every socialist that including the Baathist socialists), nothing is more scary than having your slogans revealed to be the lies they are.

America offers the absolute truth, of clean water, food, compassion, and military security.

It is the dream of every downtrodden peasant on the face of this earth, and few have the luck to get it.

America is not an Empire, and so the rest of the world gets to suffer. It's a good thing we are deaf to their screams, might make us uncomfortable. Certainly would for me. No Sudan, good for me, bad for Sudanese. Oil in Iraq, good for Iraq, bad for peeps with no oil.

At 7:18 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger nowhere girl said...

Excellent post. Thank you!

If there's one thing I could add, it's this: The people who are so critical, and who expect perfection, the people who refuse to consider risks or consequences of a false negative, are people who have never had to take responsibility for anything. They've never had to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. A good many of them are people who take great care to make sure that they are never at risk of being responsible.

They are also doing a huge cherry-picking of their own. WMD are political weapons; their great power rests in part on never having to use them. Saddam conducted his foreign policy as if he had WMD, and everyone -- friends, enemies, governments, intelligence agencies -- believed he did in fact have them. His charades with UN inspectors all served to reinforce that belief. After 9/11, we could no longer afford even that. Bluff or not, we had to call him in.

Also, lest we forget, Saddam had a history of not only possessing WMD (as proven time after time by UN inspectors), but he had a history of using them.

And lest we forget, all the delays of 2002 and early 2003 gave Saddam ample time to hide those weapons, and there is enough evidence to suggest that he did hide them in Syria that we really shouldn't close the book on Saddam's WMD until we have full access to search both Syria and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

As for the question of how we are perceived abroad, I'm OK with parts of the world being afraid of our violence. To quote Ralph Peters, it is better to be hated and feared, than to be hated and held in contempt. 9/11 was the result of being hated and held in contempt. I'd prefer that our enemies understand what can happen when we are pushed too far.

At 10:18 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous inmypajamas said...

With the removal of Sadam, we are watching unfold what would have happened if we had stopped Hitler at Poland - the second guessing, "he never really was a threat to us", "he had no real agenda beyond Europe", "we didn't have to get involved", etc.

We took Sadam out when we could, before Iraq was a nuclear power (credit to Israel must also be given here). He was working double-overtime to get the sanctions lifted so that he could pursue that goal unheeded (the hapless UN would have not have stopped him anymore than it is stopping Iran).

Thank God he's gone. Now the world will have two crazies with nukes to deal with instead of three.

At 12:54 AM, January 18, 2006, Blogger Foobarista said...

Time to toss in one of my fave Teddy Roosevelt pieces - it's quite appropriate to this thread, even if a bit overlong for a comment...

Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier."

At 1:59 AM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous strcpy said...

Both Flenser and BBQ had good posts.

I think Flenser is mostly correct. Usually the best way to shut them up is to ask what they suggest we do instead of simply complaining. Turns out that 90% of the time they have nothing more than "Bush lied, people died". Sometimes the have what Kerry said "Samething but different in ways you do not have the intelligence to fathom" or the go BBQ's post "If only it had X done, I would support it".

The only real problem that BBQ has with that is that the number of times when that is said it is the truth can be counted on one hand. Maybe BBQ is right, had Bush gone after Iran or NK he would have supported it, even with the annialation of South Korea or Israel that would have followed. But, somehow, I generally suspect that it falls into the "I want to sound like I'm tolerant but am not really" group. Most people realise this (what he/she says is too convenient and their arguments that follow would work equally well with those nations, except you most likely replace the country attacked with Iraq as one of the "I would have supported"), it tends only work on those that *want* to believe and, well, they already believe.

It's sorta shows what Flenser said and why it is such a good post. Avoidance of prescribing action and being well aware that what they are saying either makes them look loony or argues for Bush. Hence the added "See, I'm not loony, I would support it if ..." to mitigate the people's reading the post's feelings. There is no reason to add that type of language otherwise.

But hey, maybe I can add the first to my list and BBQ would have really supported it if a few little things were different or other countries were the ones invaded. And since his conditions were assumed to be true beforehand I'm sure that he/she supported the war up until those conditions were shown to be incorrect - right? Otherwise I would say your conditions are not really the reason you think the war is wrong (the arguments were not if he had them, but if weapons inspectors were enough. If having them was sufficient to justify the war then you should have supported it even though it may not have been your first choice). But, somehow, I suspect that BBQ has never supported it and no matter what never will, nor support invasion of the other countries.

At 4:33 AM, January 18, 2006, Blogger Tom Grey said...

Another great post-can I get credit for infecting your mind with the "unreal perfection" meme?.

Walter Cronkite supported genocide in SE Asia; so did John Kerry and the many Democratic Party members who voted AGAINST funding S. Vietnam, so as to fight off the N. Vietnamese -- who were violating the peace treaty they signed with Henry the K (and the Nobel Peace prize went to a future genocider).

In Vietnam: war or genocide? In Rwanda in 1994, war or genocide? In Darfur today, war or genocide?

BBQ type Leftists support genocide BY OPPOSING war against it. The Bush-haters want to keep their hands clean, but I call them full of blood.

Saddam violated 17 UN SC resolutions. Either such resolutions need to be enforced, with the FORCE of WAR, or they are a joke.

(Has Sudan "passed" or "failed" Kerry's Global Test?)

[me too on comment two, Neo; you're great at amplifying other folk's insights, and adding your own.]

At 4:42 AM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally! Some smart people show up on the Internet. Too bad you're too late. If these arguments had any merit, they'd have been made 2 1/2 years ago.

At 6:28 AM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Great post

At 8:49 AM, January 18, 2006, Blogger Goesh said...

"One must be able to gauge the severity of threats and deploy scarce resources carefully to meet those threats."

- or so says one previous respondent, whose logic would have prevented the US from entering WW2. Why does history always get tossed in these debates? Scarce resources generate new resources via employment and industrial expansion. The previous respondent has failed to condemn Halliburton as well. Don't you just love the invocation of false collectives, namely the assertion that droves of terrorists are joining the ranks against America because of Iraq? Where do these facts come from?

At 11:54 AM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous armchair pessimist said...

Here's one man's opinion, and if I knew how, I'd have underlined 'opinion'. Bush had a bouquet of good reasons for settling with Saddam, one of which, and the easiest to sell, was WMDs. Had he been totally frank with us he'd have said that owing to our profligate ways we are totally dependent on oil which comes from the most screwed up places on earth; that if the oil tap is ever shut, we grind to a halt; that one way or another we must secure our own oil since conservation is clearly not in the American character; that the most just way of doing so is to transform one of those screwed up places into a stable and prosperous friend; that by doing this we have also established an alternative to what exists in that miserable, God forsaken corner of the world; that by giving those crazed people a life, they'll be less interested in death--ours and theirs; and that, lastly, the prime candidate for this transformation is the chronic troublemaker and bomb-maker Saddam Hussain's Iraq. Chasing Osama & Co over hill and dale to read them their Miranda rights is pretty small change compared to this undertaking, which is in effect to create LBJ's Great Society, and I'm surprised that liberals aren't drooling to see their own philosophy put into action. As for all the dead, historically, the left been perfectly willing to break quite a few eggs to make their utopian omlet.
Now not being a liberal, and being wary of grand programs to regenerate the humanity, I'm not sold on this at all. Still it's worth trying, and I pray it works. In any event, Bush no more lied than does the Doctor when he says 'this won't hurt a bit'.
Can we all move on now?

At 1:11 PM, January 18, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Naw, the resolutions aren't a joke, they are how the bureacrats can fund rapists and their own private little army. Including the perks of being rich, without working that is.

UN bureacrats, the 21st century's warlords. Benan Savan left for Cyprus, and Kofi covered for him by not revoking his diplomatic immunity. If people think might makes right, and aren't faced with the greater might of the US, they're just going to keep on stealing, killing, and partying.

Here's some wisdom for Republicans and Democrats. If Bush had acted in the way most Americans would have wanted him to act, you'd know for sure you're living in a military dictatorship.

So be very glad that Bush isn't smart enough to see what the rest of us Jacksonians and self-educated people see so clearly.

Some people just don't know the meaning of gratitude.

At 9:49 PM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous douglas said...

"UN bureacrats, the 21st century's warlords."-Ymarsakar
My God, truer words never spoken!

As for BBQ, how can I take seriously one who says "yet we are constrained in our options for dealing with these countries because of our commitment in Iraq".
I don't know about you, but I bet the Mullahs consider us setting up shop on both sides pretty serious addressing of the problem.

At 1:09 AM, January 19, 2006, Blogger Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

Finally! Some smart people show up on the Internet. Too bad you're too late. If these arguments had any merit, they'd have been made 2 1/2 years ago.

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

Great post
I'm still wondering who those statements refer to.

At 10:38 PM, January 19, 2006, Blogger EddieP said...

OK, so in 2003, we pull the troops out of Kuwait and invade NK and take them out in 6 months. How do the Chinese react? Better yet, how does Saddam react? Do we then pack up the troops and send them back to Kuwait to begin the inevitable? By then all sanctions would have been removed and Saddam was free to go about his nasty work unimpeded. Where's the benefit? We still would have been in Afganistan, we would still need to turn our attention to him. Was it better to do it in 2003 than 2005? Where would we be with Iran? Because of Iraq, we're in a better position to deal with Iran. Bush has handled this situation beautifully, go GWB.

At 2:56 AM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Red A said...

Yeah, notice how BBQ manages to make sure that invading Iran would now be impossible, even though the reality is the OPPOSITE. We could not invade Iran very well from Kuwait, and we'd have to worry about Iraq opportunistically coming in on their side - when we had extended lines from Kuwait. Not pleasant.

How about North Korea, BBQ? There is no reason we can't do that one...let me know if you support it buddy.

At 10:59 AM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Daniel in Brookline said...

Great post, Neo!

A number of people have commented already that "invading Iran instead of Iraq" was never a viable option, for a variety of reasons. Militarily, Iran is a far harder nut to crack than Iraq, and would be even without all those underground nuclear facilities we keep reading about.

(For more details, find a topographical map of Iran. Then compare with a topographical map of Iraq, to scale. Think about how many troops were needed in Iraq, and how many more would have been needed in Iran... for mountain warfare, no less. Think also about an Iran with a saber-rattling Saddam next door. Saddam and the Iranians cooperated in 1991; certainly they could have done it again.)

One other point, which I don't believe has been raised yet, in response to bbq wings -- the President must act on the intelligence he has. Intelligence is rarely, if ever, complete; and so you never know for sure what the other fellow has. You only know what you are reasonably sure that he has... and what you'd be foolish not to assume that he has.

As such, I have no problem at all with WMDs as a pretext for war in 2003. We thought Saddam had them; so did the rest of the world. Why? Mostly because he'd had them (and used them) in the past; he'd expressed a desire to have them (and use them) again; he'd been required by the UN, and the US, to destroy his WMD stockpiles and prove that he had done so, which he contemptuously refused to do.

In a post-9/11 world, a President who does not assume the worst about such a dictator is seriously derelict in his duty. It is to Bush's credit that after 9/11, he changed his worldview, saw that the existing status quo had become untenable, and acted to change it.

The fact that stockpiles of WMD have not yet been found does not change the necessity of making the decision that Bush made. Saying that he should not have made that decision, based on information now available to us that Bush didn't have in 2002, is intellectually dishonest.

Yes, Iran is now a serious threat -- considerably more serious than we perceived it to be in 2002. Again, by using Iran's nuclear threat as an argument against the invasion of Iraq, we are saying that Bush should have based his decisions in information we have now that he didn't have then.

Or, to put it bluntly: if I'm threatened by a menacing neighbor waving a gun, one who has menaced me before, I'm going to take the threat seriously... and I won't have second thoughts later if it turns out that the gun was never loaded, something I couldn't have known when he menaced me with it.

Daniel in Brookline

At 4:21 PM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Steve J. said...

"We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs",
TENET, 2/07/2001 http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/bian_feb_2001.htm

POWELL, 2/24/2001: "He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors"

"The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn't have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained." Powell, 5/15/01

"He [Saddam] does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." Rice, 7/29/01

MR. RUSSERT: Do we have evidence that he's harboring terrorists?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: There is--in the past, there have been some activities related to terrorism by Saddam Hussein. But at this stage, you know, the focus is over here on al-Qaida and the most recent events in New York. Saddam
Hussein's bottled up, at this point, but clearly, we continue to have a fairly tough policy where the Iraqis are concerned.

At 4:30 PM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Steve J. said...

NEO has forgotten what she has previously assented to.

(Via Atrios)

RogerLSimon lets the rest of us know what was really going on with all the WMD talk by the Administration:

As the for the run-up to the war, in looking back I think it was a big game of charades that everybody understood. Despite what was said, the obvious US motivation was geo-political. We wanted the despot Saddam out of the Middle East and replaced by a democracy. The French and the Russians - never particularly interested in democracy in the first place - desperately wanted to keep their cash cow in office. Everybody knew this, so the dreaded WMDs had to be emphasized in front of the UN.

Of course the real mistake was this emphasis on WMDs instead of a more honest declaration of the what the war was really about - democracy.

Simon admits that the emphasis on WMD was less than honest and lets us know that everybody understood this, courtesy of SimonPolling.

His commenters are not bothered by the blatant dishonesty:

Calvin agrees with Simon:

This is a succinct description of my feeling as well.

Neo-Neocon adds:

As far as the buildup to the Iraq are goes, I'm with Roger--it was common knowledge, at least in the blogosphere, that the extreme emphasis on WMDs was for the world international community--the UN (although fat lot of good that did). There were always multiple reasons for the war, chief among them changing geopolitical realities in the region. But that would have been a hard sell, to say the least.

At 4:37 PM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Steve J. said...

There are fundamentally two types of mistake you can make at it: to fail to perceive a threat, or to perceive one that does not exist.

Of the two, the former is more catastrophic -- think Pearl Harbor, or Sept. 11 --

Yeah, think Sept. 11th.

Fredo was warned by Clinton, Cohen, Tenet, Berger and Clarke that Al-Queda was our #1 threat.

Fredo decided to concentrate on Iraq instead.

At 5:52 AM, January 21, 2006, Anonymous douglas said...

Steve J- you misunderestimate: It's not that you (or Simon et al) are wrong about the WMD thing being played up (I think your analysis of Simon goes too far), it's that it became the centerpiece instead of part of a larger arrangement. Why? Because people like you insist we get the 'world' on board, so, yes, we had to 'sell' them on the war. If you ask me, it speaks volumes more about them ('the world') than about the Bush administration.

"We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs",
TENET, 2/07/2001

Correct- and misused by you. Intercepting cell phone calls from one general to another discussing WMDs is indirect evidence. Would you ignore it as not good enough (in conjunction with a whole host of other indirect evidence, and the constant efforts to inhibit inspections)??? If so, you'd make a lousy CinC. Also interesting to note that all but the last quote you present, severed from context, are pre-9/11. Think that perhaps that might change the calculus of policy decisions at all? You've got to do better than the cut and paste of select quotes from some lefty talking points website.

At 5:57 AM, January 21, 2006, Anonymous douglas said...

But then, the quote from Neo that you used says the same thing, but I guess you hear what you wish to hear...
As far as the buildup to the Iraq are goes, I'm with Roger--it was common knowledge, at least in the blogosphere, that the extreme emphasis on WMDs was for the world international community--the UN (although fat lot of good that did). There were always multiple reasons for the war, chief among them changing geopolitical realities in the region. But that would have been a hard sell, to say the least."

At 2:37 PM, January 21, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

In addition, Iraq has refurbished its missile production infrastructure. In particular, Iraq reconstituted a number of casting chambers which had previously been destroyed under UNSCOM's supervision. They had been used in the production of solid fuel missiles.

Hans Blix, in a report to the UN, January 2003.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger