Friday, June 17, 2005

Penny and Kaplan are right

Babble on.

Via the inimitable Damian Penny, we are pointed to an insightful article by Fred Kaplan in Slate, regarding the Downing Street memos many of the "Bush LIED!" crowd are trying to use as proof of their predetermined conclusion. If you instinctively don't trust the man, you're liable to see any information through that filter.

The problem for them is that the memos simply confirm the U.S. administration truly believed Saddam had WMD's. They were wrong, but they weren't lying.

The implicit point of these passages is this: These top officials genuinely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction—and that they constituted a threat. They believed that the international community had to be sold on the matter. But not all sales pitches are consciously deceptive. The salesmen in this case turned out to be wrong; their goods were bunk. But they seemed to believe in their product at the time.

I've said before that the intelligence failures of 9/11 and Iraq - not to mention the fall of the Soviet empire before that - are extremely worrying. But Penny sums it up most succinctly when he says: "I don't think this should be a debate about honesty. This should be a debate about competence."

Hear, hear. And the debate should have at least two parts: how competently is the gathering and analysis of information by the U.S. intelligence community being conducted, and how competently are the politicians charged with making the big decisions acting on that intelligence?

Babble off.


At 3:09 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

From my point of view, the debate is pointless since America, for good or ill, has cast its lot with Bush. He can't be voted out and he won't be removed from office.

At 4:16 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

But Greg, someone will be elected after Bush, and that person will need better intelligence and a better structure to deal with that intelligence than exists now.

That's why I think it's worth discussing.

At 4:43 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

Sure, I don't mind that part as long as it is an open discussion. I just think that the way things are in the States right now, no one is capable of having that discussion. Things have gotten so political that a)the Bushites won't release any information for fear that someone somewhere might criticize them and b) the Democrats won't look at anything without "gotcha" lenses on. That is going to make any evaluative process on intelligence almost impossible.

At 5:22 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

You could be right, but that shouldn't stop us pajama-typists from weighing in, should it?

At 5:49 p.m., Blogger Timmy the G said...

The minutes do not prove that Bush lied about WMDs, Damian, (though he may have) but rather that he was lying about whether or not - and when - he was going to invade Iraq. A lot of people suspected this was the case, despite his many and loud protestations to the contrary, and the memo certainly proves it. It identifies only two options being considered by the Americans, and both of them were military. Bush simply spent a couple of years fishing for plausible reasons to invade.

Unfrotunately, many on the right have seized onto the memos as proof that the British were as ignorant about WMDs as the Americans, and therefore, Bush did not lie. That they were both relying on lousy intelligence is not the point.

The Brits and the Americans both fudged their way into the war in Iraq. What's appalling is the profound lack of curiousity about it in the media, and even the public.

Having said that, you are absolutely right on the need for a major overhaul in intelligence gathering.

And Greg, you are right in that George Bush could eat a baby on live telelvision and still never get impeached. Americans have moved beyond accountability into naraative-based politics. Whoever tells their story the loudest and most often wins the debate. Bush is here for the long run.


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