Hoagland, writing in the Washington Post, is talking about David Kay’s testimony before Congress last week, and his appearance on NPR’s Nightly News. He says among other things:
Kay correctly cast the huge intelligence failure in Iraq in historic terms: This was on a par with the agency’s misreading of the strength of the Soviet Union’s economy as it stumbled toward collapse. “What had looked like a 10-foot power turned out to be an economy that barely existed. . . . We are particularly bad about understanding societal trends” because intelligence agencies invest in satellites and other technological means and neglect “our human intelligence capability,” Kay added bluntly.
The truth in Machiavellian terms is worse: Bush and Blair accepted and actually believed the flawed intelligence that their spy bosses and senior aides provided, and then inflated it in their public speeches. Credulity, not chicanery, would be the plea, your honor.
This last is what I think is the truth of the matter, Machiavellian or not. The fact that they believed what they were told tends to show the shallowness of both men and their lack of any historical reference for making decisions. Stupid they were; just plain stupid. They reached out for the easy solution to a fearful problem, and came up with the wrong answer. And where were those who should have had the perspective and the common sense to advise them differently? Not that Bush, anyway, would have listened to anything that didn’t match his view of reality.
The quality of our “intelligence services” has been abysmal since WWII, and that has been a public fact for almost as many years. Even the recent misses of the Clinton Administration should have warned the Bushies to be more careful. What would they have lost by waiting for Hans Blix’s team to finish its inspection?
We have dealt Iraq the equivalent of a disastrous earthquake; an 8 on the Richter scale, and now we’re in the process of withdrawing forces and leaving Iraq in chaos. Setting it up for another dictator.
It is probably quite true as Rumsfeld said that events on the ground make it difficult if not impossible to plan, but surely someone should have come up with an historical perspective that would have given some idea to the leaders of what kinds of things to expect. They were, after all, warned of the chaos and looting that would happen, but instead of preparing for it and securing the most important sites, cultural, governmental, and economic, they stood idly by while records, treasures of the past, and key knowledge disappeared forever. Sometimes the smartest people make the most stupid mistakes.
It is highly unlikely in the light of all the multiple stupidities, that Iraq will become a “Democracy” in the near future. We do not know how to make this happen, and can not hope to when we won’t even learn enough about the country’s past to prepare ourselves for the present predicament. Someone should have read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom more carefully than I did and taken its lessons to heart. Lawrence was no fool and had the sense to learn to live the way the arabs did and speak their language even though the establishment of his day thought he was crazy.
Unfortunately, people with minds and intelligence like that are seldom admitted into the upper reaches of our government where the intellectual is looked upon with suspicion. Clinton had the courage to listen to all sides. He used his brain and his common sense where it counted in foreign policy if not in his personal life.Sure he made mistakes, bombed the wrong things, but he didn’t make the major error that Bush will be blamed for: putting our soldiers and our security at risk for all the wrong reasons in a wrong and unjustified preemptive war that we in the west, the Iraqis, and the rest of the Arab world will spend the foreseeable future paying for in lives and treasure.
I don’t believe the spies should get the blame for the naive and stupid irresponsibility of this leadership though that’s what will probably now happen. They have been to do their jobs without sufficient funds, support, and people on the ground for years. So history does indeed repeat itself as we follow the familiar pattern set in Vietnam.
Dowd Nails it Again
“The moral of Vietnam was supposed to be that we would never again go to war without understanding the culture of our antagonists, or exaggerate their threat to us.
“Some of those involved in running the ’91 Iraq war think the U.S. should cut its losses, forget about Iowa-style caucuses (mirroring again), get the U.N. in there and let Kofi Annan and the Iraqi Governing Council negotiate with Ayatollah Sistani, who won’t talk to the U.S. anyway.
“The White House will have a lot of explaining to do if Iraq exchanges one form of dictatorship for another, or if it takes on a fundamentalist Islamic cast that sets Iraqi women’s rights back 40 years.
“‘These guys created the exact can of worms we tried to avoid,'” said a Bush 41 official. “‘Guess what? Baghdad is ours.’ ”
[From Maureen Dowd’s Op Ed piece in the New York Times of Sunday, February 1, 2004]
Will the Bushies now say they were taken in? I don’t see how they can.
To rely on uncorroborated reports from one suspect source is folly whether it matches what you want to believe or not.