Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.”     Robert A. Heinlein,    Starship Troopers

December 4, 2007

The Neocons And The NIE

by Doug Mataconis

As I noted yesterday, the latest National Intelligence Estimate reports that Iran stopped actively pursuing nuclear weapons back in 2003.

So, how are the neoconservatives who’ve been pushing for confrontation with Iran for years now reacting to this news ? Well, Norman Podhoretz himself is out with a piece that sounds more like it came from DailyKos than Commentary:

I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view (including as is evident from the 2005 NIE, within the intelligence community itself) that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. I also suspect that, having been excoriated as well for minimizing the time it would take Saddam to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal, the intelligence community is now bending over backward to maximize the time it will take Iran to reach the same goal.

But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations. As the intelligence community must know, if he were to do so, it would be as a last resort, only after it had become undeniable that neither negotiations nor sanctions could prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and only after being convinced that it was very close to succeeding. How better, then, to stop Bush in his tracks than by telling him and the world that such pressures have already been effective and that keeping them up could well bring about “a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program”—especially if the negotiations and sanctions were combined with a goodly dose of appeasement or, in the NIE’s own euphemistic formulation, “with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways.”

In other words, the CIA, NSA, and DIA are all involved in a vast conspiracy to undermine the Bush Administration’s foreign policy and, horror of horrors prevent us from engaging in yet another war in the Persian Gulf.

What’s clear, of course, is that there’s no amount of evidence outside of the smoking remains of Tehran itself that could convince Podhoretz that the Iranian nuclear program had in face been ended. In fact, the lack of evidence is, under this logic, evidence itself.

This is the same type of logic, or lack thereof, that got us involved in the Iraq War. While everyone suspected that Saddam Hussein was still pursuing chemical and biological weapons, there was no conclusive evidence either way that this was the case — and that lack of evidence was presented as proof that the weapons in fact existed and that war was therefore justified. The difference today, which Podhoretz doesn’t seem to realize, is that this isn’t 2003 and the American public isn’t nearly as gullible as it was back then.

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  1. I’m glad the books weren’t cooked again like in 2002.

    Comment by uhm — December 4, 2007 @ 5:00 am
  2. Hell of a foreign policy advisor Rudy Guiliani’s picked out for himself. Podhoretz has been making stupid assessments since the 1960s and it looks like he just made another one for the ages.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 5:47 am
  3. Ummm, can we start calling neo-cons crazy conspiracy theorists??

    Comment by TanGeng — December 4, 2007 @ 5:48 am
  4. I don’t see why not? Crazy is as crazy does! They aren’t referred to as “the crazies” for nothing!

    Comment by uhm — December 4, 2007 @ 6:21 am
  5. In other words, the CIA, NSA, and DIA are all involved in a vast conspiracy to undermine the Bush Administration’s foreign policy

    In fairness, his argument doesn’t involve a conspiracy, just human nature writ large.

    The “lack of evidence is evidence” bit is clearly an idiotic self-justification, but let’s not join the business of creating a “conspiracy” where basic human nature could accomplish the same thing.

    The difference today, which Podhoretz doesn’t seem to realize, is that this isn’t 2003 and the American public isn’t nearly as gullible as it was back then.

    God, I hope you’re right.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — December 4, 2007 @ 6:48 am
  6. The “lack of evidence is evidence” is the centerpiece of any conspiracy theorist’s worldview. I think Doug nailed it.

    And yes, TanGeng, I think it’s appropriate to start calling neoconservatives crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, they’ve been happy to let over 4,000 Americans die just to remove one guy from office that they personally didn’t like without any solid proof that he posed a threat to us. They’re as whacked out as the “truthers”.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 7:47 am
  7. The difference today, which Podhoretz doesn’t seem to realize, is that this isn’t 2003 and the American public isn’t nearly as gullible as it was back then.

    Doug, I fear you’re overestimating the American public.

    The difference between now and then is that the media isn’t going to spoon-feed the American public the administration’s lines this time around, not that the public is more wise.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 4, 2007 @ 8:40 am
  8. Brad,

    Its an admittedly small universe from which to draw conclusions, but I’m basing that thought on the people I’ve talked to over the past few months who are fed up with Iraq.

    Without this NIE report, it might have been possible for the Bush Administration conjure up public support for a military confrontation with Iran. With it, given the experience of the last four years, I think it’s going to be a lot harder to convince the public to go off on an other grand adventure.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 4, 2007 @ 8:51 am
  9. The difference between now and then is that the media isn’t going to spoon-feed the American public the administration’s lines this time around

    God, I hope you’re right.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — December 4, 2007 @ 8:51 am
  10. Apparently Bush isn’t buying the report either.

    He doesn’t care what the intel agencies say when they disagree with him because obviously he’s right and he doesn’t need wacky things like “evidence” or “physical proof” or “analysis” to back him up.

    Anyone want to restate their case about how Bush isn’t a religious fanatic?

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 10:13 am
  11. Fanatic yes. This is the height of jingoist spirit.

    I still don’t buy that he’s very religious. It all seems like an act, a sham to me.

    Comment by TanGeng — December 4, 2007 @ 10:42 am
  12. It’s when I see things like this that I start to believe that Bush’s problem with Iran isn’t related to nukes, it’s related to the desire by Iran to sell oil in euros instead of dollars.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 4, 2007 @ 11:13 am
  13. A religious fanatic is not necessarily one who belongs to a particular religion, but one who believes that a higher power guides his hand with the intent of helping him perform a divine destiny. Bush has repeatedly stated that he believes this to be the case and his actions in regards to Iraq and Iran (and overall foreign policy everywhere else) reflect a man who holds those beliefs.

    The man has claimed he’s got a responsibility to bring freedom to the world (indicating a messianic complex) and he has demonstrated a willingness to stomp anyone who gets in his way regardless of the cost or consequences and he has repeatedly cited God as his inspiration for what he does. What more do you really need to convince you that his faith in the rightness of his actions is not grounded in any sort of worldly reality?

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 12:26 pm
  14. Brad,

    You know, when I worked in intel I never once heard the higher ups talking about the importance of the Euro as a threat, or the ramifications of a weak dollar on our foreign policy, and I had access to a lot of high level stuff.

    What I did hear a lot about was how the President was convinced there were weapons of mass destruction, despite a dearth of solid or current evidence. I heard a lot about how al-Maliki was the guy who was going to fix Iraq for us despite a wealth of intelligence indicating he possessed no such qualities. I heard a lot about how democracy would just spring up in these countries spontaneously once we removed the tyrannical governments keeping them down, without ever addressing the cultural and political variations between what happened in our country to start democracy and what was going on in theirs. And I saw that a lot of what our higher-ups said was going on in Iraq was very very different from what I knew for a fact to be happening on the ground.

    Basically, I think that when people start claiming that Bush is doing this because he’s worried about the balance of power in currencies they’re giving him (and the government) far too much credit for being intelligent or analytical…you’re reflecting the flip side of the conspiracy theorist coin, if you will. Based on what I’ve seen personally, on what I’ve been told by people who’ve been close enough to the situation to know credibly, and what I’ve read from former administration officials I believe that Bush is a straight-forward and honest, yet incredibly stupid person who believes exactly what he says he believes and who does exactly what he says he’s going to do for the reasons he says so. And I don’t believe for one second that any of this crap with Iran or Iraq was about Euros or fiscal policy or bad policy advice from the people around him. It was about Bush’s personal obsession with fighting evil and his desire to fulfill what he believes to be his historical destiny…nothing else.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 12:54 pm
  15. funny how an admitted neocon puts up this blurb characterizing neocons as a “them.”

    Comment by oilnwater — December 4, 2007 @ 2:18 pm
  16. I assume you’re talking about me.

    Which is funny because I’ve never said I was a neocon, or agreed with anything neocon’s stand for.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 4, 2007 @ 2:24 pm
  17. UCrawford,

    Oh, I’m not saying that Bush isn’t delusional. He is. He also has control issues. He wants to prevent Iran from knowing how to build a nuclear bomb. It’s not the possession of a nuclear device or the process of building a nuclear device, but merely the knowledge of what it takes to build a nuclear device. The US must apparently kill or kidnap all Iranian nuclear scientists.

    I just think that his outward display of religion is just that. It’s a display of religion. A show. I don’t really have any evidence that it’s all a show. It’s just my feelings.

    Comment by TanGeng — December 4, 2007 @ 2:32 pm
  18. right, it doesn’t matter what you’ve said regarding yourself. your past blurbs, in substance, speak for you.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 4, 2007 @ 2:35 pm
  19. TanGeng,

    I think his display of piety to a particular religious sect (evangelicals) is something of a sham. But I believe strongly that he thinks he’s God’s instrument doing God’s work, regardless of whether the Baptists, or the Pentecostals, or whoever think he’s doing a bang-up job. Every time he says he’s going to do something, he follows through…whenever he takes a policy position, he sticks with it, usually for the reasons he cites. I’ve long ago stopped believing that he doesn’t mean exactly what he says.


    The only thing Doug’s taken a relatively neoconservative position on is foreign policy, which he seems to have gradually backed off on (like a lot of libertarians have). If you’re trying to claim that his overall ideology is neoconservative you’ve presented no serious case for it. So either build a better argument or quit wasting everyone’s time with your stupid accusations.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 2:49 pm
  20. yeah, his past blurbs quite plainly show his (imo irrational) fear that a withdrawal from Iraqi operations would lead to some alkaeda invasion or campaign (however loosely a campaign is defined in this matter)in the U.S.

    while not a neocon position with respect to actual neocon policymakers and pundits such as a wolfowitz or a kristal, these fears are certainly neocon in substance. this could otherwise also be applied to a generalized position of the unthinking GOP voter for the last, say 8 years.

    lastly, i consider quite a bit of stuff you (ucrawford) post as “stupid.” by why bother calling you out on it; you’re not really wasting my time or anyone else’s time, given that everyone here decided to read posts in the firt place.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 4, 2007 @ 3:05 pm
  21. oilnwater,

    So you basically concede that Doug isn’t really neoconservative, great. As for whether you like what I write or not, I don’t particularly care…I don’t know you, you impress me as a rather shallow thinker with a chip on his shoulder, and I wouldn’t care if you got hit by a bus tomorrow. All I care about is that you stick to the topic, which was about neoconservatives’ outlooks on the recent NIE and their reasons for their overall foreign policy approach. It wasn’t a dissection of whether the post author is a neoconservative.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 3:40 pm
  22. i concede nothing. i do label him a neoconservative because:
    * the central tenent of neoconservatism is its approach to foreign policy.* mataconis has indeed already intimated his stance on Iraq in the past during his blurbs. he has also intimated his intense fear of “islamo-facism.” this of course is simply the modern buzzword that personifies any statement with that of neoconservative bent.

    so he’s supposedly changed his mind on this with a report? sorry but give little to no credence either to the sincerity of this, or if sincere, to the character of someone who changes convictions at a whim.

    and finally, i dont know what your (ucrawford)problem personally is, but if you want to casually throw insults around to a stranger and not expect disrespect in turn, you’ll probably be disappointed. for someone who touts his intel work, i find your thinking rather shallow as well. your own invective indicates a chip on the shoulder, but this really isnt any indictment as people who are motivated by conflict are quite natural. are you a moderator? whether you are or aren’t i’m not too concerned about what your objections to sticking to the topic. i answer direct questions at any rate. and about impressions, you don’t leave much of one with me either, especially now. enjoy.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 4, 2007 @ 3:55 pm
  23. oilnwater,

    You completely misrepresent what I’ve said about Iraq. I opposed the war in the beginning, I oppose it now, and I think it’s time to leave.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 4, 2007 @ 5:35 pm
  24. UCrawford, do the higher ups talk about guarding the oil?

    Comment by uhm — December 4, 2007 @ 7:19 pm
  25. oilnwater,

    Have you read anything Doug has written about Iraq or Iran? Have you read the criticisms he’s written of Giuliani’s foreign policy or of Norman Podhoretz in general? Just because he’s not a huge advocate of Ron Paul doesn’t make him a neocon?

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 4, 2007 @ 7:55 pm
  26. uhm,

    Yes, they did to begin with because it was deemed vital infrastructure. Now the Iraqis handle oil security, U.S. forces are not responsible for guarding it. I believe that the Iraqis have a separate ministry to handle all security matters with oil, which is entirely under their control. If that’s changed in the year since I’ve been out of the service I’m unaware of it.


    The central tenet of neoconservatism is its belief in the ability of government to solve societal problems by championing allegedly conservative causes (causes which that government intervention then subverts). Their foreign policy is merely an extension of that.

    As for my problem with you, I’m just not kindly disposed to anybody who comes in with inaccurate labels to slam a post author and detract from the conversation at hand (which we were enjoying before you arrived). Doug’s foreign policy has its flaws, and I’ve got my disagreements with him about his tack towards Ron Paul, but his positions on pretty much every other issue demonstrate a pretty strong libertarian belief system. If you want to go make unsubstantiated accusations about Doug being a neoconservative then either find a conversation where we’re discussing Doug’s political affiliations or take it to another blog, but don’t go interrupting us by changing the subject with personal attacks. As for my “casual disrespect” for you, stick to the topic we’re discussing and you won’t have to worry about it. If you can’t do that, then I could really care less about what you find disrespectful.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 4, 2007 @ 9:54 pm
  27. that’s it. how do you browse a history of someone’s blurbs? we can settle this baby right now.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 5, 2007 @ 12:25 pm
  28. oilnwater,

    There are a few ways…

    First, if you go to the end of Doug’s post, there’s a link for “Read more posts from Doug Mataconis”. It may take time to sift through some of his other topics to the Iraq/Iran stuff, but you’ll find it. It’s in reverse chronological order, like most blogs.

    Second, on the left sidebar is a Google search bar. If you put in “Doug Mataconis Iraq” or “Doug Mataconis Iran” you’ll probably be taken to a list of any post he’s written (or commented on, possibly) on this site that refers to those topics.

    Third, if you simply go to the “Categories” section of the left sidebar and click on “War On Terror”, that will take you to all the posts by any of us that we flagged with that category designation. Look for anything written by Doug.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 5, 2007 @ 1:00 pm
  29. And this has to do with the above article in what way?

    You’re missing the point, sport…you got disrespected because you decided to attack the author of the piece with an attack irrelevant to either the article written or the course of the discussion that followed using troll tactics. If you’re bothered the hostile response you got, then don’t do that. Otherwise you pretty much make yourself fair game for whatever anyone decides to throw at you.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 5, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

    if you aren’t frightened by islamofacism, then you are anti-libertarian. thanx dave nalle clone.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 5, 2007 @ 1:58 pm
  31. mataconis changes his outlook so often it’s like the predator’s camoflage device. except it’s toward the end of the movie and his device is damaged so you get to see the alien underneath.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 5, 2007 @ 1:59 pm
  32. Not that I care what you think, but did you bother to read this:

    or this:

    or this:

    or this:

    or this:

    or this:

    or this:

    or, finally, this:

    Just wondering.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 5, 2007 @ 2:05 pm
  33. donning the cloak device again? there was so much else when i browsed the history that made me ill. and it’s pretty funny how when i placed a *definite label* on you, that’s when you and your little butty starting crying. that’s exactly your problem.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 5, 2007 @ 2:16 pm
  34. actually maybe it’s just a libertarian problem. i only learned about these people this year, and it amazes me how unprincipled they are, or at least how starkly unprincipled and intellectually dishonest that some of their loudest mouthpieces are.

    Comment by oilnwater — December 5, 2007 @ 2:18 pm
  35. Like I said, it doesn’t matter to me what you think or what label you use to describe what you think I believe in.

    You’re wrong, I know that and that’s all that matters.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 5, 2007 @ 2:18 pm

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