The Neocons And The NIE
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.