Posted by lex, on September 18, 2009
In 2001, intelligence estimates said that Iran was five years away from being able to assemble the components for a nuclear weapons program. The 2003 National Intelligence Estimate doubled that figure to ten years, “early next decade” at the soonest, more probably not until 2015.
In the summer of 2003, national media outlets took heart at the news that the intelligence community was re-assessing the products it had developed asserting the presence of WMD in Iraq – an important, but by no means exclusive rationale for going to war there. There were murmurings here and abroad that, rather than cautiously balanced assessments with footnoted caveats intended to inform policy makers, the intel had been “sexed up *” at the direction of politicians – a crucial distinction.
And then in 2007, a new NIE was released that asserted Iran had abandoned its weapons program in 2003. This was heralded in many quarters as the successful reassertion of rational analysis over bureaucratic politicization, and was widely seen as a blow to Evil Mad Emperor President Bu$hCheney’s Insane Rush to Yet Another Unwinnable War. For Oil.
Others wondered whether the intelligence bureaucracy hadn’t substituted its own judgment on policy matters for that of the country’s elected representatives: If it wasn’t right for the intel community to be politicized into a war, neither was it right for the bureaucracy to let their own policy judgments lead us away from one. Because in neither case is that their proper role.
No, the role of the intelligence community is to hoover up as many facts as they can, deduce what those facts point towards in terms of the capability and intent of foreign powers, signify their degree of confidence in those conclusions and factually present the counter-indications. At which point, those constitutionally invested with the authority and responsibility to formulate policy can sensibly do so.
This little history lesson is important only because it has a bearing on our present.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama pledged – among other things – that he would “cut investments in unproven missile defense systems”. In February 2009, the president ordered a sweeping re-evaluation of the Bush administration’s missile defense plans, in part citing Russian concerns over the Polish/Czech missile defense project:
The fact is, with the economic crisis, Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration has not yet reviewed where it is on a whole range of issues, including relationships with allies, the missile defense program, the relationship with the Russians,” (DoD Secretary Robert) Gates said in a round table with reporters while attending a conference of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “These things are all, in many respects, tied together.”
Not stitched in with those concerns was the imminence and gravity of the Iranian threat. Not, at least, until yesterday when the intelligence community, having once again seen which way the wind was blowing, apparently produced the Correct Answer. An answer that – fortuitously, no doubt – supports candidate Obama’s expressed policy preferences.
And today the AP reveals an IAEA document which contends that Iran has the capability – now – to make nuclear weapons, is working on the means of delivering them, and is “likely to overcome” their technical problems doing so. Much closer to the original 2001 NIE estimate of 2006, much sooner than the 2003 NIE assessment of 2015, and thoroughly rubbishing the 2007 estimate that was so widely greeted to approbation.
I don’t argue that the more imminent Iranian threat is not short and medium range ballistic missiles. I do argue that the long range threat is of much more proximate concern to US national security. Us.
The Eastern European missile shield served two principle goals: It protected the US homeland (principally) and Europe (secondarily) from the intimidation of rogue states. It also held out hope to countries long ground under the boot of Soviet tyranny that they could be a part of the liberal, Western security alliance. While the second goal was laudable, the first was vital. Our national ballistic missile defense didn’t have to be an “either/or” proposition, it might easily have been a “both/and.” Ought to have been, in fact. If the technologies required to form a land-based shield are not yet mature, then now is the time to work them out.
Unless, of course, the intelligence has once again been cooked in support of a policy preference, rather to inform it.
I am not one of those who believes that President Obama is set on destroying our country, he merely has a fundamentally different view of what our country’s future ought to be. With that in mind, i firmly believe that the president’s actions are clearly not intended to jeopardize national security. He obviously estimates that we can better secure our homeland by lowering our shield and counting on the good offices of the Kremlin to help us negotiate with Tehran.
For all of our sakes, I hope that his estimate, at least, is right.
** 01-25-21 Original link gone; substitute found – Ed.