In the endless game of “who do you trust,” I have to admit that I no longer trust America’s intelligence agencies, which have, of late, done shoddy and many of whose troops seem to be infected by Bush Derangement Syndrome. So, when an NIE comes out, and is then filtered through the NY Times, I take everything I hear with a dollop of salt. That’s just my instinct, without any practical facts to back myself up. Fortunately, others have both more facts and analytical ability in this area than I do, and they’re just as suspicious of the sudden announcement that Iran, rather than being on the verge of being a nuclear tiger, is merely a tired old mule. American Thinker has a good round-up of these doubters.
UPDATE: James Taranto, at Best of the Web, points out that the report directly contradicts its “high confidence” report of just two years ago. I find this significant, because everyone is saying that Bush was an idiot (again) by treating Iran as actually dangerous. However, up until the latest NIE estimate, which Democrats instantly treated as gospel truth, the same entity had said that Iran was, in fact, dangerous, a conclusion Democrats have always disregarded. Apparently the NIE is accurate only when it embarrasses the administration.
Taranto says something else I found quite interesting:
Here’s what troubles us about the report, though: If one can have high confidence in the NIE findings, then those findings are good news for America. They mean that a regime that has repeatedly shown its hostility toward our country is less of a threat than we had reason to fear. If Iran had nuclear weapons, it could create a humanitarian catastrophe. Or it could use the threat to do so to do all sorts of mischief that would be destructive to U.S. interests in the region.
But we haven’t seen anyone celebrating the NIE as good news for America. The people who profess to believe it all seem to view it as a partisan document, a weapon to be used in their battle against the Bush administration. To the administration’s domestic foes, it doesn’t seem to matter how much of a threat Iran poses; short-term political gain is more important than the interests of America.
The administration is vulnerable to the same criticism. By releasing the NIE now, it seems to be signaling that it has decided to throw in the towel on dealing with the Iranian threat, leaving it for the next administration.
This column does not have high confidence that the NIE is right. But we certainly hope it is, because if it isn’t, its consequences could prove very dangerous.
UPDATE II: Power Line looked to the Israeli take on the subject, which is less sanguine, more pragmatic and, historically, more accurate.
UPDATE III: The always astute Richard Baehr weighs in.