Thursday, January 08, 2004


Yes, very punny, I agree.

I'm curious how think tank employees/experts live their lives knowing that all their research might never see the light of day. I love the idea of a bunch of intellectuals getting together to try to make the world a better place by closely collaborating and attempting to form a consensus of ideas that will benefit all mankind, regardless of one's particular political stance, but the thought of all my work not being used by anyone - tough. Maybe this think tank stuff is not for me. It would be great, for a while, to sit around all day and read blogs and books and pat myself and my colleagues on the back for knowing the answers to all the world's problems, but I think that would only last so long - because we'd be watching the world accelerate towards disaster. Hmmm...

This story in the Financial Times and a similar one in the Washington Post comment on a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The report once again talks about the politicization of the intelligence process and goes on to call for a full study of the effectiveness of the UN inspections process.

I haven't read the full text yet, but let's take a quick look at the summary as I'm curious if there will actually be any new/useful info in this report. I've been curious about this CEIP organization as I like the name, I cruise by the nice building it owns in the Dupont area of DC about once a week, and found it mildly interesting that it is located directly next to the Brookings Institution - another left-of-center think tank.

Key findings of the report follow. Hold on your hat. Check out this link for access to the full report.

  • Iraq’s WMD programs represented a long-term threat that could not be ignored. They did not, however, pose an immediate threat to the United States, to the region, or to global security.

  • With respect to nuclear and chemical weapons, the extent of the
    threat was largely knowable at the time.

  • The uncertainties were much greater with regard to biological weapons.

  • The missile program appears to have been the one program in active
    development in 2002.

  • It is unlikely that Iraq could have destroyed, hidden, or sent out of the
    country the hundreds of tons of chemical and biological weapons,
    dozens of Scud missiles and facilities engaged in the ongoing production
    of chemical and biological weapons that officials claimed
    were present without the United States detecting some sign of this activity
    before, during, or after the major combat period of the war.

  • How much radioactive and biological material have been lost and
    whether they have fallen into the wrong hands remain crucial unknowns.

  • Prior to 2002, the intelligence community appears to have overestimated
    the chemical and biological weapons in Iraq but had a generally
    accurate picture of the nuclear and missile programs.

  • The dramatic shift between prior intelligence assessments and the October
    2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), together with the creation of
    an independent intelligence entity at the Pentagon and other steps, suggest
    that the intelligence community began to be unduly influenced by
    policymakers’ views sometime in 2002.

  • There was and is no solid evidence of a cooperative relationship between
    Saddam’s government and Al Qaeda.

  • There was no evidence to support the claim that Iraq would have transferred
    WMD to Al Qaeda and much evidence to counter it.

  • The notion that any government would give its principal security assets to
    people it could not control in order to achieve its own political aims is
    highly dubious.

  • Today, the most likely source of a nuclear terrorist threat would be
    from theft or purchase of fissile material or tactical nuclear weapons
    from poorly guarded stockpiles in Russia and other former Soviet
    states, including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The security
    of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, including technology and know how, is
    also a major concern.

  • Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from
    Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile programs, beyond the intelligence
    failures noted above, by:
     Treating nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons as a single “WMD threat.”
    The conflation of three distinct threats, very different in the danger they pose,
    distorted the cost/benefit analysis of the war. (p. 52)
     Insisting without evidence—yet treating as a given truth—that Saddam
    Hussein would give whatever WMD he possessed to terrorists. (p. 52)
     Routinely dropping caveats, probabilities, and expressions of uncertainty present
    in intelligence assessments from public statements. (p. 53)
     Misrepresenting inspectors’ findings in ways that turned threats from minor to
    While worst case planning is valid and vital, acting on worst case assumptions
    is neither safe nor wise.

  • The assertion that the threat that became visible on 9/11 invalidated
    deterrence against states does not stand up to close scrutiny.

  • Saddam’s responses to international pressure and international weakness
    from the 1991 war onward show that while unpredictable he was not

  • The UN inspection process appears to have been much more successful than
    recognized before the war.

  • In addition to inspections, a combination of international constraints—
    sanctions, procurement investigations, and the export/import control
    mechanism—also appears to have been considerably more effective
    than was thought.

  • The knowledge, prior experience in Iraq, relationships with Iraqi scientists
    and officials, and credibility of UNMOVIC experts represent a vital resource
    that has been ignored when it should be being fully exploited.

  • To reconstruct an accurate history of Iraq’s WMD programs, the data
    from the seven years of UNSCOM/IAEA inspections are absolutely

  • Considering all the costs and benefits, there were at least two options
    clearly preferable to a war undertaken without international support:
    allowing the UNMOVIC/IAEA inspections to continue until obstructed
    or completed, or imposing a tougher program of “coercive inspections” backed by
    a specially designed international force.

  • Even a war successful on other counts could leave behind three significant
    WMD threats: lost material, “loose” scientists, and the message that
    only nuclear weapons could protect a state from foreign invasion.

  • The National Security Strategy’s new doctrine of preemptive military action
    is actually a loose standard for preventive war under the cloak of
    legitimate preemption.

  • In the Iraqi case, the world’s three best intelligence services proved unable
    to provide the accurate information necessary for acting in the
    absence of imminent threat.

Well, it seems like a lot of the same to me, but I did notice that 'preventive war' thing again. Maybe the term is finally about to make its way into the mainstream. Is it scary to anyone else that the public is becoming more educated in military concepts like 'preventive war' and 'preemptive military action' than, say, 'conflict resolution'?

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