For most sensible people, the latest National Intelligence Estimate contained a great deal of good news. Iran seems to have shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 due to international pressure and hasn’t restarted it. Ahmadinejad doesn’t have the bomb and probably won’t get one any time soon.
True, “national intelligence” of the Middle East is inherently dubious and ripe for politicization—or have we already forgotten about George Tenet’s “slam dunk.” But nevertheless, the apocalypse doesn’t seem to be nearly so nigh.
The outlook was noticeably bleaker for those patriotic Americans counseling Bush to bomb Iran now. Throughout the neoconservative blogosphere—on the webpages of Commentary, The Weekly Standard, and the like—the NIE was treated as, at best, a spurious, corrupt report and, at worst, part of a sinister Leftist plot to undermine the republic.
John Podhoretz, the editor-to-be of Commentary, set the tone. JPod first admitted that the NIE “dealt a serious blow” to his crowd, but then after this perfunctory realism was through, moved on to his “dark suspicions” about the report.
“Dark suspicions” can be roughly translated as Podhoretz’s way of making unfounded accusations under the cover of “it’s just my dark suspicion, but…” Previously, JPod had some “dark suspicions” about Ron Paul—whose libertarian, constitutionalist principles are beyond reproach—but who JPod associated with anti-Semitism, Father Coughlin, and Third-Reich fellow travelers.
With the NIE, JPod was concerned that all may not be well in “Bush Country”: the intelligence agencies are no longer loyal followers of Dubya and might even be trying to “undermine” his presidency.
Podhoretz was actually criticized by another Commentary writer, Gabe Shoenfeld, for going too far, and JPod semi-recanted. But then Shoenfeld rebutted his earlier rebuttal, claiming that JPod was on the right track all along.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board—supporters of most things Bushian from invasions in Babylon to open-borders immigration—claimed it no longer trusted the intelligence communities like it did when they were generously giving out fraudulent information about WMD in Iraq back in the good ol’ days. Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard offered more of the same.
According to WSJ, the Bush administration has “lost control of its bureaucracy” [my emphasis] or, worse, the bureaucrats have become “hyper-partisan” and gone over to the liberals’ side. The WSJ seems to be lamenting, “why just the other day, Bush’s bureaucracy was telling us what we wanted to hear!”
In the end, the neocons’ rejection of a report that doesn’t depict Iran as fanatically questing after Armageddon is not in the least surprising. For the past six years, Iran has been for them not merely a Middle East trouble spot, nor even, as Podhoretz describes it, an adversary so “intent on building nuclear weapons…that neither diplomacy nor sanctions can prevent it from succeeding.”
In the neocons’ febrile imaginations, Iran is a part a global menace the U.S. must inevitably confront in the great ideological “World War IV” that will determine whether democratic-capitalism or Islamo-fascism shall rule the earth. With such ideas swirling throughout their heads, the notion that the mullahs might not be so dangerous after all was unthinkable, borderline blasphemous.
In the face ideology, contradictory evidence melts into air; in the words of President Bush, after the NIE, “nothing’s changed.”
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