May 1, 2006


Hollow Saber Rattling: The U.S. intelligence on Iran's nuclear program is way too weak for anyone to be considering military strikes (David Isenberg, April 26, 2006, Center for Defense Information)

Even if all the questions are answerable, much would still depend on having excellent intelligence. And our intelligence on Iran, to put it politely, stinks. U.S. News & World Report recently reported that Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said that, “we have not made the progress on our oversight of Iran intelligence, which is critical.” Last year, the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction stated, “From Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons to the inner workings of al-Qaida, the intelligence community frequently admitted to us that it lacks answers.”

The notion that when our intelligence about an enemy is crappy--in other words always--we ought to trust them rather than whack them is an argument I've never quite grasped. Zell Miller once explained the countervailing view, which seems far more comprehensible:
I also gave the President my full support for the regime change in Iraq. And at that time, I told this true story to my colleagues:

I was doing some work on my back porch in Young Harris, Georgia, tearing out a section of old stacked rocks, when all of a sudden, I uncovered a nest of copperhead snakes. Now, as you may know, a copperhead is poisonous; it will kill you.

It could kill one of my grandchildren. It could kill one of my four great grandchildren who play around there all the time.

And, you know, when I discovered those copperheads, I didn't call my wife Shirley, like I do about everything else. I didn't ask the city council to pass a resolution. I didn't even call any of my neighbors.

I just took a hoe, chopped their heads off, and killed them dead as doorknobs. Now, I guess you could call it a unilateral action. Or maybe a pre-emptive strike.

I took their poisonous heads off because they were a threat to me, and they were a threat to all I hold dear. And isn't what this is all about?

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 1, 2006 4:30 PM

To me it's an interesting question whether our poor intelligence is a function of willful ingnorance or incompetence. I am not sure.

I am confident that Israel, the Gulf Emirates, the Turks, the Saudis and now, supposedly, India do share intelligence on Iran with us. I suspect a pretty good idea of what's going on is available from these nations as well as the Brits, our satellites and various Iranian dissident groups.

Posted by: JAB at May 1, 2006 4:47 PM
I took their poisonous heads off because they were a threat to me, and they were a threat to all I hold dear. And isn't what this is all about?

A concept so simple and so obvious that only an intellectual could fail to grasp it.

Posted by: djs at May 1, 2006 5:39 PM

The snake metaphor is a bit older than Zell Miller-

"When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him."
FDR - 9/11/1941 Fireside Chat

Posted by: TimF at May 1, 2006 8:32 PM

The reason our intelligence is bad is that the opposing regime is trying to hide what they're doing. They're trying to hide it because it's bad. If they were doing nothing wrong, they'd have no trouble with transparency.

Thus, bad intelligence is evidence we should strike.

Posted by: pj at May 1, 2006 8:50 PM

We have bad intelligence services.

Iran isn't doing anyhing that will lead to anything antime soon. They're being so vocal precisely because they have so little worth hiding.

We should strike them & North Korea on general principle.

All are separable issues.

Posted by: oj at May 1, 2006 8:54 PM

"You have heard it said of old that a good cause halloweth any war, but I say to you. . .."

American blood shed on American soil was good enough for Polk.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 2, 2006 12:52 AM