Intelligence Analysts Question NIE Report Release genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Neocon mindset

Following the release of portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate, a number of intelligence experts are questioning the judgment behind the declassification. Many have felt that the leaked information forced the President to release more of the report in an effort to minimize the political damage. Nonetheless, a number of former insiders believe the decision may have been a mistake. MSNBC has the details here.

To almost any reader, the assessment of trends in global terror for the next five years looks grim. It warns that most jihadist groups “will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks" on “soft targets." It cautions that extremists still seek chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. And it contemplates whether other types of leftist or separatist groups, such as anti-globalism factions, could adopt terrorist methods.

One former insider sees even more. Robert Hutchings, who headed the National Intelligence Council when the estimate was launched in 2004, called the document “a very severe indictment of, not just the administration, but where we as a country have found ourselves five years after 9/11."

“It says the jihad is spreading, expanding and intensifying," said Hutchings, who left the council in early 2005 and is now at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

The key, Hutchings said, is that the United States needs to address more vigorously the conflicts that jihadists have successfully exploited.

“The administration will say that is what they are doing, but that is not true," said Hutchings, who has not seen the classified 30-page document, but has read the three pages released publicly on Tuesday.

“We are back to paying no attention to Palestine because we don’t like Hamas," he said. On Lebanon, “by encouraging Israel to extend its attacks, we have helped destabilize that country."

“We think we can isolate Iran and are surprised when no one joins us," he said.

Hutchings echoes the argument made by many experts on the Middle East whereby stability within the region must take into consideration events taking place throughout the region. Clearly, it appears that a strategy that attempts to isolate one issue from all others isn't succeeding. Hutchings specific reference to the Palestinian situation is consistent with arguments previously made at Thought Theater here and here as well as in recent comments by former President Clinton.

The President, on the contrary has implemented a strategy to separate each of the numerous conflicts that are fomenting further animosity towards the U.S. and that are each serving to expand the radicalization of the region. This approach originated with the administration's handling of the Palestinian issue...whereby he made clear that he would not meet with Yasser Arafat and it has continued with a refusal to engage Iran in any direct discussions regarding its nuclear ambitions. His approach to Syria has been similar though not as absolute. Nonetheless, the strategy offers little ability to use one country to leverage another...leaving us at odds across the board and perhaps pushing these adversaries into alignments that might not otherwise unfold.

At a White House news briefing Wednesday, Snow found himself on the defensive as reporters pressed him for evidence that the United States is, in fact, safer.

Speaking broadly, he said, the intelligence estimate makes the point that the Bush administration has been making for years: Iraq is key to the war on terror.

Democrats cited the document as evidence the government needs changes in political leadership with the Nov. 7 elections. They continued their push Wednesday for release of the rest of the report.

The problem, as I see it, is that the Bush administration seems to believe that all situations should and will be met with a hard-line position and with the very vocal insinuation of military intervention. While I fully accept that the U.S. should not preclude the need for military action, expressing and utilizing that threat in all instances seems counterproductive and lacking in the sophistication that should attempt to understand the nuances of a more comprehensive big picture approach. The neocon mentality is clearly comfortable with the wielding of a large stick but they may well not understand the best application of that capacity.

It reminds me of my school days where everyone could identify those who saw themselves as tough guys...and those same individuals almost always misjudged their ability to prevail...which typically led others to conspire to topple them from their perceived position if invincibility. The United States simply needs to be smarter than to rely almost solely on military might. If we fail to realize as much, we may well find ourselves in a brawl we can't win.

Daniel DiRito | September 27, 2006 | 7:53 PM
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