Thursday, May 11, 2006
When Right Is Wrong
Nevertheless, due to the CIA's reluctance to endorse all aspects of the radical new foreign policy that was proposed post 9/11 (and prior), the propaganda mill churned out this up-is-down head scratcher. In fact, in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the growing displeasure with the CIA - and its "timidity" vis-a-vis intelligence on Iraq - led Rumsfeld to set up the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon in order to get at the intel that the CIA was too busy "vetting" - or better yet "ignoring" due to their peace and love bias.
The only other agency to surpass the CIA in terms of scorn, contempt and suspicion in the eyes of the neocon/hawk set is the State Department - especially prior to Condi's recent appointment. State has morphed into the standard bearer for "weakness" and diplomatic hemming and hawing, a paralysis that stood as a roadblock to the neocon inspired policy of "toughness" on the part of administration hawks and their once sizable, though dwindling, pool of supporters. State's dedication to employing means other than the cruise missile was actually blamed for the current plague of extremism and the continued rule of despotic regimes around the globe. These defenders of the status quo, above all, were not to be trusted.
But the grand irony of it all is that the much maligned and distrusted State Department's intelligence bureau (INR) was actually the most prescient and accurate when compared to other intelligence agencies with respect to assessments of Iraq's WMD capacity, the difficulties that a post-invasion Iraq would pose and a whole host of other relevant matters. If you travel along the spectrum from the INR, to the CIA to Special Plans, you go from better informed to worse. But from the hawk/neocon point of view, you go from most derided to praised. Go figure.
So it was with little surprise that I read this bit in the most recent issue of The Atlantic (scroll to bottom of page) about how State was closer to predicting the victory of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections than their cohorts in the intelligence business (a fact that I believe was flagged on American Footprints - perhaps by Prak - around the time of the elections). The story bears returning to [emphasis mine]:
It turns out that sometimes U.S. intelligence gets things right, or close to right—even if nobody’s listening. When Hamas upset Fatah in January’s Palestinian elections, the radical Islamic group’s victory seemed to catch American policy makers entirely off guard. But they wouldn’t have been so shocked if they’d taken a look at a polling analysis carried out just before the election by the State Department’s intelligence service (and recently obtained by Secrecy News, an online service that tracks “new developments in secrecy, security, and intelligence policies”). While the State Department didn’t go so far as to predict a Hamas victory, its analysts did describe the race as “neck and neck,” with the Islamist group only two points off the lead. The analysis also cited a decade’s worth of polls showing Hamas steadily gaining the trust of Palestinians while the ruling party’s support diminished, and noted that corruption (an issue on which Hamas enjoyed a huge advantage in public confidence over Fatah) was the most-cited concern of voters leading up to the election. All in all, the State Department analysts concluded presciently that “these results show a closer race than other published surveys … which have tended to place [Fatah] ahead at the polls by a wider margin.
Makes me want to channel the exasperated plea from Bill Paxton's character in Aliens: Why don't you put [INR] in charge?