That boom off in the distance was not the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities, but Norman Podhoretz's head exploding. Sadly, this hasn't set back his personal program of permanent global warfare, which is securely ensconced in the deep underground bunker of his psyche, reinforced with hardened layers of fervor so as to withstand even the most advanced assaults of common sense and morality:
It is worth remembering that in 2002, one of the conclusions offered by the NIE, also with “high confidence,” was that “Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.” And another conclusion, offered with high confidence too, was that “Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.”
It is also worth remembering the circumstances by which the aberrational 2002 NIE was delivered, under intense pressure from the Vice President's office to produce, well, what it produced, and from Congress to produce anything that would provide them with a hedge for their craven political acquiescence to a clearly unnecessary war (and it has worked well in that regard; the much-used excuse about faulty intelligence is that hedge being cashed in). The intelligence community submitted peacefully to its violation and now, like some unfortunate Saudi Arabian rape victim, is being brought up on morals charges.
The point of Podhoretz's post is to question the sincerity of the latest NIE. Some disappointed hawks have described it as a "conspiracy." I suspect they're correct (if typically overblown in their language) in that the intelligence is being spun a bit (as if analysts' "spin" of their own analysis is equivalent to political leaders and their operatives stovepiping and spinning intelligence) but it would be more accurate to describe it as a counter-conspiracy.
The hawks are rather typically fabricating context here. The stubborn myth that the Iraq war was the result of "failed intelligence" persists because dishonest people in positions of influence manipulate a widespread fundamental misunderstanding of how the intelligence process works and a child-like belief that the intelligence community has the ability and should be expected to discern with absolute reliability the doings of closed, secretive states like Iraq and Iran. (For insight from someone with experience in these matters, see the invaluable Dr. Leo Strauss here.) The lesson of Iraq is not that "the intelligence failed" but that intelligence is manipulable by a determined administration in collusion with corrupt journalists and commentators.
But you have to admire the open dishonesty:
As the intelligence community must know, if [Bush] were to [bomb Iran], it would be as a last resort, only after it had become undeniable that neither negotiations nor sanctions could prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and only after being convinced that it was very close to succeeding.
Where on earth would they get the idea that Bush would act precipitously? When will people start giving this president a fair shake? This from the guy who has declared diplomacy and sanctions irrelevant and has done everything, as part of a concerted, orchestrated effort by a small, determined and influential faction (one might even call it a "conspiracy"), to ensure that they will not succeed.
Steve Sailer recently noted that Gregory Cochran, the physicist and anthropology professor who pointed out the glaring misrepresentations in the Administration's pre-war hysterics (all you need to know about "intelligence failures" right there) before the Iraq invasion, sees the NIE as an attempt by the Community to pre-empt a second pre-war agit-prop offensive and "run out the clock" on the remaining, nerve-wracking 13 months of Bush II. I tend to believe it, and God bless them for it.
Vice President Cheney's office has been pushing for an NIE with alarmist conclusions, just as in 2002, for the last two years. His apparent failure is cause for hope, but not celebration. These guys aren't done by a long shot. Someone once said, in trying to make sense of the Bush Presidency, that one simply has to wake up every morning and remind himself that a coup has occurred. Then it all makes sense. Think of this as a counter-coup. And be glad.