The NIE Bait
Democrats have done it again. They have charged off into a political box canyon, egged on by the brilliant lights at the New York Times and the paper’s leaking pals who believe that their reporting on the contents of classified report by unnamed intelligence analysts will persuade American voters of something other than the paper’s reckless disregard for anything but its fanatical Bush-hatred agenda. Specifically, Democrats expect Americans to believe that the overthrow of Saddam has made America less safe.
One can believe (as I do) that Iraq “has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism” without believing the Iraq war has been, on balance, a liability in the war on terror. Those foreign jihadists who go to Iraq, survive and return home pose a greater threat than they otherwise would have. But Iraq also has been the graveyard of thousands of jihadists, among them some of al Qaida’s best.
And the “overall threat of terrorist attacks” likely would have grown after Sept. 11 even if there had been no war in Iraq; arguably more so, because the jihadists engaged in Baghdad and Ramadi could not simultaneously be in New York or Chicago.
Attacking our enemies does tend to make them angrier. But they were angry enough to start with, and failing to respond to their attacks can have worse consequences than defeating them in battle.
Anyway, all we know about the NIE is what the leaker and the New York Times want us to know. That’s not enough.
Such an assessment would also require some estimate of what the terrorist threat would look like today if the war had not happened. For instance, did the authors of the NIE calculate the effect of the Sept. 11 attacks on the recruitment of terrorists or the effect of the bombings in Madrid and London? It is certainly possible that these events produced an increase in would-be terrorists by showing the possibility of sensational success. So if there is an overall increase, how much of it was the result of Iraq or the Danish cartoons or other perceived Western offenses against Islam, and how much of it is a continuing response to al-Qaeda’s own terrorist successes before, on and after Sept. 11?
Finally, a serious evaluation of the effect of the Iraq war would have to address the Bush administration’s argument that it is better to fight terrorist recruits in Iraq than in the United States. This may or may not be true, although again the administration would seem to have the stronger claim at the moment. But a serious study would have to measure the numbers of terrorists engaged in Iraq, and the numbers who may have been killed in Iraq, against any increase in the numbers of active terrorists outside Iraq as a result of the war. Did the NIE make such a calculation?
The Pelosi-Dean-Reid-Murtha Democrats have fully committed their party to waging the November elections on the proposition that retreat from Iraq will make the United States safer, so the idea that the overthrow of Saddam (and his mad-as-hatter-sons-and-successors) made us more vulnerable fits perfectly into their world. Given that Keith “Art Bell” Olbermann has emerged as the small screen spokesman for that worldview, originally pushed forward by Michael Moore, we should expect no logic from it. (Olbermann was out there last night, laying down some smoke for Bill Clinton, with a passionate indictment of George Bush’s failure to stop the 9/11 plotters. I’ll play the unintentionally hilarious screed on today’s program, of course, because the left is the center-right’s best ally in campaign 2006.)
Let’s pretend, like the Democrats and their MSM pals, that the NIE begins and ends with this paragraph:
The invasion of Iraq unleashed Islamist radicalism that had been held in check by Saddam. Now the jihadists are streaming into Iraq by the thousands, learning to build bombs, and returning to their home to commit acts of terror. If they find a nation-state that will allow them to build or buy WMD, an attack could be forthcoming that will make 9/11 look small.
First, of course, you would want to know who wrote the report, and especially what their current situation is in the agency-wars that are waging. Valerie Plame has retired, but it isn’t like she was the only Bush hater in the building. Yes, there are 16 agencies involved, but somebody gets the final edit, and our evaluation of the document depends upon that knowledge.
It is a preposterous argument the left is making and the Democrats are selling, and very favorable ground on which to fight the elections of 2006.
So why do the Democrats fall for this? How can they persuade themselves that the danger of Islamist radicalism increases whenever Islamist radicalism is confronted, or its state sponsors overthrown?
It is the echo chamber.
On Thursday Thomas Edsall gave a candid assessment of the overwhelming left-wing bias in the MSM, an assessment that Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter agreed with on yesterday’s program.
The mask is fully off: The major newsrooms are just extensions of the radical left, and the news they collectively produce reflects their bias. Not only do these warrens of Deaniacs not report the reality of the war or the political situation, they cannot even see that reality. Thus did Jonathan vigorously defend The New York Times’ Bill Keller against the charge that Keller is a lefty. Do large numbers of people not on the left or in the guild really believe that? Of course not. Common sense tells Americans that the New York Times and its leadership are not to be trusted.
But the Democrats do trust the MSMers, and take the New York Times as gospel even as the fever swamp sings the praises of Olbermann et al. Meanwhile the center and the right shake their heads and go off to vote Republican, certain that the empowerment of the lunatic fringe and their world view will mean certain retreat and defeat in the war.