February 11, 2004

The C Word

Steve Weisman, writing in the NYT about the flawed WMD intel, sprinkles liberally, no fewer than eight times, the "credibility" word through his piece:

"American credibility has been reduced to tatters."

"...blow to American credibility."

"...some of the credibility is gone" (a qoute from our old friend Hans).

"blow to American credibility" (again!)

"whatever blow has been dealt to American credibility." (Wiesman, somewhat daringly, is branching out and mixing up the verbiage a bit here!)

"...credibility problem around the world."

Note: Here with this last Wiesman is quoting an Asian foreign minister who muses that, so long as we continue our "unilateral" actions, we will face a credibility issue (guess it's not the Japanese, South Korean, Thai or Philippino foreign minister Wiesman interviewed!)

You know, I don't buy that our credibility has been dealt a shattering blow.

Think I'm a Panglossian naif in denial or a bull-headed Administration apologist?

Listen, we still have the best intelligence services in the world and our friends in Asia and Europe know it.

In addition, a significant number of other countries' intelligence services were pretty certain that Saddam possessed at least some chemical and biological agent.

It's not as if, out of whole cloth, only a few people hunkered down in Doug Feith's Pentagon office espied possible WMD stockpiles in Iraq.

Put differently, there's a lot of blame, re: faulty intelligence, to go around both overseas and in prior U.S. administrations.

So all this is mostly yet another manifestation of hyperbolic Bush-bashing.

And seeking excuses to avoid the hard choices facing us, going forward, on the counter-proliferation front. You can almost see people positioning themselves to avoid, say, the prospects of military action in a NoKo if we are left with no other choice.

Call it pre-emptive posturing. The better to ready excuses for appeasement-style policies going forward in select precincts.

So expect much more such tortured recriminations and hand-wringing from all the likely quarters re: a sudden alarming dearth of American credibility on the world stage.

Don't get me wrong. Our flawed intel on Iraq was a mega-screw up.

We need to investigate thoroughly what went wrong. But much of the anguished talk about "credibility" is bogus.

Put differently, our allied intelligence services are still listening very closely, a John Bolton will tell you, as we talk about NoKo, Iran, and Pakistani proliferation issues.

I'm purposefully mentioning John Bolton here. Wiesman, in a risible bid to make the article appear Keller-compliant (ie., "impartial") trots out a quote or two from him.

This then facilitates the proper atmospherics to allow for guffaws of disbelief to emit from the Dominique de Villepin fan club over at W. 43rd St: "Oh, of course Bolton would say that. He's just "Hobbesian" Dick's crazed neo-con spying on Colin over at Foggy Bottom. Don't take him seriously. He's in bed with Perle, Feith, Chalabi and the rest of 'em. And so on.)

I'm not viewing all this through rosy-colored lens. I've blogged critically about Bolton in the past. But Bolton, day in and day out, is the guy liasing with security officials in other capitals.

And I believe him when he says are credibilty hasn't nose-dived dramatically the world over (here I'm not talking about the Middle East but Asia and Europe. In the Middle East, for many reasons, our credibility is at new lows. More on that another time).

And I believe Bolton too when he posits that this contention (blown U.S. cred) is more of a "chattering class" story than major bona fide problem impacting our national interest in a material way.

We're still the go to guys on all these issues. Major inhibitions about our intelligence data stems less, in my view, from a real doubt about its accuracy than from a reluctance to undertake actions that might be necessitated by the intelligence gathered.

Oh, and note this part of Wiesman's piece too:

"American officials acknowledge that the damage to the reputation of American intelligence has been significant, making it harder in the future to rally support for confrontations over banned weapons.

"The bar has been raised," the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, said recently. "People are going to be very suspicious when one talks to them about intelligence. And they are going to be very suspicious when we try to use intelligence to justify certain actions." [emphasis added]

Hey, is Kofi working for the Bushies now? Is he, er, the "American official[s]" that was Wiesman's source? (sloppy, huh?)

Also, in what basically amounts to a hastily scrawled hit piece, Weisman (who made up his mind, one surmises, before he penned the piece that our credibility had taken a big time body blow from Kuala Lumpur to Brussels) writes:

In a speech in Washington last month, the French defense minister, Mich¸le Alliot-Marie, assailed "certain radical neo-conservative ideas" that she said were "the very antithesis of European sensibilities."

Here's the real reason for her trip.

Again, don't believe all the hype.

Posted by Gregory at February 11, 2004 08:46 AM
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