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April 17, 2004

Standing Firm in the Political Playground

Craig Henry is on part five of a series of posts exploring the pre-9/11 intelligence failure:

Connect the dots. That's a kid's game on the place-mat at the Ground Round. Can a serious person really think that threat analysis is child's play?

It oughtn't be lost on anybody that a blogger is here doing what people with among the highest-level government views of events in the country are hamstrung from doing because they can't escape the pull of the issue's political gravity. I'll have to think about this, but perhaps that's part of the forming dynamic: that channels for sober analysis arise outside of the government, picking up some sparks of information from politicians who are essentially putting on a show, but mostly following the accounts of unheralded reporters, obscure academics, and think-tank financed researchers. Unfortunately, the mainstream media seems not to realize the opportunity that this opening presents.

That the "official" information is being revealed amid such a volatile mixture of forces has implications for the way in which our leaders' messages must be delivered. In short, most compromised are clarity and evenly keeled assessment that openly accepts blame among the culpable. This is where I have to differ with Paul Craddick's reflection about the "better explanation and accounting" that the administration could give in the case of Iraq. Oh, I agree with Paul that his proposed speech would be wonderful to hear from the President's lips, but that is merely to say that it would be wonderful if the environment allowed him to deliver it.

No matter the balanced, brilliantly straightforward points offered in the speech, the media and the President's opponents would strive to ensure that this would be the only part heard:

We haven't yet reached a final assessment - the ISG, now under the direction of Charles Duelfer, continues its work under difficult conditions.

Still, there's no question that we haven't found what we - and Intelligence agencies 'round the world - were expecting. And that's not good.

Though we don't know to what extent, it's appearing more and more likely that we were all mistaken...

This may not be anything peculiar to our age, taking a broader view than the past decade or so, but on these crucial life-and-death matters, it seems leaders are having just to act and let people discover that it was all for the best. This is obviously not an ideal approach; it amounts to hoping that we have leaders who will act as adults even as they are forced to stoop to bullies in the political playground. Perhaps as people notice, the value of candor will increase once again.

For a little bit of hope, we turn to David Morrison:

Years ago, when I lived in Israel for a time, in the same valley as Jenin, Israeli Arab associates of mine strongly urged me as an American to steer clear of the area, and that was in the early 1980's. If the fence has managed to reduce the overall tensions in the area, on both sides, which it seems to have done, that would be a good thing for everybody.

The story to which he's responding offers a personalized view:

Last January 1, when the first stretch of fence was completed, Avman met with the mayor of Jenin at brigade headquarters. "On the way back home," he promised the disbelieving mayor, "you will not see a single Israeli tank."

Who would have listened had this result (probably expected, by some) been predicted before the fence went up?

Posted by Justin Katz at April 17, 2004 12:35 AM