The press who cried “wolf”

The big news I keep seeing and hearing about is the release of the National Intelligence Estimate, a joint report from the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies. According to accounts of that report, they say that the war in Iraq has worsened the terrorist threat, not lessened it.

I haven’t access to the actual report, and probably wouldn’t be able to properly interpret it if I did, but the accounts and excerpts I’ve seen and heard so far leave me with a few questions.

The first is that it seems that all reports like this all have the same general theme: everything we have done or might do will only make things worse. I never see any reports saying that “this will make things better” or “this will have no real effect.” It seems that all roads lead to disaster. If we confront them, we will encourage more to join them. If we ignore them, we will embolden them to strike harder. And if we negotiate or capitulate, we will be seen as week and lead to more demands and threats.

The second is that it (what little is cited) seems to take the position that trends and patterns and actions taken prior to the invasion of Iraq are irrelevant. As I noted above, the preachers of doom and gloom have always said that whatever action is proposed is a recipe for apocalypse. The first President Bush’s confronting Iraq would lead to a wave of terrorism. President Clinton’s cruise missile attacks would only create new martyrs. The invasion of Afghanistan would lead us to a quagmire just like it did to the Soviet Union. And the invasion of Iraq would spark a new wave of anti-Americanism and waste away all the goodwill we had after 9/11.

I’ve been an amateur observer of world events for some time, and I’ve noticed one consistent element: anti-Americanism is always “on the rise.” The only time we seem to have much international support is when we’re on our knees — either knocked there by a sucker punch like 9/11, or groveling and begging for forgiveness and help. It seems that only when we’re strong and resolute do we find out who our true friends are.

So I find myself disagreeing with the accounts of the NIE, as reported by the press so far. In my favor, it’s the accounts of what it says that I disagree, not the report itself — still tightly classified. And considering how many stories about the war on terror that the media has gotten wrong so far, I don’t feel too insecure in critiquing.

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