posted Sep 26, 2006

I read the declassified portions of the National Intelligence Estimate document.

My choice for the key paragraph, capturing both the opportunity and danger of our present course succinctly:

If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.

It's a short document and I would recommend reading it, rather than waiting for people to digest it for you. The full report might be a bit much but this segment is the size of a long blog post.

If the entire document is of this quality, I hope they release the whole thing. (I have read that some people think it's going to be released but I haven't found what I would consider confirmation and I don't know why they believe it's going to be released.) I find this segment to be quite balanced, being neither an unhinged indictment of Bush's failure to be prescient, nor a cheerleading session. I can see how selective leaking or selective reading could mislead the New York Times into thinking it was a bad news for Bush, but I wouldn't characterize this as "support[ing] the foreign policy judgments and political positions of the Bush Adminstration", either. This portion constrains itself to discussing what has happened, what is happening, and what may happen on our current course; it doesn't engage in any comparisions with any other hypothetical actions.

I would say that to be an "endorsement" or "indictment" it would really need to propose some other solution that they believe would work better or worse than the current course, because I reject the idea that "bad things happened" proves the idea was a bad one, or that "good things happened" proves the idea was a good one. Bad things may happen, yet some choice may have been the least bad, or good things may happen while the choice may have been the least good. When you're up against an entire ideology with millions of adherents that want to kill you or convert you, it's not likely that there are any truly good solutions on the table.

(Of course, the complexity of the world being what it is, any comparision of where we are now vs. where we would be if we had reacted completely differently to 9/11 would effectively be pulled out of thin air, no matter what evidence could be brought to bear.)

An alternate view that the snippet is basically useless. My response to this would be that given how political the entire discussion has become, simply stating the seemly-obvious can be a useful reminder. Yes, it should be obvious that good things have happened, good things may yet happen, bad things have happened, and bad things may yet happen, but there's an awful lot of people right now who edit one half or the other of that list completely out of their personal reality.


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