Thursday, September 28, 2006

National Intelligence Estimate: This is the "Good News?"

Cross posted at My Left Wing.

If you haven't yet read the "Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate 'Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,'" I highly recommend that you do so here.

I'm not certain what young Mister Bush's people were thinking when they decided to release this. It sure doesn't contain much in the way of that "good news" the administration tells us we're not hearing enough of.

This sentence from the NIE was quoted the other day by a pro-war former intelligence officer as an example of "progress" in the war on terror:
We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse.

That sounds encouraging until you read the rest of the paragraph.
New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.

We've let the cats out of the corral and they're spreading and multiplying. Rounding them all back up won't be "harder." It will be impossible.

Here's the controversial "cause celebre" paragraph:
The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry
on the fight.

This has been interpreted to mean that if the U.S. forces leave Iraq, it will inspire jihadists to fight even harder, but it says nothing of the sort. In fact, nothing in the released portions of the NIE addresses the impact that U.S. "success" might or might not have on global terrorism, or ventures an opinion of what "success" might consist of.

Moreover, a later passage, supposedly addressing "vulnerabilities" of the jihadist movement, actually suggests that our presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East actually energizes radical movements.
Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists' radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.

"Dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts" is a double-negative way of saying that jihadism depends on the U.S. continuing its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and (through proxy) Lebanon.

Given the dominant influence of the "jihadists' radical ideology," one has to question just how "limited" its appeal is. "Respected voices of moderation" haven't emerged in the last five years, and "criticism of violent tactics" against Muslim citizens certainly hasn't kept the violent attacks from taking place.

Everyone will have a slightly different interpretation of the released portions of the NIE, but if I were to summarize them in one sentence, that sentence would be: "The best thing we can do is stand back and hope they can sort things out for themselves."


Speaking of "becoming more diffuse…"

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports that "The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday."

When radical leaders lose control of their radical followers, every cage in the zoo has been opened. U.S. troops in Iraq are increasingly becoming trapped in a Hobbesian menagerie, and the denizens aren't friendly. From a September 27 AP report by Barry Schweid:
About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, a poll finds.

I guess the "good news" here is that four in 10 Iraqis don't approve of attacks of U.S.-led forces.

This poll, taken in early September for the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, also found that almost four in five Iraqis think U.S. forces in Iraq provoke more violence than they prevent.

Another poll, conducted by the U.S. State Department, found that two thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad want an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

There is no fixing this mess. The kind of "resolve" we will display by "staying the course" is the kind of resolve it takes to run your head over with a tractor. And the only "political will" involved in continuing our self-destructive course in Iraq is the will of our political leaders to hide the egg on their faces.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. "I guess the "good news" here is that four in 10 Iraqis don't approve of attacks of U.S.-led forces."

    More likely, 1 in 10, with 3 in 10 undecided.

    With all the "good news" here, it really makes me wonder what's in the rest, that he doesn't want to release.

  2. My guess, and it's not something I'm ready to say in a main story yet, is that the 3 page summary we've seen was ready to go before the NYT story first appeared--in fact, it looks to me like the NYT story, and others subsequent, came from the declassified summary.

    I'd also guess that the WH decided to release it to the public before anyone discovered or realized they'd been hiding it.

  3. Jeff, it's a little hard for me to use this metaphor as I lost my sister to ovarian, but "metastasis" is the word that comes to mind when I read this NIE Exec Summary.

  4. I've lost several friends and relatives that way, and I know what you mean.

    And the "metasis" analogy is just about perfect, IMO, and what makes this "war" such a difficult thing to fight.

    When an adversary is that dispersed, it doesn't offer an operation center of gravity that can be defeated decisively.

  5. This was issued in April. Now, the NIE would be even more grim. Makes you wonder what George W. Bush was referring to in recent up-beat assessments.

  6. Anonymous8:23 PM

    I wish that this was news or revealing or instructive in some way but really, all it is is confirming.

    Sometimes, being right really sucks. There'll be no winning this one.


  7. Nav,

    One can always make the argument that Sherman's actions were necessary to bring an awful war to an end. Nonetheless, the consequences have been, IMO, quite devastating.


    I think there is a military component to this war, but not the kind of operation we've conducted in Iraq.

    There are ways of applying military power without exposing our vulnerabilities to the adversary.


  8. Anonymous7:09 PM

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, opposed to the idea of the military responding favorably to requests for assistance from civillian law enforcement agencies. I simply do not now, nor have I ever, believe that the military should have taken the lead role in the response to 9/11 or any other crime directed at civillians. The military would rightfully be in the lead role in the Beruit barracks bombing, the Kobar Towers bombing, the USS Cole Bombing. However, even then, they should have been treated and referred to as crimes NOT acts of war. But then, you knew that.