Whew, I need a break from Columbia. Work is a poor substitute, so I’ll briefly go back to my previous favorite topic — Iraq.

Sunday’s Post had a very interesting article in the Outlook section. The title is “The Big Difference Between Intelligence and Evidence,” and I started to read it with the assumption that the author was against an armed conflict. I was wrong. The author draws some parallels to Adlai Stevenson’s presentation in front of the U.N. during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but makes some very pertinent points on his own. There are several thoughtful passages, but here’s just one of them:



But do we really want to put these issues in the hands of career intelligence analysts? As we wonder whether to wage war against Iraq, it's worth remembering that U.S. intelligence did not detect Iraq's nuclear program until it was uncovered after Desert Storm in 1991. It did not find out about the Iraqi biological weapons program until 1995, with some help from the defection of Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law. Sept. 11 showed what happens if you wait too long for "actionable intelligence." American leaders kept watching while a threat developed before our eyes. We had good information about the training camps in Afghanistan, and there were strong signs that al Qaeda was behind the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa and the 1999 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

The problem was that officials never believed that U.S. intelligence had met the threshold required to trigger action against al Qaeda networks or training camps. True, our intelligence organizations could have done a much better job in anticipating the Sept. 11 attack. But it was the search for intelligence concrete enough to be used as evidence -- just the search we are engaged in today -- that led to intelligence failures that were, in part, really policy failures.

…Okay, one more passage:



So, I am looking forward to watching Secretary Powell "make his case" before the United Nations. But, in the end, intelligence shouldn't decide what we do. There may be no smoking gun. It's the nature of the intelligence business. Elected officials will have to perform the job they are paid to do: Judge. Decide. Lead.

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