Monday, July 12, 2004

The New York Times > Analysis: Intelligence: Pre-emptive Strategy Meets Reality

The New York Times > Washington > News Analysis: The Intelligence: Bush's Pre-emptive Strategy Meets Some Untidy Reality:
"Even as President Bush turns his doctrine of pre-emptive action against powers threatening the United States into a campaign theme, Washington is using a far more subdued, take-it-slow approach to the dangers of unconventional weapons in Iran and North Korea.

There are many reasons for the yawning gap between Mr. Bush's campaign language and the reality. One of the most important is woven throughout the searing, 511-page critique of the intelligence that led America to war last year, released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee."

The report details, in one painful anecdote after another, misjudgments that the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies made as they put together what the committee called an "assumption train" about Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. That same train powered Mr. Bush's own justification for a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein, down to his now-discredited argument that the Iraqi leader was developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable dropping biological weapons on American troops in the Mideast, or perhaps even the United States itself.

The sweeping nature of that report is already fueling a new debate over pre-emption, on the campaign trail and among the nations the United States must convince as it builds its case against North Korea and Iran. On Sunday, Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the intelligence committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the urgency of those problems meant there was not much time to fix the intelligence community.…

Mr. Bush's aides say other countries are citing Iraq to make the argument that America can never again be sure it is getting it right and thus must back away from the pre-emption doctrine enshrined in Mr. Bush's 2002 "National Security Strategy of the United States."

China has been the most outspoken proponent of this view, suggesting publicly that the administration cannot be trusted when it asserts that North Korea has secretly started up a second nuclear weapons program — one based on enriching uranium. Administration officials say the Chinese are exploiting the Iraq findings for political convenience, because finding a solution to the North Korean problem will be far simpler if the evidence of a uranium program can be ignored.

"It hurts us, there is no question," a senior aide to Mr. Bush conceded on Friday, as the Senate report was published. "We already have the Chinese saying to us, `If you missed this much in Iraq, how are we supposed to believe that the North Koreans are producing nuclear weapons?' It just increases the pressure on us to prove that we are right."
con·cept: The New York Times > Analysis: Intelligence: Pre-emptive Strategy Meets Reality