Hit & Run

"Not Me" Meets Foreign Policy


Is Bil "The Family Circus" Keane one of the great unacknowledged inspirations of contemporary U.S. foreign policy? Sadly, all of us can recall the hoo-larious antics of "Not Me," the gremlin who is blamed for everything that goes awry in the cartoon family everyone loves to hate.

The NY Times (reg.--and critical reading skills--req.) has a story that suggests "Not Me" is the patron saint of the American intelligence community. Certainly, these days, "Not Me" is being invoked every bit as much as the Fifth Amendment during the high tide of HUAC hearings. Acting intel poobah John E. McLaughlin tells the paper of misrecord that nobody should blame the CIA (or other spook agencies) if the country didn't adequately debate the decision to go to war with Iraq. OK, fair enough, McLaughlin, maybe that's something you couldn't control (and in fact, we probably did debate it enough--or rather, Congress did). But what cartoon character might you invoke to explain away the fact that the Senate Intel Comm. said you and your pals "exaggerated the evidence that Iraq had illicit weapons?"

Whole Times story here. Also of note are comments by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), head of the Senate committee, regarding what might have happened in the unlikely event that the CIA had accurately assessed the state of WMDs in Iraq:

Mr. Roberts said he was "not too sure" that the administration would have invaded if it had known how flimsy the intelligence was on Iraq and illicit weapons. Instead, the senator said, Mr. Bush might well have advocated efforts to maintain sanctions against Iraq and to continue to try to unearth the truth through the work of United Nations inspectors. "I don't think the president would have said that military action is justified right now," Mr. Roberts said. If the administration had been given "accurate intelligence," he said, Mr. Bush "might have said, 'Saddam's a bad guy, and we've got to continue with the no-fly zones and with inspections.' "

At one level, Mr. Roberts's comments can be seen as offering support for the White House, by underscoring the view that intelligence agencies, not Mr. Bush, should be held responsible for fundamental misjudgments about Iraq. But the suggestion that Mr. Bush might well have chosen a different course appeared to run counter to the White House suggestion that the president had been obliged in the case of Iraq to head off a potential threat.

Perhaps Roberts meant to say--as have conservative commentators such as Bill Buckley--that he wouldn't have supported the invasion of Iraq.