"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.

NEXT: He's Just Barely Exaggerating

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  1. Robert’s argument assumes that the administration’s beliefs about WMDs, and the arguments they made about those WMDs, were in line with the intel they were receiving from the CIA. In fact, the admin repeatedly leaned on the CIA to deliver more threatening assessments, and made statements to the public that went beyond even the hyped-up reports they got from the CIA. Heck, the Office of Special Operations was formed because they wanted more hawkish analysis than that which was coming out of Langley.

    Personally, I think Bush, Cheney, Feith, Rumsfeld, and Perle wanted this war from Day 1, and would have threated us with mushroom clouds to get it, even if the CIA has said, “Almost certainly not.”

  2. We all know how companies and large organizations work. If the boss wants a particular result, it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t explicitly press someone, the rank and file know to get him the data he wants.

  3. We all know how companies and large organizations work. If the boss wants a particular result, it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t explicitly press someone, the rank and file know to get him the data and result he wants.

  4. Jason, you need a bit of perspective. There were arms inspectors on the ground in Iraq until Bush warned that the war would begin, and they left so as not to become casualties.

    No agency of the US or other government had information that Hussein was going to attack anyone before the inspectors finished their survey.

    So the issue was not to take on faith that Iraq had no weapons, but to allow the inspection process to continue, or, as Bush did, cut short the inspection process before it proved there was no casus belli.

  5. A bit of perspective, before the doves get all self congratulatory again.

    What would an accurate CIA statement have been pre invasion? Their information was clearly not conclusive, hard evidence of WMD was lacking, but nary a single government agency was willing to say, “He doesn’t have them.” First, because there was also no proof of the destruction of residual stockpiles, second because Saddam had been obfuscating for a decade, and third because he had plenty of time to hide anything he wanted to.

    We aren’t talking about the difference between “We know he has them,” and “We know he doesn’t have them.” We are talking about “We know he has them,” vs. “We can’t prove he has them.”

    The only reason we know what we know now is because we invaded. Is that justification all by itself? Maybe not, but it is not the case that the CIA believed there are no weapons pre invasion in the same way we believe there are no weapons now.

  6. Well, finally there is someone who has been able to make the Democrats support our beloved CIA!

    Wonder when the CIA would get around to thanking Bush 🙂

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