With all the hyperventilating over the NIE in the American media (see my rewrite of the Times frustrated editorial), it was refreshing to read a logical and fact-based analysis from Michael Costello in The Australian this morning, courtesy of Real Clear Politics.
TRUTH, like beauty, is apparently to be in the eye of the beholder. That's the only conclusion you can draw from the reaction to the US National Intelligence Estimate entitled Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the US, with a declassified summary of its conclusions released by President George W. Bush after parts were leaked to The New York Times.
The media coverage and most political reaction suggests the summary is damning of Bush's position on Iraq. I have two things to say about that. One is that people must be reading a different document from the one I am. The other is that the summary seems to me to ignore some significant considerations.
Lest you think that Mr. Costello is simply a sycophant he pulls no punches in writing of the administration:
Given the almost inconceivable incompetence, misjudgment and delusional pigheadedness of Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, largely unconstrained by Bush, the Republicans deserve a drubbing, and at the moment are more likely than not to get it.
President Bush was right to counter the selective leaks published by the NY Times and Washington Post in breathlessly damning tones last weekend by releasing the key findings summary. They contradicted the impression the Times and Post sought to give their readers. It's also why Senator Ted Kennedy was then reduced to calling for something he knew Mr. Bush couldn't do, releasing the entire classified document. Mr. Costello makes a number of points, so read the whole thing. As he concludes, he sees US electoral underpinnings for the increased violence.
The present spike in violence in Iraq is motivated largely by the desire of the jihadists and Iran to see Bush's Republicans lose in the congressional elections. There is a prospect also that in the lead-up to those elections the jihadists will seek to carry out another terror spectacular in the US. They and Iran know that it is in US ballot boxes that the struggle will be won or lost. If the Republicans are trounced, the battle of wills is over and we have lost not only in Iraq but most probably in Afghanistan and globally as well.
As I pointed out earlier today, the Democrats made a grave mistake when they let partisan political motives overtake rational thought in how to prosecute the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They sound far too much like the enemy in their condemnation of administration policies and strategies. Their proposals have been all over the map, including everything from more troops to immediate withdrawal. This is not coherent, and the world knows it. They would have been far better off supporting the President and the war in general, and if they saw problems they should have been ready with viable solutions that improved, not hindered, the cause.