Three-Letter Menace

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

Christopher Hitchens has a good piece on the bad CIA (“worse than useless”). Surely our various intelligence organizations are practicing a sort of subversion, whether due to a condescending animus toward George Bush, or to a more generic arrogance that their genius is not appreciated and so they leak and back stab against their betters to ensure someone out there knows just how brilliant they really are.

They remind one of the smug undergraduate English major who serially declares that he is too creative and brilliant ever to go on to graduate school — and then lets you know it for the rest of his life.

We see a disturbing cynicism and disrespect for protocol almost everywhere. The freelancing and soon to be leaking Joe Wilson off to Niger on the recommendation of his ‘nonpartisan’ and ‘undercover’ wife, then the various memoirs of a Scheuer (with the charade of “anonymous”) or a get-even ‘slam-dunk’ Tenet (add in the novelist Richard Clark) — and then the latest Timeessay by Joe Klein, sort of trumpeting the new transparency of an agency at odds with the administration, spiced up with very non-transparent anonymous quotes from the usual “senior intelligence official” who offers behind-the-scenes, real-deal take to get the always brilliant point across.

We are a long way from the old idea that operatives were loyal to their craft, did not leak to anyone, did not try to embarrass elected officials by “background” and anonymous spin, and argued for their dissident views behind closed doors.

The irony is that they could endure the old stereotyped slur that they went to excess in the Cold War to ensure the supremacy of the U.S., but they won’t long live down the public’s current impressions that our intelligence agencies are whiny, incompetent, subversive, and partisan.

The emperor has no clothes, and the public doesn’t want to pay billions to the CIA and others only to be told that in 2005 we had an existential threat of a nuclear Iran, then two years later we did not, and all due to mysterious unnamed “diplomatic” pressures at work in 2003 (oddly not long after the unmentioned removal of Saddam) — this from ying-yang agencies that now miss the real threat (cf. the Pakistani bomb) and then in a panic hype the nonexistent one (arsenals of Iraqi WMD).

I just wish I knew what cycle they were in at the moment, since the hour may be getting late.

P.S. And perhaps the report might have speculated why an Iran, awash in oil and natural gas, spending billions on a reactor while it imposes gas rationing on its citizenry, is enriching uranium at breakneck speed — and serially lying about its progress to international agencies. Or alternatively, is there much of a threat of terrorist organizations now in Iran being given radioactive materials for various missions against Tehran’s enemies?

©2007 Victor Davis Hanson

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