Monday, April 04, 2005


It's necessary to understand what real intelligence work is. It will never cease. It's absolutely essential that we have it. At its best, it is simply the left arm of healthy governmental curiosity. It brings to a strong government what it needs to know. It's the collection of information, a journalistic job, if you will, but done in secret.

All the rest of it-- intervention, destabilization, assassination, all that junk-- is in my view not only anti-constitutional but unproductive and silly. You can never foresee the consequences. But it's a good job as long as intelligence services collect sensible information and report it to their governments, and as long as that intelligence is properly used, thought about and evaluated.

David Cornwell (John Le Carre) as quoted in the Paris Review

In the midst of the Pope Death mass hysteria (yes, 80-something year olds do die, even those with the direct line to god) the results of the official enquiry into the intelligence on Iraq has already been forgotten. The verdict was "Dead Wrong" which gives me the opportunity to type the most beautiful phrase in the English language:

I told you so.



Blogger David Young said...

Roger, I wrote a different view of this here:

Saddam was working towards unravelling the sanctions that were harming Iraq and was holding together the capability to restart his WMD programme once the ending of sanctions allowed him to earn money from oil sales. That's not to say that he had stockpiles in 2003 - but you can't say he wouldn't ever have them. He clearly expected to do so one day.

Furthermore, it is suggested that Saddam was telling his military that he did have WMD in order to maintain Army discipline. In that context, it's not surprising if Western Intelligence reported that he did have them, as our 'moles' would have been hearing the same story.

Saddam described Iraq's physicists as "our nuclear mujahideen" in Iraqi newspapers - that's a strange thing for someone who is no threat to the West to say. At the end of the day our leaders have to consider the worst case scenario. I don't think you are looking at both sides of the ledger when you say 'I told you so'.

There are enormous benefits from what we have done in Iraq.


2:57 pm  
Blogger roGER said...

Hello David,

There were many reasons I was opposed to the 2nd war with Iraq (I didn't oppose the 1st Gulf War, nor, you may be surprised to learn, the invasion and partial conquest of Afghanistan).

In no particular order, my objections were:

* We appeared to have Saddam "in his box" with complete air superiority, an effective arms embargo, and a safe zone for the Kurds. I believe the safe zone idea was John Major's - if so, he deserves credit for it.

* Based on friendships with two Doctors of Physics and some reading (Richard Rhodes' excellent "The Making of the Atomic Bomb") and a visit to the now derelict Atomic research centre on the East Coast at Orford Ness, I know that manufacturing atomic weapons is very difficult, expensive, and skilled business. To do it under the noses of US (and possibly British and French) observation seemed impossible.

* George W Bush had an understandable grudge against Saddam Hussein, and his administration was full of Lukid supporters who'd wanted to take out Saddam Hussien for years before 9/11. In other words, there were plausible "other motives" for the war.

* There was no link between Iraq and 9/11, and Sadam's one saving grace (and the reason the West supported him prior to 1990) was his aethism - he may have been head of an Islamic country, but his administration was secular and remained so.

But the main reason, overriding all the others is best summed up by a David Sklansky essay called "Risking Your Life" in his book "Poker, Gaming, & Life" which you may have read.

In it he starts by saying that tactical and strategic decisions in war can be solved using game theory. He then writes:

"There is one big difference between games and wars. In wars, people die."

To illustrate why game theory falls apart when applied to wars, he uses this example:

"Would you take a 1 in 1000 chance of dying for $25,000? If yes, does that mean that you would take a 1 in 100 chance for $250,000? Even if you said yes again, I doubt you would let me flip a coin to see whether I kill you or give you $12.5 million; and I know that you wouldn't let me kill you for $25 million. Yet all have the same mathematical expectation.

Now if we take this reasoning to its extreme, we get an interesting result - namely, that there is almost nothing for which it is worth taking even a fairly small risk of dying.

It is certainly true that if everybody thought like this, it would be harder to get people to fight and thus win a war. Politicians and generals do not analyze rsiking life in the way that I just did. Or do they? remember, the analysis assumed that it was your own life. I think that they would come to similar conclusions if it were their own life they were risking, rather than yours.

There are times, however, when it is logically correct to risk your life. I will mention three:

1. When you are trying to prevent something even worse than death, such as torture or your child dying.

2. When you are trying to prevent something almost as bad as death, such as slavery, and the risks of dying are small.

3. When not taking the risk results in an even greater risk of dying for you or (if you want to be altruistic) for others.

It would seem that at least one, if not all, of these criteria was met as far as WW II was concerned... I have my doubts about WW I, the Korean War, and others but I don't know enough about them..."

So in short, I wasn't convinced by any of the so called "evidence" that was presented to us before the war.

When the war took place, thousands of people got killed, and it turned out I'd been right and Saddam posed no credible threat.

I could yibble on and on about consequences, but you get my drift.

One last thought. The contrast between the West's treatment of Iraq, with no WMD, and North Korea, which is believed to have WMD is striking. If I was an honest advisor to any scumbag dictator, I'd be urging him to get some WMD as quickly as possible, because it seems obvious that any nation, no matter how disgusting (and North Korea is really disgusting) which has WMD is treated with respect.

Sad but true.

- roGER

1:22 am  
Blogger David Young said...

I am afraid that the 'nothing is worth dying for' argument doesn't work for me. People have always been willing to risk their lives for their own betterment - especially for their own freedom. One of the most compelling non-WMD rationales for the war, which annoyingly few people make reference to, is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis rose up and risked death at the end of the first Gulf War because they thought that the first President Bush would back them. What then followed was one of the most disgusting betrayals of all time - made in the cause of that most overrated of aims: 'stability'.

Americans earned their freedom by risking death against the British empire. Sklansky should appreciate that someone died for his right to freely express his views.


You say:

"I know that manufacturing atomic weapons is very difficult, expensive, and skilled business. To do it under the noses of US (and possibly British and French) observation seemed impossible."

So how surprised were you when Pakistan got the bomb? Or India? Or Israel for that matter?

What I don't understand about some of the 'anti-war' crowd is that so many are the same people who were so terrified about mutually assured destruction in the cold war against atheist nations like the USSR that they urged pre-emptive surrender.

They are now utterly nonchalent about the possibility of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of countries where most people believe that they are awarded a martyr's paradise of 72 virgins if they die fighting the free west.

It is hardly an idle fear. You really ought to read this:

It's possible that Iran can be brought down from the inside. Let's hope so. Not just to prevent the threatened attack of the Anglo-Saxon world, but also for the sake of the people of Iran too, who have been forced to live in a religious hellhole for a quarter of a decade.

I like George Bush and think he's due a spot on Mount Rushmore. Put simply, I love the fact that for the first time in decades, the leaders of the unfree world and now worried what the free world is planning to do to it instead of the other way around. I wouldn't like to live in the complacent world you would want. We have been standing on ice for many years and it's time to get off. The ice looks just the same when it's 3 inches thick and three feet thick and the only way to know that you haven't got off too soon is to wait until you're up to your neck in freezing cold water.

Goodbye containment. And good riddance.


2:43 am  

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