The trouble with politics is that it forces us to try to read minds, when we know darned well that we can't. So we end up with hypotheses in much the way scientists do. It's fatal to fall in love with an hypothesis (the way the Global Fraudsters have), but it's equally dumb not to entertain them seriously. So here's an hypothesis about W and the Middle East.
The Middle East is always dangerous, but it's getting ridiculous now that maniacs are getting nukes. Don't be fooled into thinking that W and his team don't know that. Even the liberals know it, as shown by recent articles in the UK Guardian, of all places, and by Johathan Schell, of all people. So the flaky NIE hasn't changed any minds, and it has in fact caused some liberals to come out of hiding. Because not even all liberals are self-deluded about Iran.
Israel is militarily powerful, but it doesn't glorify a warrior culture. Every Israeli casualty is mourned, and few people delude themselves into thinking that dead soldiers are carried up to Valhalla by busty sopranos wearing Viking helmets. Over in Iran, there is a Shiite version of that belief -- just change the Viking helmets on the ladies and turn them into 72 doe-eyed virgins. It's an adolescent fantasy hardened into a religious martyrdom creed. The closest recent example is the Bushido cult of Imperial Japan, and even there not everybody was willing to commit national suicide after the Bomb.
So Israel fights very well, but only when its back is against the wall. That's what we saw with the Hezbollah War last summer. Hezbollah was dug in somewhat like the Japanese Army at Iwo Jima. Israeli soldiers are not into the martyrdom game, and since Lebanon is not a backs-against-the-wall conflict, they mainly bombed the Hezbos from the air. There's still debate whether that did any good.
Now W and Dr. Condi Rice were hoping that the Israelis would give the Iranians a bloody nose in Lebanon. They didn't. In fact, the Israelis have been saying for years that the Khomeiniacs were an international responsibility. Translation: It's up to the US, Europe, maybe Russia (which is right next door to Iran, well within range of Iranian missiles, and has just put down a vicious Islamist rebellion in Chechnya).
But Europe has been spnging off Uncle Sam for sixty years. One reason they can afford a lavish welfare state is that they don't bother to pay for their own defense. You and I do that. Europe is full of phony pacifists who take two decades to notice there's a jihad genocide going on in the Sudan. Just recently they decided to send a rescue mission, and dammit, they just couldn't get the helicopters to ferry the troops in! So people keep dying, and Europeans keep huffing to the world how peace-loving they really are. They have been taking advantage of us for decades, and they don't see any reason why they shouldn't keep doing it. So you're W, sitting with Condi Rice, and you can't get any of your allies to help grapple with the biggest danger in modern history, "terrorists with nukes." The Iranofascisti are terrorists (because they are happy to sacrifice innocent civilians for their cause) and they are about to get nukes. In fact, just one week after the infamous National Intelligence Estimate, the UN nuclear agency is sitting down with the Iranians to figure out how weapons-grade uranium got into their National Technology University. Is anybody surprised?
So it's Alphonse and Gaston in the diplomatic world, with everybody telling everybody else, very politely, "Apres vous! Non, non, mon ami, apres vous!"
The Arabs have plenty of military power to beat Iran. The Israelis do, too. The US does. Even the Europeans do. They've all been threatened directly by A'jad and the Mullahs. But nobody wants to take that first step.
Chances are that this debate has been going on behind the scenes for years. If we can understand it, you can bet all the national leaders do, too.
Everybody has big domestic problems:
1. The Dems have sworn to impeach W if he directs an air assault on Iranian nukes -- in spite of the fact that letting A'jad have his nukes is a grave danger to national security, the oil supply, the world and national economy, and American military personnel in that region of the world.
2. Israel's Prime Minister Olmert has always been in a weak position, holding a fragile coalition together in the Knesseth. Olmert didn't think he could sell an Israeli retreat from parts of Jerusalem to the Knesseth, so he didn't agree to that at Annapolis.
3. In Europe, the population has been deluded for decades into believing that they can have eteranal safety for free, without paying for it either in blood or money. They have half a billion people now, but they're pathetic on defense.
4. And the Arabs can't do anything about Iran, for fear of being accused of helping Israel --- as we saw at Annapolis a couple of weeks ago, when they couldn't even bring themselves to shake hands in public with Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, because she's a woman, and an Israel politician to boot.
So everybody has a good domestic excuse to do nothing, and everybody knows that doing nothing opens the door to A'jad and his suiciders.
What do you do? You have to send a signal, not just to the leadership of those countries, but to the people. It has to be a public signal. Otherwise the domestic enemies of all the national leaders will undermine any efforts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons.
I'm not sure how the flaky NIE was done, but here's a guess. George W. Bush knows there are liberals in the State Department and the new intelligence super-bureaucracy who hate him with a passion. They constantly drop stink bombs in the media, leak national security secrets, and generally make enthusiastic war on their own President and White House. In fact, W knows some of them by name, including Thomas Fingar, Vann Van Diepen, and Kenneth Brill. These State Department libs have now gone over to the new Director of Center Intelligence office.
What do you suppose they would do if they were asked to draft the NIE?
It's pretty predictable. They would try to undermine George W.'s Iran policy, because that's what makes life worth living for them. Their purpose is to (1) shaft Bush, (2) pursue their fantasy that the Iranians can be allowed to enrich uranium without actually making nukes, (3) strengthen the media critique of George W. Bush as a dumb warmonger; (4) block any action against Iran during the last year of this administration, on the assumption that Hillary or Obama will win the election, and (5) ingratiate themselves with the Democrats, hoping for some plum position in 2009. They're just like Richard Clarke and Joseph Wilson, who like to throw bombs at the White House because they want a job in the next Democrat administration.
So here's what W decides: Why not let the libs write that NIE? Nobody is going to believe it anyway. (And right on cue, the Europeans dropped leaks saying they didn't.) But it will cause a fuss in the media in Israel (which is under the gun most directly), but also in Saudi, the Gulf States, Europe, the United States, and even Russia, where everybody has been happily demagoguing W for ages, secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam would help them if they encountered real danger from the martyrdom brigade.
It's very clever. Some countries are suddenly getting serious about Tehran's nukes. The UK Guardian (!) has been writing about the danger, the same folks who've been blowing superheated steam like Old Faithful ever since the overthrow of Saddam. The Brits, Germans and French have told the press that the Americans are just wrong again, just like with Saddam, but now in the opposite way. With Saddam, the myth goes, there were no WMDs, but now Iran has them coming for sure.
In Israel, people are going bananas, realizing that the danger is very real, and that the US can't pull their chestnuts out of the fire without some painful compromises with the Arabs.
In Saudi, according to Max Boot's recent article in the WSJ, they're sounding like neocons about Iran. Everybody is shaking in their boots, and rightly so.
Will it work? Who knows?
Was it worth trying? Maybe yes.
Somewhere, I think, W is chuckling.