Saturday, April 17, 2004

There’s Intelligence…and Then There’s Intelligence

Former Illinois Senator Adlai E. Stevenson III has a great op-ed piece in today’s New York Times.

Intelligence failures are to blame, so we are told, for the tragedy of 9/11 and the unfolding catastrophe in Iraq. If the Bush administration had heeded its intelligence agencies, say its opponents, it might have prevented the 9/11 attacks and avoided its mishaps in Iraq. Administration officials, meanwhile, say that their intelligence was either not accurate or not “actionable.” This finger-pointing reflects misconceptions about the nature of intelligence — and suggests an intelligence failure of a different sort.


Before 9/11, neoconservatives like Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Vice President Dick Cheney inhabited a world of contending great powers in which force and technology were transcendent. Terrorists armed with box cutters — and now Iraqis resisting the occupation — have exploded their fantasy. The failures of the Bush administration are not those of foreign intelligence but of a cerebral sort of intelligence.

In other words, all the spying and phone taps and clandestine IMF stuff doesn’t mean shit if you’re too fucking dumb to put the pieces together.

When Senator Stevenson’s father ran for president against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, the Republicans said he was too much of an “egghead” to be president, and they convinced the country that we didn’t need an intellectual in the Oval Office. And they’ve been running on that theme ever since.