The Spooks' Black Thursday
Bad day for the "Intelligence Community" here in Washington. CIA chief Leon Panetta opined that Mubarak was very likely going to resign in a few hours, while DNI (Director of National Intelligence) General James Clapper declared the Muslim Brotherhood "largely secular" and has "eschewed violence." These analyses from our mastodontic Intel establishment no doubt encouraged the president to gush about living through an historic moment in world history, and to proclaim that young people were primarily to praise for the epic events of the day.
Except that Mubarak didn't resign, and the Brothers aren't secular and have long embraced and practiced violence, and we don't yet know exactly what history is being made, let alone who is making it.
Oh, well...tomorrow's another day. Indeed this afternoon is another day, as Clapper's spokespeople assured us that he really knows all about the Brotherhood, and is "well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization."
Pity he didn't say that to Congress.
Not that I blame him personally. Not at all. He, like Panetta, just repeated what the experts in Spookland told them, and it's invaluable for us to know that. We have been reminded yet one more time that our "intelligence" experts are operating on the basis of some amazingly politically correct and demonstrably false stereotypes that have very little to do with the often ghastly realities of the real world. Those stereotypes include the (false) conviction that Sunnis and Shi'ites can't work together, that the root problem of the Middle East is Israeli intransigence, that even the most fanatical Muslims (i.e. the Iranian tyrants) are amenable to reason and "really" want to make a deal with us, and that Mubarak can be overthrown by the news media and demonstrators, especially young ones. The Panetta statement is a form of wish-fulfillment, not serious intelligence. Serious intelligence officers were obliged to tell him, and he was obliged to tell Congress, that we did not know what Mubarak was going to say.
The men and women who are responsible for this latest intelligence failure come from the same bureaux and agencies that fed us the ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran had stopped its quest for atomic bombs, after all. The latest nonsense is of a piece with the earlier stuff.
But telling the truth about our knowledge of Mubarak's intentions would have revealed that we lack important sources at the highest level of the Egyptian regime. I hope we're better connected to the Egyptian Army leaders.
Clapper's gaffe is considerably more worrisome, because it suggests that the analysts are trimming their sails to the winds of appeasement blowing out of the White House. Remember that President Obama lobbied to have the Brothers attend his Cairo speech in June, 2009. This rightly concerned a lot of people, because it suggested that he was either sympathetic to them or that he believed he could sway them with his "special gift" of gab, the same model he applied to Iran. But the Brothers have been preaching hatred of the West, and the mission of jihad in order to recreate the Caliphate, for more than eighty years. It isn't bloody likely they'll abandon their mission just because they heard a speech. It seems to me that serious analysts would warn that Brotherhood statements in the midst of the tumult are not to be taken as true reflections of their intentions, and would want to remind policy makers that the Ayatollah Khomeini, before consolidating power in Tehran, swore up and down that he did not want political power at all, and surrounded himself with Westernized intellectuals of a decidedly secular bent.