Roger L. Simon

Job Hunt

The brief interview with terrorism expert Kenneth Pollack in the front of the NYT Magazine this morning reads like an audition piece for a possible Kerry Administration. (It includes a particularly abject apology by the former CIA analyst for his misjudgment on Iraqi WMDs.) I don’t blame Pollack for this – we’d all like a good job – but I am worried that he will get it because of the attitude he expresses on Iran, which I am sure reflects his forthcoming book on the subject – The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America.

Here’s the exchange that got me nervous:

NYT: But as a former C.I.A. analyst and a scholar of Middle East policy at the Brookings Institution, how do you propose that we prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons?

Pollack: I’d prefer not to have an Iran with nuclear weapons, but if it happens, I think we can probably deal with it.

NYT: Your use of ”probably” does not inspire confidence.

Pollack: It’s hard to imagine how the Iranians would see it in their interest to give nuclear weapons to a terrorist group. They hate Al Qaeda as much as we do.

Oh, really? How does Pollack know that and, more importantly, who is the “they” to which he refers? Iran is a large county with many competing factions, even within the Mullahcracy. One of the many current theories is that Bin Laden himself is being hidden in Iran. Does Pollack know for a fact that this is untrue? If so, how? Is he willing to bet the future of civilization on a society where sixteen-year old girls are publicly hanged for adultery by allowing their leaders to have nuclear weapons? Evidently so. And if Pollack were a key adviser to a Kerry administration, this is what he would be acquiescing to.

Look, no one can pretend that the Iranian situation is simple or anywhere near that. But one thing the last decade has taught us is not to trust “terrorism experts.” There is no such thing. (Indeed, an argument can be made that there is no such thing as an expert in general outside the hard sciences, where the learning curve is steep.) CIA and think tank pedigrees prove nothing other than that someone has given them a job. I do not wish to disparage Pollack personally. He’s clearly a smart guy. But on this one, I’d prefer to think for myself. And I am frankly scared to vote for a candidate whose putative advisers are prepared to allow nuclear weapons in the hands of a violent theocracy. (hat tip: Catherine Johnson)

MEANWHILE: Iran continues to stonewall. Are we headed for yet another rift between EU and the USA?