The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 11, 2012

Our View: Limits on intelligence

The Joplin Globe

— A headline article in The Washington Post provided information about the extent of U.S. intelligence collection efforts in Iran today to determine whether or not that country is, in fact, developing a nuclear weapons production program.

Considering the grave errors made by our intelligence agencies leading up to our invasion of Iraq in 2003, the American public is skeptical.

It sounds like a similar story today, with huge organizational and technical assets being devoted by the CIA and others to provide reliable information to American leaders regarding Iran’s ability and intentions to fabricate nuclear weapons capable of mass destruction. But despite our technical means to “look” into Iran and “hear” what they are saying, we have no definitive proof, one way or the other, of their ability to make a weapon and, given such ability, their intentions to use it.

The Obama administration is confident that Iran is at least a year away from being able to build a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, Israel believes Iran currently has the capability to build such a weapon, and now is the time to remove that capability through the use of military force.

In our view, both the United States and Israel are making political judgments, even guesses. Does Iran have weapons-grade nuclear material in its possession right now, or the ability to create such material in the near term? Given the possession of such material, the design and fabrication of a few “bombs” is not that hard, technically, to accomplish.

The only way to determine if Iran indeed does possess nuclear weapons-grade material is a thorough and intrusive series of ongoing inspections by a third party. Iran refuses to allow such inspections, just as Saddam Hussein did in Iraq.

We believe the men and women who run our large, widespread intelligence collection efforts are dedicated and hard-working Americans doing the best they can. But to simply wait for a definitive answer from those agencies before deciding what to do next is not a solution to our problems.

Nothing is ever certain in geopolitics. That is why we must have wise and courageous leaders to make the correct decisions.