Release the NIE!

RELEASE THE NIE!….Laura Rozen reports on what a contact told her about that leaked NIE ? the one that allegedly concludes that the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism. It’s actually worse than that:

The report highlights the essential dilemma Iraq poses for the war on terror: staying fuels the al-Qaeda-inspired movement, creating a net increase in the terrorist threat; while leaving Iraq in chaos would also worsen the threat.

Of course, this has been the dilemma all along, and it would be instructive to actually discuss this. Unfortunately, if President Bush releases only the “key judgments” from the NIE, that will hardly be possible. It means that nuance, context, and explanation will all be lost. All we’ll get is the PowerPoint version of the war.

Of course, reading the entire NIE would hardly be an unalloyed blessing for either liberals or conservatives, since the report almost certainly contains analysis that supports both sides. How could it not? But it might sharpen the debate. At yesterday’s Democratic hearings on the war, retired military officers testified angrily about Don Rumsfeld’s conduct of the war, but as Dana Milbank put it, they also recommended that the answer was “more troops, more money and more time in Iraq.”

This is not what most Democrats want to hear, but let’s face it: it’s not what most Republicans want to hear either. Nonetheless: this is the dilemma in its starkest form. Nearly every serious military analyst believes that even minimal success in Iraq would require a very substantial increase in troop strength for a period of at least several years. Unfortunately, no one has offered up a practical way of finding more troops, President Bush shows no inclination to support a larger troop commitment, and the American public is pretty clearly skeptical about doubling down in Iraq anyway. In other words, even those who still believe Iraq can be salvaged also believe that the Bush administration is not doing anywhere near enough to accomplish that. Under these circumstances, with failure staring at us from both directions, what justification can there be for continuing our present course?

This is what people should be talking about. Releasing the entire NIE might help spark this conversation.

UPDATE: Hmmm. Two NIEs, a real NIE and a pseudo-NIE? Release ’em both!