I’ve been watching the debates on “justifying the invasion” with a lot of interest, as days go by without the WMD ‘smoking gun’ showing up in my morning newspaper.
There is an interesting discussion to have regarding the post-facto moral position, but more important to me is the simpler question of whether we were actively lied to or, as I prefer to put it “wagged like a dog”. I started to talk about some of it below in Freeing Jessica Lynch, and then today, Slate has a piece on the NY Times’ pre-invasion coverage of WMD and whether the Times should review its intel, as the Pentagon appears to be doing.
…none of Miller’s wild WMD stories has panned out. From these embarrassing results, we can deduce that either 1) Miller’s sources were right about WMD, and it’s just a matter of time before the United States finds evidence to back them up; 2) Miller’s sources were wrong about WMD, and the United States will never find the evidence; 3) Miller’s sources played her to help stoke a bogus war; or 4) Miller deliberately weighted the evidence she collected to benefit the hawks. It could be that the United States inadvertently overestimated Iraq’s WMD program. For example, the United States might have intercepted communications to Saddam in which his henchmen exaggerated the scale of Iraq’s WMD progress to make him happy.
And an idea started to form…
My core profession is managing problem technology projects (note: if you have one in the Southern California area, drop me a note at the address on the masthead). I’m currently working on a major ($400K/month project cost) project at a major national corporation…one where they flipped the switch and the system never turned on. They attempted to go live in front of the user community and the software simply didn’t work. How in the world could that happen?
I’m talking to the various project team members, who with few exceptions are bright, competent people, and I realize that somehow no one was willing to stand up to management and tell them “no”. I just saw it in action. This week, we ‘discovered’ a brand new requirement, ten weeks before the go-live date for the relaunch, when we are almost through testing, and the group sat in a meeting with the program director and listened to her explain that fixing this – which is a minor rework, but will effect may parts of the system – is something we can do in the time we have left.
I was one of two people (out of twenty) who suggested that this was probably not a very good idea. Imagine what it would have been like if company management had people-shredders. Everyone else in the room wouldn’t have been silent, they would have cheerfully explained how well it would work and how easy it would be. And me…
And were I a brutal dictator with fantasies of regional domination, I’m sure that getting these weapons would be my highest priority. But I’d rely on my ever-shrinking inner circle to actually do the messy work of managing those programs and measuring their results.
And since the major activites of those folks would be fighting for position and booty (in all senses), the difficult work of actually managing the technical and industrial infrastructure necessary to actually build some of these things would probably fall a bit behind.
So you get ‘Potemkin weapons’; reports, promises, trailers filled with impressive-looking technical equipment, UAV’s that are really just oversized model airplanes. Occasionally, some competent or especially frightened technician might actually produce something – but almost certainly not on the scale that the dictator believes.
So Saddam believes he has them, and from that, we infer that he does, and what is really going on is a bunch of nervous paper-shuffling.
I like this idea, because it fits in with what I know of human nature, and it explains two things (both of which get trumped if they actually find the Secret Underground WMD Factories) – why Saddam would risk war to hide weapons he knew he didn’t have, and why Bush would risk lying about something so crucial, when it would be impossible for the lie not to get caught.