From a reader who works at the Pentagon, a point so nicely made it is important to air before we find ourselves completely inundated with primary stuff:
“I agree, great piece (as always) by Mr Keegan. As any intel guy worth their salt will tell you, most often it’s not the enemy’s capability that’s hard to find, it’s their intent. One can usually count the bad guy’s bombs, bullets, and guns, but can’t always tell what’s going on in the bad guy’s mind.
“Iraq flipped this axiom on its head. We didn’t know what the bad guy’s capabilities were because we couldn’t penetrate the bad guy’s network, but we were pretty certain he was a bad guy. How could anyone on the outside possibly know precisely what Saddam had if Saddam himself– the absolute dictator of Iraq, let me remind Peter Jennings– didn’t even know? However, we were confident that we had Saddam himself figured out– bad guy, loves WMD, hates America, etc. Once motive was proven, all we had to do was make the reasonable assumption that Iraq still had the means to do harm– it didn’t matter much if it was with VX gas, car bombs, or harsh language. Preemption became the logical result.”