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Caution

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"Caution"

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Jonah Goldberg’s not happy that people are happy with the new National Intelligence Estimate:

The attitude among many people — like say, John Edwards — is that we dodged a bullet with this NIE. But that’s only true if this NIE is right. Indeed, as a matter of national security, it seems to me one could make the case that it would be better for the NIE to be wrong the other way. That is to say, if the NIE is wrong, better it be wrong on the side of caution. Which would you rather: An NIE that says Iran isn’t pursuing nuclear weapons when it really is? Or, an NIE that says Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons when it really isn’t? How you answer that question probably says a lot about how you view foreign policy generally.

I think this kind of thinking was quite prevalent before the invasion of Iraq. Before 9/11, when contemplating starting wars with other countries, most people were inclined to err on the side of caution — which is to say not starting wars. After 9/11, things looked different. Maybe the Iraq situation was a bit unclear, but best to err on the side of caution — which was to say starting a war.

It’s easy to understand how that happened, but surely the notion that alarmism is a form of caution should have died in the sands of Iraq.

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