- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fog of war

Three sentences of a popular book written decades ago by the late newspaperman and author DavidHalberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam War correspondent who was killed in a car crash Monday, have been recited more than once since the U.S. military marched into Iraq in 2003.

The book, “The Best and the Brightest,” was Mr. Halberstam’s post-mortem of the U.S. government’s decision-making process that eventually led to U.S. troops being sent into Vietnam — against the advice of some top U.S. military commanders.

The three lines: “[Army Gen. Matthew] Ridgway turned to [Hubert H.] Humphrey and said there was one thing about the war that puzzled him. ‘What’s that?’ Humphrey asked. ‘I have never known what the mission for General [William] Westmoreland was,’ Ridgway said.”

Not long ago, with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the war against terrorism weighing on his mind, Arnold Kling, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington, re-read Mr. Halberstam’s book.

“What I took away from reading and re-reading Halberstam was the view that human beings make decisions in the context of incomplete information,” Mr. Kling wrote for TCS Daily, where he’s a contributing editor. “We suffer from inadequate knowledge, cognitive biases, and conflicting expert opinions. I call this human condition ‘The Inevitable Fog.’ ”

Or, what anti-war Democrats are now calling “delusional” thinking.

When the 20th edition of Mr. Halberstam’s book was published in 2001, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain wrote in the foreword: “For anyone who aspires to a position of national leadership … this book should be mandatory reading.”

CIA recollections

Much reaction to our item yesterday previewing former CIA Director George J. Tenet’s book, “At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA.”

The book reportedly takes shots at key members of PresidentBush’s inner circle, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, given his hard push for intelligence linking Iraq to the terrorist strikes of September 11. Mr. Tenet also takes aim at former President Clinton, slashing the CIA clandestine operations budget when the agency was trying to penetrate Osama binLaden’s terrorist network.

Here is 37-year CIA veteran Anne Allen: “I wonder how many chapters Mr. Tenet devotes to his own mediocrity, to his selection of so many mediocre managers, and to his devotion to political correctness, which has so harmed the intelligence community — and this country — over decades.”

Miss Allen rattled a few cages recently on the heels of former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright insisting — after the fact — that the Clinton administration never had the public support or intelligence it needed to uproot bin Laden. In fall 2000, a U.S. intelligence Predator drone captured bin Laden on tape, watching his movements, all of which was relayed in real time to CIA headquarters. “We had repeated — and ignored — warnings throughout the ‘90s,” Miss Allen said.

Competition rules

Competing news organizations will have a difficult time covering MSNBC’s exclusive “first in the nation” presidential primary debates — the first one tomorrow in South Carolina featuring eight Democratic candidates; the second, May 3, in California introducing 10 Republicans.

Here’s MSNBC’s rules for the first debate, applying to all unaffiliated radio, network, cable and local TV media organizations:

1. An unobstructed onscreen credit “MSNBC” must appear during each debate excerpt and remain on screen for the entire excerpt.

2. Each debate excerpt must be introduced with an audio credit to MSNBC.

3. No excerpt may air in any medium until the live debate concludes at 8:30 p.m.

4. No more than a combined total of two minutes of excerpts may be chosen for use during the period from the end of the live debate until 1 a.m. on Friday, April 27.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams will moderate the Democrats — Joseph R. Biden Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton, Christopher J. Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.

MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews will quiz the Republicans: Sam Brownback, James S. Gilmore III, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and Tommy Thompson.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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