Friday, April 14

The tricky art of estimation.

I get into the occasional argument with people who think that the President of the USA should always treat the CIA's estimates about their enemies' activities as highly accurate. People who still use the CIA's hilariously respectful early-Eighties estimates of the USSR's GDP as evidence that the Russian economy wasn't damaged by the arms race, for instance. Or people who think that Joseph Wilson's testimony is in any way damning to George Bush.

Well, here's a chance to make this argument a bit less hypothetical:

Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb
U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal.


So let's wait and see just how good the CIA's guesses are this time. I think they're laughably unlikey. (Remember, this is sixty-year-old technology we're talking about here. A mobile phone is more high-tech than an atom bomb. Anyone think that the Iranian Government would take ten years to build a mobile phone if they wanted to?) But we'll know soon enough.

The bad news is that, if you want to enjoy telling me I'm wrong, you're going to have to wait ten years. The good news is that you won't really have to wait that long, because I'll be proven right long before that. Oh, hang on, no; that's the bad news. Fuck.

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