President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are being hammered by their political opponents and many in the public arena about the accuracy of intelligence reports about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the war was launched.
Over the long buildup to the use of military force against Saddam Hussein, both Bush and Blair argued Saddam had used such weapons against his own people and had failed to verify such weapons' destruction, as called for after the first Gulf War.
United Nations weapons inspectors reported they had been given the run-around by Iraqi officials when they were in Iraq and eventually were booted out of the country.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made a major presentation to members of the United Nations, as well as a report to the American public, about the threat posed by Saddam and his weapons with great emphasis placed on spy satellite photos, reportedly showing facilities being used to manufacture deadly weapons and vehicles to transport them.
Finally, when U.S., British, Polish and Spanish troops started to move into Iraq, they were outfitted with gear to protect them from deadly gases or other chemical or biological weapons.
After several weeks of massive bombing and deployment of about 150,000 troops, it became apparent the weapons of mass destruction either were extremely well-hidden, moved to nearby countries or never existed in the first place.
Bush administration officials and others supportive of the military action against Saddam pointed out that Iraq is about the size of California and that it would take considerable time to inspect all the sites where the weapons could have been stored. The president continues to say proof eventually will be found to confirm Saddam did have the weapons.
Bush's assurance, however, isn't enough to satisfy many in Congress, and members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, is conducting closed hearings on the accuracy of U.S. intelligence leading up to the war. Congressmen, like many Americans, are concerned about the intelligence-gathering capability of the United States and whether this country went to war with inadequate knowledge of conditions inside Iraq.
All of this points out the importance of a proposal by KU faculty member Felix Moos to start a program to train young men and women about the history, culture, religion, politics and lifestyle of countries around the world. These college-age students would be integrated into the ROTC programs at the 50 or so U.S. universities that offer all four ROTC programs: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Moos, a highly respected anthropologist and a frequent lecturer at the Navy War College, told Roberts of his concern about the lack of properly trained men and women who would live abroad to monitor what is going on around the globe. These observers would keep Washington well-informed, minimizing the chances of surprise actions in these countries, actions that could catch the United States off-guard and unprepared. It's happened too many times in past years.
Roberts liked the idea. In fact, he was enthused about Moos' idea and told Washington officials about the plan and his desire to see it put into action. The visits between Moos and Roberts took place prior to the Iraqi military operation, and subsequent developments have proven the need to implement Moos' plan.
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee studied the proposal and gave it their unanimous approval. It now will be introduced for full Senate approval, probably in the fall. It is likely the Moos plan will receive an enthusiastic and favorable Senate vote.
Some in the academic community express disapproval of anything suggesting Uncle Sam is training spies, or that such a program would be condoned on a university campus. It's time for such critics to realize this country needs every possible skill in its intelligence gathering. Hundreds of millions of people around the world do not like the United States and what it stands for. These people and their leaders are willing to use any means to damage or destroy Uncle Sam's influence around the world or to launch costly attacks on this nation, such as happened on 9-11.
The Moos plan would admit two students each year to the ROTC program at each of the universities offering the full complement of ROTC programs. When the program is in full force, about 100 students would graduate every year to enter a foreign service-type career and eventually be sent abroad.
This country's inadequate intelligence gathering capabilities need to be fixed, the sooner the better. We need more men and women living in countries who have the knowledge and skills to provide accurate information on what is going on and how it could develop and eventually involve the United States or other nations.
Why couldn't U.S. intelligence people track Saddam's movements at the time of our bombing attacks and in the following weeks and months? Where is he? Is he dead or alive? How about bin Laden? Where is he? What is going on today in North Korea; how advanced are that country's scientists and engineers in developing nuclear weapons? What is the mood and ambition of North Korea's leaders? Should the United States be prepared for the military use of nuclear weapons against South Korea and even against the United States?
How about conditions in Iran, numerous African countries, South American nations, China and other Asian nations?
It is hoped the Senate will give quick approval to the Moos plan and provide the funding and authorization to start the program. It is hoped KU will be one of the first schools to introduce the program with Roberts and Moos on hand when the program starts.
It's past time for this country to realize the importance of better intelligence gathering. The consequences of this oversight become more ominous day by day.