Which was a worse ignoring of intelligence: Clinton/Rwanda or Bush/9-11

Ok, without re-hashing the 9/11 intelligence debate *too * much…which failure was worse: the failure to intervene in the Rwandan genocide, or the failure to act on the intelligence available about 9/11.

So I guess this has three parts:

  1. Did Clinton know more about, and have more capability to prevent Rwanda, or did Bush know more about, and have more capability to prevent 9/11?

  2. If it is true that both Presidents had enough information to take more actions than they did (this is almost certainly the case as long as we are not saying either could have acted successfully to prevent these atrocities), which was worse?

  3. Are either of them morally culpable for the oversight?

If you haven’t already read these threads, I’d read them in full as background:
Bush’s Complicity (especially see Desmostylus’ posts)
Clinton’s Complicity

Yes, I realize I'm just asking for an unreasonable partisan slugfest, but I'm unrealistically hoping people will look at this objectively.  Call me naive.  :)

Rwanda wasn’t a failure of intelligence, it was a failure of policy. We KNEW about it, we just couldn’t be bothered to do shit about it.

Precisely. Hence the question: which was a worse ignoring of intelligence?


Rawanda was 100% certain. 9/11 was <100% certain. Hell there was CNN coverage of limbs floating down Rawandan rivers, whereas there was no conclusive proof that 9/11 would happen on 9/11, if ever.

So we have ignoring an actual catastrophy vs. ignoring potential catastrophy. It seems too obvious to have to state it.

“It’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping.”

I don’t get this debate. Seems like apples & oranges to me. Defending one’s own country and intervening in the affairs of another country are 2 different issues. Both events were mistakes, so be it. What’s the point of trying to compare them?

I don’t think this is a well formed OP: pretty sloppy. First of all, there is no real comparison about “intelligence” here except in the broadest, crudest terms. What Bush was dealing with was intelligence pointing to mounting threats from Al Qaeda. What Clinton had was basically no more secret than news reports that Rwanda was, in fact, going to hell, right now. So what does “intelligence” really have to do with comparing the situations?

Second, the President has an obligation first and foremost to care about U.S. interests and security: whatever might be nice, that is their job. While not doing something in Rwanda was a huge mistake, the U.S. didn’t have any direct security interest in what was going on. It had a moral interest, IMHO, but that’s neither here nor there for Presidents who aren’t necessarily charged with enforcing my own personal sense of duty. So again, the situations are not really comparable.

Yes, the two events are different. However, our framework for evaluating the performance of presidents must be able to compare disparate failures, no? I mean, killing someone to defend your home and going into someone else’s home to stop domestic violence are different issues, but we can still compare and discuss the ethics of each.

My purpose for doing so is twofold: One, it is interesting to me that so many people could be enraged at Bush re: 9/11, but not at Clinton re:rwanda; two, these are both prima facie cases of having information but failing to act on it–yes the circumstances are different, but the fundamental issue is the same.

There is considerable difference in specificity, but it’s debatable how much. Bush’s intelligence was considerably more specific than "mounting threats from Al-Qaeda. I mean, they were protecting Crawford from airplanes being used as weapons. What “intelligence” has to do with comparing the situations is what I state in the OP:

Your other point about interests at home being the President’s obligation…

Is well-stated. This was the kind of argument that I was looking for, except for the non-sequiter final sentence. :stuck_out_tongue:

You’re right, though, apparently my OP was hopelessly unclear. What I’m looking for is debate about the ethics of each failure to act…surely we can compare to different kinds of failures in one ethical framework.

Sorry about the typos in the above post, you got me all worked up about defending my OP. :smack:

As a side note, why can’t we edit our posts after we post them?

Impact of ignoring Rwanda on national security:

Impact of ignoring al Qaeda threats on national security:
4 Airplanes
2 Towers
1 Pentagon
1 War (or 2, if you count Iraq)

al Qaeda over Rwanda by 8 or nine to zero.

Sheesh. Why is the answer to ANY criticism of Bush always, “Oh yeah? Well, uh…Clinton…um…did…stuff too.” Clinton ain’t president no more. George Washington had wooden teeth and Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner - so what?

Because you could lie about what you said and then go back and change it after the fact.

C’mon, this thread is hardly a defense of Bush by blaming Clinton. Indeed, my implication is that both were wrong; I just wanted some discussion as to which was worse. I’m certainly *not * saying that we ought to ignore Bush’s present shortcomings because of Clinton’s.
As to the no-editing rule, why does it matter if they lie about what they said earlier?

Assuming you’re keeping score based on threat to national security. That’s like keeping score based on complete passes.

Keeping in mind that half of the much-lauded arguments for invading Iraq were based on “human rights violations,” you can’t turn around at the same time and say that other human rights violations (on a few orders of magnitude greater) don’t mean diddly squat.

For the record, I hate Clinton, just not as much as I hate Bush. I’m also miffed at the European governments, since they take such a holier-than-thou position on human rights and the like, but also raised nary a finger when the chips were on the table.

Worse for whom? Clinton’s was worse for Rwanda; Bush’s was worse for the U.S. - again, apples & oranges.

I keep forgetting - how many Rwandans have to die for it to equal one American dying again?

There was no ignoring of intelligence about Rwanda; it was a decision not to send US troops there to do anything about it. Clinton has made no secret of calling it the biggest mistake of his presidency, too, for that matter. The decision was wrong in hindsight but still honestly arrived at. No facts were ignored or filtered. But Bush had his Iraq decision already made in complete disregard of the facts.

Greater body count: Rwanda, at least so far.
Greater dishonesty: Iraq, and it isn’t even on the same scale.
Greater ramifications in rest of world: Iraq again. The hatred in Rwanda is directed internally tribe-vs.-tribe, not against us or anybody else

FWIW, I supported Clinton’s decision on Rwanda for what I suspect were similar reasons - it didn’t look logistically feasible to go in there on a scale massive enough to really make a difference. I didn’t, and don’t, consider “US national interest”, IOW oil, to be an overriding consideration, since we do after all have a broader responsibility to the world that results from our greater power. Humanitarian reasons are enough for me, since they’re what we claim to stand for as a nation and our supporting them is a “force multiplier” for us. That’s why I also supported Clinton’s decision to go into Bosnia and Kosovo, which were logistically feasible. I too wish in hindsight we’d been part of the Rwanda expedition - we know now that it wouldn’t have taken that much force to have had a great effect.

That’s exactly the point: the issue is not the same. No one is claiming that Bush knew exactly what the terrorists were up to: the issue in his case is how he uses and understands intelligence, as in, the kind the CIA creates and helps interpret. In the Rwanda case, there was a situation overseas that the President decided not to act on, not how he used intelligence. Saying that the two things are fundamentally the same issue a real stretch: by that standard virtually ANY presidential decision about foriegn policy by ANY President is fundamentally the same issue!

Excuse me - to whom was that cheap shot directed?

It missed over here, so it must have been directed elsewhere. Either that, or his aim’s bad today.