WMDs in Iraq: The IC Report Was Wrong

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Superforecasting" by Philip E. Tetlock. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

Why did the United States invade Iraq in 2003? Were the IC officials correct that the government was stockpiling WMDs in Iraq?

In 2002, when the United States government was considering invading Iraq, top officials suspected that the enemy government was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. The IC was tasked with evaluating the evidence. 

Keep reading to find out if they ever uncovered WMDs in Iraq.

WMDs in Iraq

The official IC report on the presence of WMDs in Iraq combined the insights of all 16 agencies and the twenty thousand intelligence analysts they collectively employ. At that time, the IC was composed of 16 member agencies (including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency) with a collective budget of roughly $50 billion. Their answer corroborated the Bush administration’s claims: The Iraqi government was producing and storing WMDs. 

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Eight years, hundreds of thousands of casualties, and trillions of dollars later, the conflict ended. No WMDs were ever found. 

Many analysts consider the IC report on WMDs in Iraq to be the worst intelligence failure of the modern era. Impartial analyses determined that although the IC’s conclusion had been disastrously wrong, it was a reasonable judgment to make based on the evidence available at the time. The mistake was not in the conclusion but in the level of certainty. All the evidence pointed to the presence of WMDs in Iraq—but none of it conclusively. Somehow, experienced analysts making an incredibly high-stakes decision failed to realize they were jumping to conclusions and that the evidence could be interpreted another way. If they had, they likely still would have come to the same conclusion, but certainly not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We can’t know for sure, but it’s possible that a degree of reasonable doubt would have been enough to stop Congress from authorizing the invasion.

WMDs in Iraq: The IC Report Was Wrong

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Philip E. Tetlock's "Superforecasting" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Superforecasting summary :

  • How to make predictions with greater accuracy
  • The 7 traits of superforecasters
  • How Black Swan events can challenge even the best forecasters

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *