It’s sufficiently rare that the U.S. intel community gets one right in a big spot that should we take a moment to acknowledge it.

Although, in fairness, they do have their moments.

The hot take last week among doves about American warnings of imminent war in Ukraine was that it was either another case of U.S. intelligence screwing the pooch or, more sinisterly, an example of the warmongering west running a propaganda scheme to goad Putin into a confrontation. I never grasped why the west would want to do that knowing what it would mean for energy prices, but in some quarters the quest to make Russia a victim of western expansionism rather than vice versa is eternal.

Some good-faith skeptics of the intel are acknowledging today that they underestimated Putin’s belligerence.

Others may need a little goading to ‘fess up that they underestimated it:

Others will probably never admit it, preferring to parse terms like “invasion” instead:

To put in perspective for you the scale of Russia’s attacks last night, gaze upon this map bearing in mind that — allegedly — Moscow’s chief concern is securing the independence of the two small disputed regions in the east:

I mean, it looks like an “invasion,” no?

It certainly amounts to an “attack”:

Follow this long thread for videos of the carnage last night.

One way to knock U.S. intel this morning is to say that they may have gotten the big picture right but they were wrong on the timing. Remember when they warned us that the attack was likely to begin on February 16? They were off by a full week — although, given how much foresight they had with respect to this operation, it’s hard to hold that against them:

Moreover, I’m not so sure U.S. intel was wrong about the original start date for the invasion. The video of a Russian-backed separatist leader describing alleged Ukrainian provocations in disputed territory was posted last week on the 18th, but the video’s metadata indicated that it was recorded on … the 16th:

Putin’s decision to attack also seems to have been made much earlier than his announcement last night suggested:

The Daily Mail noticed that, coincidentally, Putin wore the same suit and tie in “yesterday’s” announcement of war as he wore in Monday’s rambling speech listing his grievances against Ukraine. It’s possible that America’s intelligence bureaus missed (slightly) on when the invasion was set to begin but it’s also possible that it really was set to start on the 16th and Putin delayed it once the U.S. publicized that date, not wanting to concede that America was reading his battle plans surreptitiously.

Whether the CIA and NSA were totally right or only mostly right, they were more right than they usually are. That’s a small step on the very long journey of rebuild the American people’s trust after Iraq and Afghanistan:

Speaking of Afghanistan, I’ll leave you with Clarissa Ward of CNN, whom you’ll remember from her on-the-ground reporting during the withdrawal from Kabul. She’s in Ukraine now, huddled underground with the locals as they take shelter. If this looks like the Blitz, well, that’s because it basically is.

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