People who talk glibly about "intelligence failure" act as if intelligence agencies that are doing their job right would know everything. But intelligence-gathering has always been a chancy business. In a nuclear age, the only thing that makes sense is to fail safe -- and strike pre-emptively, if necessary. If that offends people who think and talk in abstract terms about international law, then it is better that they be offended than that we wake up some morning and find New York or Chicago in radioactive ruins.
It was Saddam Hussein who chose to play cat-and-mouse with the weapons inspectors whom he had agreed to let monitor Iraqi facilities as part of the peace treaty ending the first Gulf War. It was his intelligence failure to think that he could keep on doing that indefinitely.
Iran and North Korea -- the other nations identified as part of the "axis of evil" -- are now playing the same cat-and-mouse game, and North Korea is openly threatening to produce nuclear bombs. Either or both these countries are potential suppliers of such weapons to international terrorists.
Libya backed out of the nuclear weapons game after Qadaffi saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. What would have emboldened Iran and North Korea? Only a disunited America, full of loud irresponsible election-year talk about "lies" on weapons of mass destruction, making it unlikely that the United States can muster the political will to strike Iran or North Korea.
An election-year frenzy has let the longer run fate of this country fade away into the background.