Sunday, June 20, 2004
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Ugly CPA autopsies
Last month I posted about the ideological litmus tests that were applied in hiring for the Coalitional Provisional Authority. I said at the end that, "This is a story crying out for further investigation."
Today the Washington Post (link via Matthew Yglesias) and Chicago Tribune both have front-page stories focusing on the CPA -- and this issue comes up in both articles.
In the Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran paints an ugly picture of poor planning and inadequate resources. As for recruitment, Chandrasekaran observes:
In the Tribune, Andrew Zajac focuses more closely on the recruitment of CPA personnel. Again, not a pretty picture:
Read both pieces.
It's still worth keeping in mind that despite these missteps, the situation in Iraq is still not hopeless. Go check out this Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder on the Iraqi economy, compiled by Esther Pan. The final paragraph:
“Passed over, in some cases, were diplomats and foreign policy specialists with backgrounds in Middle East issues or nation-building....”
The Bush administration should be congratulated on keep these fools outside of Iraq. They cannot be trusted. Their knives are ready to stab the President in the back. Many of these “foreign policy specialists” are Arabists and follow the ideological beliefs of Edward Said. These people are not worthy of respect and must be marginalized as quickly as possible.
“It's still worth keeping in mind that despite these missteps, the situation in Iraq is still not hopeless.”
On the contrary, the situation looks fairly bright. Very soon we are likely to hear how President Bush is so “lucky.” Iraq is already a success. The only remaining question is how much brighter is this country’s future. And yes, dangerous days admittedly lay ahead. Suicide bombers will not disappear for a number of years down the road. Americans and other westerners must remain very cautious. Still, the good vastly outweighs the bad. The disgustingly immoral media elite are finding it difficult to hide the booming American economy. They are rapidly also unable to lie about the good news coming out of Iraq.posted by: David Thomson on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
"Social events in the city" These statements made me laugh out loud. As someone who has spent time in Baghdad I think this author completely misses the actual security situation. Most western reporters won't even leave the Palestine Hotel for work let alone to socialize. Baghdad is th Wild West and most people there have little freedom of movement due to terrorist activities. My experience is that most westerners, particularly contractors take extraordinary risks to maintain their freedom of movement and contact with Iraqis. To suggest that americans are somehow "provincial' because they don't shop in local markets is absurd.posted by: Don O'Shei on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
I read a story months ago in The Wall Street Journal regarding the young man placed in charge of the stock exchange. I believe it was on the front page of that paper on the day it was reported. As I recall, the story detailed how he received the job after sending in a resume for another job and how he was now learning about stock exchanges while at the same time being placed in charge of building one. So, to say it has never been reported it in error.posted by: Richard White on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
“Occupation planners often selected "ideologues without international experience who see the world through blinders," said Peter Galbraith..”
Who is Peter Galbraith? He is a member of the Harvard University elite. This means that Galbraith grovels at the feet of the Old Europeans. Here is an example:
“Relations with France and Germany have been badly hurt, in some cases by the gratuitous comments made by senior US officials.”
What in hell is this nonesense? America was betrayed by these rascals. Colin Powell was lied to by the French. But Gallagher instead blames the Bush administration for allegedly making “gratuitous comments.”posted by: David Thomson on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
Obviously we have a few more ideologues to spare over here, and hell, I'll pay for the airfare.posted by: Waffle on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
An administration that went into the Iraq operation with wildly excessive optimism as to what could be accomplished in that country might be expected to err on the side of hiring people better qualified to run campaigns among American Republicans than to work with Arabs.
Still I have to wonder why we are seeing stories along this line only now from the major media. I don't mean the odd story here and there that is printed once and never followed up on. I mean instead coverage of major issues like relations between the coalition military and CPA civilians; whether money appropriated by Congress for reconstruction is getting spent at all, or is getting spent in ways that do us some good with Iraqis; and who works for CPA, how they got hired and what they do all day.
I don't want to be unfair here. There are many obstacles to journalists wanting to cover stories of this kind, among them being the Bush administration's attitude toward the press. We can imagine journalists being embedded with infantry companies, but the CPA is closer to a civilian government agency like the Homeland Security or Justice Departments, and you'd never find a journalist embedded there. Nevertheless it seems like the Post and other major media are well behind the curve on covering stories central to what American is trying to do in Iraq.posted by: Zathras on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
Many of these “foreign policy specialists” are Arabists and follow the ideological beliefs of Edward Said. These people are not worthy of respect and must be marginalized as quickly as possible.
-an excellent point. can we all agree that knowing a foreign language qualifies one as this type of leftist?posted by: Adjarian on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
“...among them being the Bush administration's attitude toward the press.”
You got it all backwards. The major media is the sworn enemy of this administration. It ruthlessly desires to destroy the President. The Bush people are merely engaging in rational self preservation.
“...an excellent point. can we all agree that knowing a foreign language qualifies one as this type of leftist?”
The Arabist is often not particularly a leftist. As matter of fact, more than a few of number of them are Republicans. However, they share the absurd perception that the Western world has victimized the noble Arabs. This is particularly true of Israel. The Arabs would presumably be upstanding citizens of the world had not the Jews moved into the area.posted by: David Thomson on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
There are plenty of Europeans with rich and learned histories of occupation, and they are screwing the pooch just as badly (cf Kosovo). So we put in GOP goofballs instead of lazy internationales that take 3 hour lunches and holiday in Cuba. That's not a good excuse for our doing a poor job, of course, but it makes our problems easier to take.
Anyway, I consider our being poor occupiers a feature. If we were good at it, we'd do it a lot more often.
I think the point that Pangloss, er, David is trying to get across is that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds," and that anyone who doubt the extraordinary wave upon wave of Bush achievements is clearly someone who HATES AMERICA (TM).
The problem may be that not everyone has access to the Fox News Channel, and some that do mistakenly choose to get their news from unapproved networks and papers. Surely that is something that will be addressed in the Glorious Second Term of George W. Bush.posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
The fact that the Bush administration chose CPA personnel on the basis of ideological purity and partisan loyalty is a big problem in its own right. Given the huge obstacles involved in putting together a functional post-Saddam state, turning much of the process over to party hacks almost ensures failure.
Beyond the direct impact, however, this phenomenon also points to a larger problem, one which has affected every aspect of the reconstruction - the idea that the only people and ideas worth listening to were those that accorded with the "vision" of the civilian leaders in the Pentagon and the Vice-President's office. Any information and advice that supported that vision was accepted without hesitation, regardless of the reliability of the source. Any advice that didn't fit this vision, and any advisor who was suspected of not being a true believer, was likely to be marginalized or ignored.
This is how the administration ended up being largely oblivious to the very basic and obvious problem of post-Saddam security in Iraq. Only a totally defective policy-making process could produce such a result.
Of course, the Bush administration is equally defective in many other policy areas (see Susskind's piece on DiIulio). The case of post-war Iraq is unique only in that the negative consequences of this incompetence are both immediately clear, and truly immense.posted by: N V on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
Don O'Shei wrote:
"To suggest that americans are somehow "provincial' because they don't shop in local markets is absurd."
I think you're misinterpreting the author's criticism. It's not that failing to interact with ordinary Iraqis demonstrates provincialism. The article makes it clear that the security situation means that venturing outside the Green Zone is a major risk for CPA employees, and staying inside is common sense.
Rather, the problem is that this isolation further inhibits the ability to understand the situation on the ground. Take someone who didn't necessarily know much about Iraq before arriving, and then stick them in a bubble when they get there- how are they supposed to develop any sense for local opinion, local sensibilities, and local priorities?posted by: N V on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
I dispute any implication of civil servants being ready to "stab in the back" GWB's Administration. Despite my strong reservations about the Bush Admin over-reaching in the summer of '01 after 911 like the majority of Americans I felt that he deserved the benefit of the doubt.
If he has frittered that away, that has been because of the Admin bumbling and not a lack of faith, leeway, or willingness to follow on behalf of Americans.
If even now our President were to get sufficient sense to turn to a cabinet of probity and excellence such as Dan suggested, I would support his effort and consider most strongly changing my November vote.
The ultimate question of success comes from political will and policy pragmatism. However to win the popular support for such efforts, first changes quite stark must be made to recapture the confidence of the American people. If such confidence building measures are not forthcoming then Bush and co. will continue operating from a lame-duck phenomena - unable to propose bold enough initiatives to solve the problem.
Bush should put Cheney on effective defacto medical leave, and change his Cabinet in the manner Dan has so perceptively suggested would be helpful. He needs a new public face and a new public policy basis for his Administration. Otherwise whatever political leanings people have, he is going to continue bleeding support because of his lame-duck strategy.posted by: oldman on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
“If he has frittered that away, that has been because of the Admin bumbling and not a lack of faith, leeway, or willingness to follow on behalf of Americans.”
Bumbling? What are you talking about? Nothing could be further from the truth. We have removed the Taliban and the Baathists from power. These goals have been achieved at a low cost from a historical perspective. Problems remain in both Afghanistan and Iraq---but the Bush administration has earned at least a solid B. This is one of the central reasons why the major media continues to make a big deal of Abu Ghraib. The Iraqi military conflict is going very well, and they need an issue to continue presenting to the general public.
Estimates that “the (Iraq) economy is projected to grow by 45 percent in 2005 and 25 percent in 2006, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a financial research division of The Economist” must demoralize defeatists like yourself. You are also being a bit disingenuous by implying that all Americans were willing to trust the Bush administration. That is utterly false. A good size minority have put up obstacles from day one. They have ceaselessly tried to throw wrenches into the gears.posted by: David Thomson on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
“In another session, Neisef claims, he was held down by two men while a uniformed woman forced him to have sex with her.”
How desperate are the major media regarding Iraq? Time is posting a highly implausible story concerning an Iraqi man alleging that he was raped by an American military female! It sounds like something out of the Onion or Mad Magazine. The war is going so well that Time must find pure bovine excrement to publish.posted by: David Thomson on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
I too have noticed a significant tendency on the part of the media to emphasize bad news, at least bad news that can be accompanied with pictures and a strong human interest angle. This tendency is always inconvenient for any administration.
At the same time I think it particularly undignified and unmanly for Bush administration defenders to be constantly complaining about it, as if the President of the United States was some pathetic victim at the mercy of his far more powerful enemies. This grasping after the mantle of victimhood is the kind of thing Democrats do --the kind of thing, actually, that the last Democratic President is still doing -- and the enthusiasm of some of President Bush's admirers for it makes me nostalgic for the days before the Republican Party became so Clintonized.
What sets eyeballs rolling skyward in this particular case is that stories about CPA hiring haven't aired much in the media at all until this weekend, though CPA has been in business for over a year. If the media has decided to use them to "destroy" this President it certainly took a long time to make that decision.posted by: Zathras on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
These goals have been achieved at a low cost from a historical perspective
I assume you mean low cost in terms of human life, and not financially? Cause looking at the budget deficits Bush is running up to finance this war, I wouldn't be too happy if I was a US citizen - or I might if I was sixty or so and wasn't going to have to pay for it in the future.posted by: Stu on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
Deficits in the 5% range are nothing. They can be covered with regular growth patterns.
You know, I keep thinking we should be transferring troops out of NATO field duty into Iraq... if old europe won't send any of theirs to that theeater, let them send them to their backyard. What's that, they don't have the troops at all? Then run up some freaking deficits of your own so you can man your own damn backyard.
"Then run up some freaking deficits of your own so you can man your own damn backyard."
Ah, the old "can't see it from my house" gambit.
What's the opportunity cost of spending a couple hundred billion in Iraq, especially when it can simply be replaced by "regular growth patterns"?
The cognitive dissonance exhibited by some of the commenters here would be amusing, if not for the real-life consequences.
Norman Isaacs said, "I may be wrong, but I'm never in doubt." It is assumed he delivered that line partly in jest. I'm not so certain. It wouldn't hurt some of you to pause for a little reflection once in a while.posted by: Cinnamon Bear on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
“At the same time I think it particularly undignified and unmanly for Bush administration defenders to be constantly complaining about it, as if the President of the United States was some pathetic victim at the mercy of his far more powerful enemies.”
Your contention is laughably silly. The major media are overwhelmingly liberal. I guess somebody is ignoring the most recent Pew media study? A Republican administration is always at a distinct disadvantage.posted by: David Thomson on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
"The major media are overwhelmingly liberal. I guess somebody is ignoring the most recent Pew media study?"
I guess someone is leaping to conclusions? The Pew survey has obvious methodological deficiencies: small sample size, selection bias, self-description, etc.
Many of the respondents seem to be confused about the distinction between moderate and progressive.
Even if you accept the report as proof of a bias among reporters, it does not follow that there is a bias in reporting.posted by: Sky Walker on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
DT do you work for the republican party? Honest to god, do they make people that freaking stupid? Did you read the Tagabu report? It mentions rape in it. What would have to happen for you to believe that things aren't going peachy-kean? What are the conditions? I'm guessing you're pure faith-based politics know no bounds.posted by: Jor on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
This was foreshadowed as early as the Reagan administration.
I was stationed at the Pentagon when Reagan was elected and sat next to a retired USAF guy (at the time a contractor) who owned a private bus company that ferried many of us from Virginia to the Pentagon every day.
Not long after the Reaganites came into the White House this guy was invited to interview for a political appointee position in the Transportation Agency.
When he came back from the interview I asked him how it went. He was blown away by the fact that the interview consisted of questions on ideology (what are your views on abortion, how do you feel about flag burning etc) and hardly even touched on his knowledge of public transportation and how he felt about it.
It was bizarre then, it is standard practice now.posted by: majkia on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
No kidding. Did you know there is even a nutbar Presidential candidate out there who won't even look at judicial candidates who are unenthusiastic about abortion?posted by: Zathras on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
"These goals have been achieved at a low cost from a historical perspective."
Tell that to the Iraqis who are being blown up daily by car bombs. Gee, I don't recall that happening in Germany and Japan in 1946. If you consider this a B, I shudder you think to what you consider failing grades. An occupation where terror attacks happen daily and foreign contractors necessary to repairing infrastructure are regularly kidnapped, perhaps?
“the (Iraq) economy is projected to grow by 45 percent in 2005 and 25 percent in 2006, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a financial research division of The Economist”
You, of course, forgot the part about "Very promising, experts say—if the security situation is brought under control". Which is a HUGE qualifier, seeing as Iraqi oil infrastructure, rail lines, bridges and other industrial capacity are being targeted regularly. Further, any occupation where "the war and subsequent looting caused the economy to shrink by 22 percent" and the security situation is not stabilized prior to handover cannot reasonably said to be a success, except by you and other Pollyanna apologoists for the administration. Even Larry Diamond from the Hoover Institute, who assisted the CPA, isn't putting his head in the sand like you are, if you look at the WaPo article.
Now, while I wasn't in favor of this exercise, I do hope the Iraqis can salvage the mess we're leaving behind, the same way if my spouse bought lottery tickets with our life savings I'd hope we would have a winning ticket. But feel free to admire the Emperor's new clothes.posted by: Eponymous coward on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
If the economy shrinks 22% one year, and is projected to expand by 45% the next, the overall projected expansion is 16% from the base year. Damned good for mature economy; not nearly so impressive for developing one.
1. How much of this projected 45% expansion is to be based on central command-and-control style development? How dependable and sustainable will it be?
2. How likely is it that the optimal level security will be achieved and what is the probable level of security and the subseqent volume of expansion?posted by: pickabone on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
Any proof that middle east experts referenced in the article are arabists? Seems to me that you're with the adminstration on Iraq. Which is politics over policy.posted by: andrew r on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
So the problem with the reconstruction has been a lack of diplomats and career beurocrats? Right. The failure has been in leadership, concrete goals, and deadlines. Somehow Paul Bremer decided that luncheons with Iraqi exiles was his priority instead of using a bullhorn and a hardhat out on the front line.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
i feel sorry for dan. he's a principled and cogent analyst of the world from a moderate right perspective. yet many on his site who choose to drop their dime's worth are plodding blinkered morons who can't see past their partisan right-wing festival of hate. ultimately, this kind of cognitive dissonance may well drive dan further to the center/left, where reason seems to be more of a driving force for argument style (and i would say that reading glastris' article in washington monthly this issue has influenced my feelings on same.) whatever one's ultimate position on the merits of the subjects discussed.posted by: Robert Green on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
"Your contention is laughably silly. The major media are overwhelmingly liberal. I guess somebody is ignoring the most recent Pew media study? A Republican administration is always at a distinct disadvantage."
Not even close to being true. If you look at the guest lists for all of the major talk shows on TV and even the hosts of those talk shows - particularly on the radio, but also on TV, the vast majority are Republican and/or well to the right of center. Even the Right's favorite targets of CNN and NPR. No one is left of center anymore. The best one can hope for is moderate discourse, but what we mostly get is right of center. That was particularly true after 9/11 until very recently. The media spread lies about Al Gore regularly during the 2000 campaign and gave Bush a free pass. They also didn't properly scrutinize his statements leading up to the Iraq war. If they had, we night not be in the fix that we are in.posted by: Susan Davis on 06.20.04 at 10:40 AM [permalink]
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