Young Republicans Managing Iraq
May 24, 2004 10:42 AM   Subscribe

"Brat Pack" - the twentysomething Young Republicans who are running Iraq's economy. Their resumes all pulled from the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation, they came to Iraq with no experience and found themselves with six-figure salaries managing the $13 billion budget of the Coalition Provisional Authority. An amazing article from The Washington Post that reads like the scariest season of MTV's The Real World ever.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (49 comments total)
Phat mission-critical jobs for hacks.
posted by troutfishing at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2004

I was reading this yesterday, and was astounded....posting your resume to the Heritage Foundation gets you a job approving budgets and allocating money in Iraq? Even if you've never done anything like that before? unbelievable...
posted by amberglow at 10:49 AM on May 24, 2004

"...Greco was fluent in English, Italian and Spanish; Burns had been a policy analyst focused on family and health care; and Ledeen had co-founded a cooking school. But none had ever worked in the Middle East, none spoke Arabic, and few could tell a balance sheet from an accounts receivable statement. ......Ledeen was determined to prove she could do her job. She and the others worked 100-hour weeks and ended up producing not only their assigned report but a searchable Web site of possible reconstruction projects." - Wow. A website. That'll transform a strife ridden, bombed out nation.

But, this stood out:

"The next day, wearing flak jackets and helmets, Ledeen and Greco went to visit Raghad in the hospital.....the mother of another injured woman told them to leave, saying they should have never come, that it wasn't safe.

"It's okay," Ledeen told her.

"It's not okay, little girl," the woman snapped back. It was only then that Ledeen understood...."

Do you supose that ideologically driven, parochial insularity could result in detectable brain damage?
posted by troutfishing at 10:59 AM on May 24, 2004

I'm sending my resume out to the Heritage Foundation right now. Maybe I'll get a shot at Iran or N. Korea.
posted by drezdn at 11:03 AM on May 24, 2004

i wouldn't characterize age as the main requisite to get that kind of job , as age doesn't tell whenever the person is experienced or not. Problem is they're apparently severly understaffed, have little or no link to the reality of business in iraq and some of them is hopelessy naive (unfortunately common problem among some youngsters)

But I guess it all makes sense when one wants a temporary government that isn't effective at stepping on some big business toes.
posted by elpapacito at 11:21 AM on May 24, 2004

Some also grumbled about the new staffers' political ties. Retired U.S. Army Col. Charles Krohn said many in the CPA regard the occupation "as a political event," always looking for a way to make the president look good.

A little more effort may be needed.
posted by four panels at 11:26 AM on May 24, 2004

Scanning life through the picture windows
She finds the slinky vagabond
He coughs as he passes her Ford Mustang, but
Heaven forbid, she'll take anything
But the freak, and his type, all for nothing
He misses a step and cuts his hand, but
Showing nothing, he swoops like a song
She cries "Where have all Papa's heroes gone?"

All the way from Washington
Her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor
"We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more?"

All night
He wants the young Republican
Young Republican, young Republican, he wants the young Republican
All right
He wants the young Republican

Do you remember, your President Nixon?
Do you remember, the bills you have to pay
Or even yesterday?

posted by dash_slot- at 11:55 AM on May 24, 2004

Simone Ledeen is serving her country. She is the daughter of Michael Ledeen, the Iran-Contra luminary, AEI scholar, and all-around capo in the neocon mafia. She's 29, a freshly-minted M.B.A., with little to no experience in war-torn countries. But as an advisor for northern Iraq at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad, she is, in essence, helping shape one quarter of that nation's economy.

-- Joshua Micah Marshall, December 2003
posted by matteo at 12:13 PM on May 24, 2004

The whole thing seems insane to me... invade another country, try to run it with these people?? The British we're not, at least their counterparts in Imperial Britain would have been trained for this stuff, or so I assume.
posted by chaz at 12:20 PM on May 24, 2004

I enjoyed the link. It was a different perspective and, if taken with a grain of salt, very enlightening. But.

How many people here have started their own business from scratch? I'm going through such a situation right now, although the business isn't mine. Truth is, when you start from scratch with very little formal structure to begin with, it's very difficult to become successful because you, as the proprietor, are in charge of very many aspects of one business. Finance, Accounting, Inventory, Labor Management, Buying and Selling, POS, Customer Service, Marketing, etc. The list is endless. And the initial incentives are extremely small.

That's why so few small businesses succeed. That's why most business graduates would rather work for an already existing corporation instead of building one on their own.

This takes us to the linked situation. The US is not a nation-builder. The current administration, the past administrations know NOTHING about how to build a government from scratch. Most, if not all, government employees get hired into an already existing system that, although flawed, requires very little "out of the box" thinking. The job has already been created and done before you and will continue to exist well after you leave.

In Iraq, on the other hand, the job of creating a government from scratch requires extremely intuitive and well-motivated individuals who are capable of adapting to an ever-changing environment. How many upper level managers are willing to risk their lives and big salaries in the States for a potentially deadly and poorly compensated job in Iraq, where success is not imminent?

That's why you see these young, idealistic types taking jobs like these. Because adults who have seen the real world and have cushy jobs in the US govt. or in the private sector aren't willing to make the same sacrifices as freshly minted college grads.

BTW, about the Heritage Foundation: what better place to harvest brilliant, young minds who support your cause?
posted by BlueTrain at 12:32 PM on May 24, 2004

The CPA had to hire people like this -- and a lot of others like them -- because they simply didn't have better candidates.

Recruiting people with better knowledge of the Middle East was stymied by the fact that most of them were Arab-Americans or people who did lots of work with Arabs -- and, out of personal conviction, or career/network pragmatism, were unwilling to be associated with the Bush Administration. Of the balance, most were so tightly connected with Israel as to make it impolitic for the CPA to put them on the ground in Baghdad.

Recruiting older people with longer resumes (even if no particular Middle East expertise) was stymied by the serious disinclination of people with spouses and kids to support to take that kind of physical risk.
posted by MattD at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2004

How many upper level managers are willing to risk their lives and big salaries in the States for a potentially deadly and poorly compensated job in Iraq, where success is not imminent?

A decent number of British career foreign service officials appear to have done so. And they appear to be a bit annoyed at the fact that their American counterparts have treated Iraq like a sandpit for bright young conservative ideologues. But as has been hinted, that's because being an Arabic-speaker in the FCO is historically considered something worthy of respect.

Here's the thing, though: Iraq was not some kind of internet startup. There wasn't just an established state bureacracy: to some extent, the state was the bureaucracy (as is often the case with authoritarian regimes). The most revealing excerpt in this piece, I think, isn't the discussion of their fashion preferences, but an example of how the existing bureaucracy just didn't take them seriously:

Once, Ledeen remembered, a bank in Baghdad refused to release money to a U.S. military division even though it had the appropriate paperwork. That meant the commander couldn't pay his Iraqi workers, who couldn't feed their families, raising the public's anger at U.S. forces.

So Ledeen raced to the bank to plead with its officials. It didn't work. Then a woman from the Iraqi Ministry of Finance showed up. The bank manager took a look at the paperwork, nodded and released the money.

"It was the same damn letter" the Army captain had given them the week before, Ledeen said with a sigh.

Of course it was the same damn letter. Anyone who's worked in an office appreciates how that works: try submitting an expenses claim some time. But, apparently, most of these kids didn't even know about the basics of office politics, let alone ones spread across an Arab country.
posted by riviera at 12:55 PM on May 24, 2004

clearly what we need to do to save Iraq is to send over all of ex dot-commers so that they can re-envisage business models and leverage synergy in order to help the cradle of civilization get into the modern age.

it would also help if they were fresh-faced and attractive and we can get a good youth soap-opera out of it so that no one will ever be able to say that it was all in vain.
posted by rks404 at 1:02 PM on May 24, 2004

exactly, MattD. you've illustrated well the problems of our current administration. no one intelligent wants to associate him/herself with it.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:06 PM on May 24, 2004

RE: the idea that no one else is interested in going to Iraq.

If the US Government is to be believed more people applied to serve as a diplomat in Iraq than any previous diplomat posting.
posted by drezdn at 1:13 PM on May 24, 2004

BTW, about the Heritage Foundation: what better place to harvest brilliant, young minds who support your cause? - BlueTrain

Well, gee, that would have meant hiring people from the Heritage Foundation, not just people that had applied to work there at one time and then weren't even hired, wouldn't it?

If you look at this hiring and administrative decision process as The Best And The Brightest Go Forth To Build A Brave New Bureaucracy, well, good luck in future ventures, but don't be surprised if other people don't feel quite as interested in investing in your bold new vision that amateur hour is a good thing.
posted by dglynn at 2:47 PM on May 24, 2004

If the US Government is to be believed more people applied to serve as a diplomat in Iraq than any previous diplomat posting.

Since when are they to be believed? A bicycle accident due to wet soil?!? as if.

They lie about everything, even when it's unnecessary. It puts previous administrations to shame. And putting totally inexperienced people in place to help run a country that you've made the centerpiece of your presidency shows incredibly bad judgement.
posted by amberglow at 2:50 PM on May 24, 2004

A bicycle accident due to wet soil?!? as if.

Er, I'm out of the loop. What is the conspiracy-du-jour about Bush's bike accident? It appears they blamed it on bad weather as not to make Bush seem like a klutz. Isn't that the kind of image-maintenance White House spokesmen have been doing for eons?
posted by dhoyt at 3:28 PM on May 24, 2004

DGlynn, I believe the Heritage Foundation runs a resume bank for Republican politicians and like-minded think tanks and private sector institutions. Very useful for filling jobs where there's not a pre-existing pipeline (like the Federalists for law positions) and much preferable to the alternative, which would be pure political patronage.
posted by MattD at 3:34 PM on May 24, 2004

dhoyt, I heard it was a massive pretzel that grabbed him off his bike and pummled him for about 5 minutes. Apprently he was the second operative from Pretzlestan to make an attempt on the president's life.
posted by chaz at 3:38 PM on May 24, 2004

Don't forget, that's the pretzel that tried to kill his dad.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:48 PM on May 24, 2004

Huh. dhoyt, I actually heard the rumor that this "mishap" was all a cover as Cheney took over Fort Knox. He then plans to nuke the gold to cause a spike in international gold prices. Wait...this plot sounds familiar.
posted by BlueTrain at 3:58 PM on May 24, 2004

image maintenance in the same vein as Karen Hughes suggested Bush was pulled over and subsequently charged with DUI because he was driving too slowly. Complete and utter bullshit lies, because they have to lie _all_the_time_. I don't know why this is true, but it is.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:02 PM on May 24, 2004

BTW, amberglow's link is one of the reasons why Kos should be taken with a huge grain of salt. He's so clouded with partisanship that any intelligent reader much double-check his references before drawing his same conclusions. I have a tough time trusting a guy whose sole purpose is to debunk Bush at any cost.
posted by BlueTrain at 4:04 PM on May 24, 2004

That was a big fat non-sequitur, BlueTrain. How about actually doing the job of pointing out the factual errors in Amberglow's link and analysing how that alters the conclusion, rather than jumping up and down squealing about bias and expecting us to just go along with it.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:10 PM on May 24, 2004

and expecting us to just go along with it.

I learned a while ago never to expect anyone to simply go along with my statements. And if you read what I wrote again, you'd notice that I'm not disputing the facts of Kos, but his conclusions.

Kos has no idea what occurred this past weekend. His conclusion, however:

So rain on the 13th and (barely) 14th was blamed for a Bush fall on the 22nd. As everything else, it wasn't Bush's fault. Nothing is Bush's fault.

is full of assumptions. For instance, he fails to argue how loose topsoil forms. He fails to recognize that 2.8" of rain in a one day period is enormous. Further, instead of debunking the press release on its merits, he proceeds to appeal to his readers' partisan sensibilities that Bush is always a liar.
posted by BlueTrain at 4:23 PM on May 24, 2004

Another place to get a good entry-level job with the CPA is the Unification Church cult. Put your resume on! (the people who own the Wash. Times)
posted by inksyndicate at 4:47 PM on May 24, 2004

Kos is a political consultant and activist. Why would anyone ever not take what he says with a grain of salt? Are you under the impression that he fancies himself a journalist or something?

You know, I don't believe anything that Coca-Cola tells me, but I still enjoy a refreshing soft drink from time to time. In fact, I think I'll have one now.

Man, this is great.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:53 PM on May 24, 2004

Why would anyone ever not take what he says with a grain of salt? Are you under the impression that he fancies himself a journalist or something?

If you honestly believed that, we would have less Coulter, Limbaugh, O-Reilly, and Savage threads around here, since they are all taken with a grain of salt. Heck, since they're such blowhards, the Dems have nothing to worry about, right?

Unfortunately, the reality is that Kos, although more intelligent than the above mentioned conservative "pundits", must still be questioned out loud, because he's prone to errors in judgment, like any of us.
posted by BlueTrain at 4:59 PM on May 24, 2004

Prompted by the Washington Times bit last December, I did some digging on Simone:

Simone also led at least one campaign to stifle free speech in her Brandeis University, campaigning to ban a left-wing speaker from her College.

Simone's been rising quickly through the vast right-wing neocon economic apparatus. Once upon a time she worked a cushy job at "telecommunications company Linsang Partners (a big-iron FCC corporate welfare pure play). One prominent Linsang Partner is the delightful James Woolsey (ex-director of the CIA who says the US is engaged in "World War 4" and who closely missed being appointed Iraq Pro-Consul in place of Bremer or Garner).

Anyway, the valient Simone was promoted to a VP at the improbably named Furchtgott-Roth Economic Enterprises (a classic neocon looney bin lobbying gang that campaigns against open telecommunications, sustainable development and environmental regulation).

Mr Harold Furchtgott-Roth is an ex-FCC Commissioner and, as it happens, Ms Diana Furchtgott-Roth is a resident fellow at the equally looney American Enterprise Institute, where her kooky father also holds court (along with such notables as the always-creepy Richard Perle and Lynne Cheney. Ms DFR seems to think that women should be happy they are paid only 74 cents on the dollar compared with men, and that women somehow choose to be underpaid and under-valued.

But back the main topic! Simone was recently privileged enough to attend Bush's plastic turkey flyby:
Condi Rice and Andy Card were there, too. I met them both- Condi Rice asked if we were really surprised- she was getting a kick out of it. We all said ‘Absolutely!’ Andy Card repeated my name and said it was nice to meet me ... In other news, winter has officially arrived here. The rain has started and all the sand and dust has turned to mud. My pants are perpetually dirty- splattered with mud- and my boots are looking very rough indeed! War is hell ... Hillary Clinton is coming here tomorrow. For her sake I hope I don’t see her. I might do something crazy like spit in her direction.

posted by meehawl at 5:51 PM on May 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

sorry to continue the derailing, but: BlueTrain, haven't you wondered why there was no press photographer or reporter along with him on this bike ride? There was for the segway spill, and every single other day in his administration. They like showing him cutting branches and riding around his ranch all the time,etc (doing butch, manly things)--why not this time? (They did do a good makeup job on him for his speech tonight tho) I'm not surprised he's drinking again, or still drinking--things are going very badly for him.

Simone sounds like she's in line to be the next Karl Rove.
posted by amberglow at 6:41 PM on May 24, 2004

Simone also led at least one campaign to stifle free speech

Surely THAT's what endeared her to the Heritage Foundation!

My pants are perpetually dirty- splattered with mud- and my boots are looking very rough indeed! War is hell

That one really needs no further comment.
posted by clevershark at 7:11 PM on May 24, 2004

I saw an advert on the WP site (via the link) which is really easy to misinterpret. It's for Lockheed Martin and shows a town, with an arrow pointing one place saying 'Market', another arrow nearby saying 'Apartment complex', and another arrow in the middle saying 'Missile Silo'. Then they have their tag line 'We know who we're working for'. Huh? You're putting missile silos in the middle of cities and know you're doing it for the government? WTF would you advertise that?

A little research indicated their technologies are used to identify missile silos in other places around the world ;-) Oops.
posted by wackybrit at 7:35 PM on May 24, 2004

" What is the conspiracy-du-jour about Bush's bike accident? It appears they blamed it on bad weather as not to make Bush seem like a klutz"

yes, "conspiracy".
let's see.
true stories, not "conspiracies".
once, Clinton had a few light scratches on his face.
then: his communications director tells the always-inquisitive press corps (hoping to crack that big, big story) that it is a razor cut. close shave. end of story. but it turns out that it was the cat. the cat scratched Clinton.
press reports: Clinton lies even when it isn't necessary

once, Clinton was playing golf with somebody. on Martha's Vineyard I seem to remember. the press corps ask for his score. the spokesman: it was "X". then the investigation (ah, Watergate is nothing) begins, and it turns out that on the first tee, first ball, his drive went out of bounds. he called a mulligan, started over.
press triumphant: the score is "X + 1". Clinton lied. lied. lied.

golf. bike. blowjobs. wmd's. impeachment. torture. lies.
"the grownups are back in charge".

this would be fun, if it wasn't the appetizer of WWIII

also, a much smaller issue: one does not cease to be amused by people like, say, Bluetrain's, logic:
Atrios is biased. hence, we must believe the (unbiased, one assumes) White House.

it's the weather. it's, like, a fact. like, you know, pictures of soldiers torturing bound and hooded people. facts.
no matter how much one hopes that that dry Texas soil turns to mud. or that Lynndie England turns into Jessica Lynch.
but yeah, miracles do happen. if one is faith-based, I guess.

posted by matteo at 7:39 PM on May 24, 2004

Unfortunately, the reality is that Kos, although more intelligent than the above mentioned conservative "pundits", must still be questioned out loud, because he's prone to errors in judgment, like any of us.

Of course everyone should be questioned. I never said anything to the contrary. In fact, I'm saying that not only should Kos be questioned, but that he can/should never be considered objective because he has personal/professional interests on the line beyond his mere political bias. But there is a difference between people who are openly (and proudly) political hacks and those who contribute to publications of record and are ostensibly part of the public debate. A more appropriate analogy than Coulter or Limbaugh would be someone like a much less important Karl Rove or Grover Nordquist. No one ever takes them at face value, but no one ever feigns that that is a problem.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:16 PM on May 24, 2004

I used to ride motorcycle. I've face-planted a few times. Loose topsoil, slick clay, damn stick, or just a brain fart: all wholly probable explanations. I can't for the life of me believe that Bush could not have wiped out.

Bit of an idjit for not wearing gloves. But I can understand that, too: sure as heck gloves wouldn't have been the norm when he was a kid, and old habits die hard. Hope he had a helmet at least.

Biking is very good for the knees, if you've adjusted your saddle correctly and make good use of gearing (spin fast, not hard). Bush's knees are borked, so I imagine he's taken up the sport in lieu of jogging.

All in all, it seems stupid to me to disbelieve this one. There are far bigger lies to deal with than whether or not he has 17 miles of trail on his small acreage.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 PM on May 24, 2004

Back in the early 1990s we had a lot of the young Republican types coming over to east Europe to "help out." There was a six million dollar development fund started by president Papa Bush for Hungary and not a cent went into Hungarian hands. I once was asked to translate for a delegation of these leeches - when the lead Republican representative reached to shake my hand I told him "Sorry. I use that hand to eat with."

Later, during the Clinton years, I worked as a columnist for an English language paper in Budapest, and I considered it a bad day if I didn't get at least one angry phone call or letter from someone outraged at my almost daily anti-Republican screeds advocating sending them all to do stoop labor on Guyanese rice paddies.
posted by zaelic at 12:49 AM on May 25, 2004

c/I used to ride motorcycle./I used to ride mountainbike./

posted by five fresh fish at 9:20 AM on May 25, 2004

Oh, geez.... .don't we have better things to worry about than 43's bicycling accidents?

Obsession with triviality like this is just the kind of crap that gets us GW Bushes in the oval office.

Please, think: People who ride bikes on dirt occasionally fall. And the results often look a lot like the injuries shown on Dub's face in the pictures.

Maybe all you folks either don't ride bikes, or are such perfect studs that you never fall, but here's the real news flash: People. Fall. Off. Bikes. That includes morons and liars like the POTUS.

And before you start wishing immediate ill to the POTUS, remember who steps in if he buys the farm....
posted by lodurr at 10:03 AM on May 25, 2004

Just remember folks, these are the people in Bagdhad who are supervising the 20,000 plus "private contractor" mercenary army over there.

So what's worse, Rummy or the Young Republicans?

Damn! Can we pick both?
posted by nofundy at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2004

from the Kos link (originally from L.A. Times article):

"You know this president. He likes to go all-out. Suffice it to say he wasn't whistling show tunes."

does anyone else read that as: "Our president is no faggot"? or am i just too sensitive about the administration's belief that homos should rot in hell?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2004

matteo: You remember all that shit? Jesus, and they say conservatives can't shut-up about Clinton. At the time, nobody cared, care even less now, and why should anyone care if Bush or anyone fell off a god-damned bike?

mrgrimm: I think it's a variation or permutation on the phrase, "He ain't just whistling Dixie."
posted by Snyder at 11:16 AM on May 25, 2004

My pants are perpetually dirty- splattered with mud- and my boots are looking very rough indeed! War is hell

I am calling my new novel The Administrator Wears Prada. Think spectacular Graham Greene/Anna Wintour/T.E. Lawrence three-way sex-up.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:45 AM on May 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

Back in the early 1990s we had a lot of the young Republican types coming over to east Europe to "help out." There was a six million dollar development fund started by president Papa Bush for Hungary and not a cent went into Hungarian hands.

I think the east Europeans knew then and know more even now where their bread and butter comes from. The development monies that the US provided for "economic restructuring" were paltry compared to the massive and continuing German, French, and Italian flood of capital. It comes then as little surprise that most of those countries have spent the last 10+ years ina desperate scramble to align their social and economic policies with the EU and plead for membership. They were and are always happy to pay take meetings with and pay lip service to US conseravtive ideologues and "free" marketeers, but then they run away to feverishly work on harmonizing with EU directives.

By raising the living standards and human/labour rights of hundreds of millions of people to nearer the EU consensus, I'd count that as one of the great successes of modern European diplomacy.

And that's one of the ways the EU works its mojo without troops or blockades. It's quiet, stealthy and, in the end, almost irresistable. Unless, of course, you're some place like Norway, with its own oil, or Switzerland, which is a law unto itself.
posted by meehawl at 11:46 AM on May 25, 2004

Snyder, agreed. i think i've heard the expression b4. maybe. my offensive-o-meter is always a little too sensitive on that issue.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:10 PM on May 25, 2004

mrgrimm - maybe, but if so you're in good company.
posted by soyjoy at 7:57 PM on May 25, 2004

That's an extremely sad FP article up there.
How absolutely terrifying it must be to sign up as a volunteer that collects statistics and to see so many senior officials defect, so many that suddenly you're put in the tight job, decades before your time.
posted by ruelle at 12:08 PM on May 28, 2004

it's like a season on the apprentice! they should make it a reality show :D

also, btw, there's how a 24-year-old got a job rebuilding iraq's stock market.
posted by kliuless at 2:16 PM on May 28, 2004

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