#305: Well-intentioned people gave it their best shot.
To pass muster with [Jim O’Beirne, husband of fair-and-balanced insane person Kate O’Beirne], a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.
O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .
Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.
A bit late to the party, WaPo? From Knight-Ridder, 6/30/05 (link dead):
The coalition government relied heavily on a revolving door of diplomats and other personnel who would leave just as they had begun to develop local knowledge and ties, and on a large cadre of eager young neophytes whose brashness often gave offense in a very age- and status-conscious society. One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion. A much more senior Iraqi interlocutor (a widely experienced Iraqi-American lawyer) became so exasperated with the young man’s audacity that he finally challenged him:
“You must have thoroughly studied the history of the British occupation of Iraq.”
“Yes, I did,” the young American replied proudly. “I thought so,” said the Iraqi, “because you seem determined to repeat every one of their mistakes.”
It seems awfully hard to question the decision to keep reasonable policy hands with relevant experience in reserve in case, say, mideast terrorists attack the unemployment office. Better to send in the College Republicans. After all, nobody could have anticipated that parachuting inexperienced partisan hacks into an unfamiliar country might not work. Well, maybe the Future of Iraq Working Group did. But listening to State is a perfect example of pre-9/11 thinking.[/snark]