The triumph of politics over policy

Great article in this Sunday's Washington Post describing how the emphasis on loyalty to Bush over actual knowledge/experience in Middle East affairs was the basis for appointing staff to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.  Why did things get screwed up so badly in Iraq?  It surely did not help that those chosen for important positions in the interim government were selected based on their views of Roe v. Wade.  If this wasn't so catastrophically bad for Iraq, the Middle East, and America, you'd want to laugh out loud at how absurd this all is.  The damning opening paragraphs of the story:

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the
opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq
attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals,
Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone
adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past
Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with 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.

The
decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the
brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year
effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush
administration's gravest errors.

The sad truth, unfortunately, is that to those of us in “the reality-based” community who have been watching this administration's misdeeds for years, this is not in the least bit surprising.  This commentator at Talking Points Memo sums it up perfectly:

The President's modus operandi is so
well established, but the cloak of secrecy so tightly closed, that the
broad outlines of a story may be known months or years before the
particular facts are uncovered to flesh out the details. The closest
thing I can compare it to is reading the next day's sports story after
watching the game. You read not to learn who won, but for colorful
anecdotes, and at some level to confirm what you have already seen and
know to be true.

So, yes, sadly, all we can expect is continued accounts of how the Bush administration has let politics triumph over good sense and good public policy time and time again.  We know the results, it is just the latest specific details we continue to learn. 

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