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Ledeen's Theories

I've got a post on one aspect of this Michael Ledeen piece going up on Tapped, but the whole thing is a rather intriguing look into the fever swamp that is his view of national security policy. The blame for the whole thing turns out to lie on the head of . . . Robert Toricelli, without whose meddling we would have had the whole thing cleared up. But the intelligence was right! It's just that the weapons were smuggled to Syria and Iran. This last bit is consistent with his seeming claim that the forged Niger documents (which "prove" as you'll recall, that Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Niger are all planning joint operations against the major power) were not, in fact, forged. He even seems to think that the SSIC Report backs him up on this last claim when, in fact, it plainly does the reverse. But somehow the Torch, evidently in league with Josh Marshall is to blame.

I do agree, though, that many liberals have been a bit too harsh with regard to his daughter, who is distinguished among unqualified CPA staff only by having a father who's a well-known crank. It's hardly her fault.

July 12, 2004 | Permalink


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Shorter Ledeen: I am skeeered of what Josh Marshall is about to reveal.

Simone Ledeen: out of her depth.

Her dad: a complete fucking crook. And if Ledeen père is looking round these parts instead of on safe territory chez Drezner, you heard it. Total fucking crook.

Posted by: nick | Jul 12, 2004 12:19:25 PM

Simone Ledeen is no doubt indeed being treated unfairly. But once in a while, you have to shove one of these third-rate apparatchiks up against the wall, just to show them you mean business.*

*parody of actual Michael Ledeen quote, no real harm to his kid intended

Posted by: son volt | Jul 12, 2004 12:32:18 PM

I feel bad about Simone Ledeen. She tried hard, put into an impossible situation with thin credentials.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 12, 2004 12:43:03 PM

Michael Ledeen lost me when he wrote an article in National Review about how that hot bed of left-wing ideologues the CIA deliberately suppressed the evidence of Iraqi WMD's. That's the same sort of epistemic approach as that of creationists who are totally sure that scientists are merely peddling evolution to discredit Christianity. It's maddening, but past a certain point, you can't really talk to them.

Posted by: Andrew Reeves | Jul 12, 2004 12:46:09 PM

The sad thing about this is that Ledeen's defence of his daughter against the supposed 'slime' of Josh Marshall makes you question whether Simone was just an underqualified MBA thrust into a complete clusterfuck of a situation. Because pretty much every word and every association Ledeen makes is as crooked as a dog's hind leg, as corrupt as a corpse left out in the summer heat. Which is quite a reflection on Ledeen himself.

Posted by: nick | Jul 12, 2004 12:52:02 PM

Ledeen is too funny it's sad. That piece writes as complete parody. It's a though this guy truly has no idea what's going on. I love this douchebag.

Posted by: Carleton | Jul 12, 2004 1:45:50 PM

My understanding (from recollection of past articles)is that Simone Ledeen has an MBA and was asked to run/reform Iraqi accounting.

I have an MBA.

What the CPA needed was an experienced CPA or comptroller.

MBAs have just enough knowledge of accounting to be able to converse intelligently with a CPA. MBAs excel in Finance, which is very much different than Accounting.

Simone's own slam against Krugman suggests she was very underqualified for the job.

That said, mega-kudos to Simone Ledeen for volunteering to serve in Iraq, and with an MBA I am sure that she served well and it should be seen as a credit to her.

But Krugman didn't slam Simone as being anything but underqualified. What Krugman slammed was the process by which she was chosen as being partisan, and I have yet to see anyone else defend that process.

Posted by: jerry | Jul 12, 2004 2:14:45 PM

"I feel bad about Simone Ledeen. She tried hard, put into an impossible situation with thin credentials."

Is there not a point in which it is your moral responsibility to say, 'I am in way over my head. The honorable thing is to let my superior know, and see if there are other duties that might be more suitable."

Yeah, it sounds naive, but we're not talking about making making widgets here. We're talking about accepting tax payer money. We're talking about having responsibilities that affect the lives of 25 million Iraqis, the American budget deficit, the lives of US soldiers, the prestige of the US abroad. Is there not a chance that had the CPA been staffed with professionals with specific expertise, that the reconstruction might have had a much smaller learning curve period and therefore, might have made more of an impact in the beginning of the occupation? When some/most Iraqis still had high hopes?

Posted by: Abigail | Jul 12, 2004 2:30:42 PM

Jerry - I agree that an MBA degree is not necessarily equivalent in skills to a specific accounting degree. Furthermore, I have an MPA (master's public admin) and this degree requires many of the same econ, accounting, finance type classes but they have a different emphasis. The bottom line is not profit, but is measured by aspects such as quality of life, and meeting policy goals. In addition, public sector accounting is not the same as private sector accounting. For example, the financial statements are different, and the balance sheet does not work the same way.

Posted by: Abigail | Jul 12, 2004 2:46:35 PM

One of you "brilliant" TAPPED guys really needs to do the counter-post to what the windsofchange people are doing. I'm assuming you would start with "redacted", and also point out the "won't talk about the OSP influence" - but bolster and back that up with glaring omissions IN the text, and reference quotes back to 2001-2002.

Posted by: JC | Jul 12, 2004 2:47:12 PM

I read the story from one of the MBAs in the CPA, but I've lost the link. She gave the strong impression that the superiors were vastly underqualified too. They didn't have much organization and underlings who saw what needed to be done were likely to get permission to do it. Not much in the way of job descriptions. Apparently way understaffed, and very hard to get new people in, people felt an obligation to stay on because if they left it made that much more work for everybody else.

So if you're in over your head and your boos *can* get somebody more qualified, it makes sense to ask him to. But if there isn't anybody else, isn't it best to get charged up and do the absolute best you can?

She had a story about a translator she worked with who got killed. She went outside the Green Zone to attend the funeral, and someone there (another translator? I don't remember) told her she shouldn't be there, it was too dangerous. She said she wasn't afraid and the other woman scorned her, and then she realised that by being there she was endangering them....

Posted by: J Thomas | Jul 12, 2004 2:52:46 PM

"She said she wasn't afraid and the other woman scorned her, and then she realised that by being there she was endangering them...."

That is a good story, and if she told it in the way I took it, she just went up in my estimation.

But I still think the CPA was staffed with young Republicans in order to implicate an entire generation of the GOP best & brightest in arguable Hague violations.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 12, 2004 4:12:14 PM

It's a conspiracy, man! Really, Ledeen exceeds Laurie Mylroie. The whole Arab world is secretly united against us and only he knows it, Doug Feith was right, ugh.

"Joshua Marshall's narcissistic echo chamber"... I believe the word is 'blog'.

Posted by: EH | Jul 12, 2004 4:23:14 PM

Simone got her job because of her father's influence and the friendly fact that she'd posted her name on the Heritage Foundation website. She also wasn't bashful about posting a few reminiscences of her time there, particularly Turkey Day at BIAP, when she scored a randomly-assigned(!) ticket to the festive appearance of Bush. No doubt the people at Washington Monthly hit her name a few times in the roster and said, "Ledeen? Where did I read that name before?" Accept the good things about your family's influence, accept the bad, too.

But she wasn't alone, and if the offense is that she's implied to be, the defense is for Michael to speak up and list all the other young, earnest, horribly-qualified men and women who worked at the CPA by dint of ideology and influence. That should help shift the focus from his daughter.

A Yalie published a bit in the Yale alumni magazine and was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. He graduated in 2002, interviewed for a White House Job, didn't get it, but made enough of an impression to get a cold call in May 2003 asking if he wanted to work for the CPA. Sure! Doing what as one's first real job after graduating with a basic degree in political science?

Rebuilding the Iraqi stock exchange.

You think that maybe we have people in the United States, say, who work for the Securities and Exchange Commission or the New York Stock Exchange who might, just might, be better qualified and willing to serve? How about academics who specialize in modern markets, standard and electronic? You think they might make better use of American resources? Get things done faster, therefore reassure the Iraqis that our intentions were good?

It's this kind of thing that I think of every time I hear Bush described as a "war president" because it most clearly indicates that he's not serious about that very charge.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Jul 12, 2004 4:36:20 PM

Please reread Ledeen. He did NOT say that the Niger document was NOT forged. He said it was irrelevant. And of course that is correct, given all the new information from the UK, etc. If you want to attack him, do so on the basis of good reading comprehension.

Posted by: Independent | Jul 12, 2004 5:48:44 PM

J-Thomas asks, "But if there isn't anybody else, isn't it best to get charged up and do the absolute best you can?"

Sell out Sell out. This is the United States we're talking about. The biggest economic and military powerhouse the world has ever seen. The best and brightest in the world are available to us. Instead, these people allowed the situation in Iraq to simply implode. It seems treasonous to me to not speak out more strongly to Washington, to the press, to Bremer. Speaking of the press, looks like we should have had embeds in the CPA. I think our (mis)management of the occupation will be a real puzzle to historians 50 years from now. They will wonder how we possibly could have refrained from giving it our best when so much was riding on it.

Posted by: r.t. | Jul 12, 2004 5:59:40 PM

Okay, I read the piece. I particularly enjoyed the parts in which the former Nigerien prime minister's INFERENCE becomes an IRAQI DISCUSSION about purchasing uranium and lastly, CONFIRMATION OF THE TRUTH that the Iraqis had, we assume, paraphrasing Mr. Bush in his SOTU, attempted to purchase "significant quantities of uranium." (Gonna pass on the difference between yellowcake and fissile uranium.) Mr. Ledeen glosses over the 6 October qualms the CIA had about the possibility that Iraq might be trying to purchase yellowcake, which the Wilson confirmed: that it would be extremely difficult for Iraq to do so without discovery. Further, in October the CIA was quick to point out that Iraq had its own yellowcake. Why bother?

And, Independent, that Financial Times stuff that Ledeen quotes isn't so very persuasive. It's a report of an attempt to smuggle ore from unviable mines--the CIA mentioned a mine that was flooded--and sell it to at least five other nations, only one of which was Iraq. The others included Iran, Libya, and China. China has its own plentiful sources of uranium ore, and suggests that there could be far less than meets the eye to the two FT stories on this subject, which is to say that, if there's anything at all to it, some Nigeriens were trying to sell the material a lot harder than anyone was trying to buy it.

If this is typical Ledeen writing, the guy is the male Ann Coulter. If she's not the male Ann Coulter.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Jul 12, 2004 6:27:37 PM

r.t., you have a good point.

Yes, what these inexperienced young republicans should have done was to look up from their overworked individual responsibilities, see that it wasn't just them getting overwhelmed but everybody else too, and blow the whistle. Don't just go to your boss and ask for something less demanding because you aren't confident you can do it. Don't just go to his boss and point out that he's as incompetent as you are. Don't just go to Bremer and suggest that he fire everybody and bring in good people. Go higher than that.

If even twenty of them had done that, they would have had an effect.

Oh well. The report I read turns out was mostly about Ledeen although it quotes a lot of others too.


If people go after Simone Ledeen it may be partly that she said a lot to the press. From memory I got the story wrong about the funeral.

The next day, wearing flak jackets and helmets, Ledeen and Greco went to visit Raghad in the hospital. As they moved to embrace Raghad -- who was covered with cuts and bruises and had lost hearing in one ear -- 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 the mother wasn't worried about her safety. She was concerned about the Iraqi women who, as workers for the CPA, were seen by insurgents as collaborators.

The story about the memorial service for the other woman was right after that. They had it in a room far too big for the number of people in the Green Zone who showed up.

"I was ashamed for all of us that there were so few people there," Ledeen remembered. "We should have filled those seats with CPA people to thank them for their sacrifice for us. We should have filled those seats."

It's worth reading. Lots of hints about how it happened.

They had been hired to perform a low-level task: collecting and organizing statistics, surveys and wish lists from the Iraqi ministries for a report that would be presented to potential donors at the end of the month. But as suicide bombs and rocket attacks became almost daily occurrences, more and more senior staffers defected. In short order, six of the new young hires found themselves managing the country's $13 billion budget, making decisions affecting millions of Iraqis.

By the fall, when Ledeen and peers arrived, the CPA had a serious staffing problem. Initial plans called for 3,700 people, but for most of the year it had been operating with 1,300. Moreover, many of those who did come stayed the minimum 90 days. Mark St. Laurent, 36, a D.C. paramedic who was assigned to the economics team, said the short commitments made getting work done difficult: "One month learning the ropes. One month doing actual work. One month lame duck -- you don't want to do anything because you don't want to piss off the guy coming next."

It looks like the real experts that were hoped to stay long-term tended to quit the first time they got shot at or a mortar shell landed too close. One of the problems with hiring people of mature judgement...

Posted by: J Thomas | Jul 12, 2004 7:02:29 PM

Please reread Ledeen. He did NOT say that the Niger document was NOT forged. He said it was irrelevant.

Quite. And just why might he be so eager to discount it as irrelevant? Or haven't you thought that far ahead?

Posted by: nick | Jul 12, 2004 7:03:15 PM

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