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Credibility struggles

[ 94 ] September 17, 2013 |

It turns out that Elizabeth O’Bagy was never even accepted into the Georgetown graduate program from which she claimed to have already acquired a Ph.D.:

O’Bagy, whose work on the Syrian opposition was hailed by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), was fired from her job as the lead Syria researcher at the Institute for the Study of War on Sept. 10 after it was revealed that she misled her bosses by telling them she had completed a dissertation defense for a Georgetown Ph.D. Subsequently, questions arose as to whether or not O’Bagy was ever enrolled in the joint MA/Ph.D. program that she claimed in her official biography.

O’Bagy confirmed to The Daily Beast that she was only enrolled in a master’s program at Georgetown and had applied to join the joint MA/Ph.D. program but was never accepted.

The psychology of this sort of thing is interesting. As several LGM commenters pointed out when this story first broke last week, it’s not like you have to have a Ph.D. to get on the wingnut warmonger conservative expert on foreign affairs talking head circuit in D.C.

Perhaps these people lie just to keep in practice.


Fan appreciation day

[ 48 ] September 16, 2013 |

bleacher bums

This Deadspin story provides as good of an excuse as any to once again enjoy the wit and wisdom of Lee Elia:

(Not suitable for younger or more sensitive listeners).

Expert knowledge

[ 82 ] September 11, 2013 |

A young researcher whose opinions on Syria were cited by both Senator McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry in congressional testimony last week has been fired from the Institute for the Study of War for allegedly faking her academic credentials.

The institute issued a statement on its website concerning the researcher, Elizabeth O’Bagy:

The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.

O’Bagy and her op-ed drew scrutiny last week when the Wall Street Journal failed to disclose O’Bagy’s ties to an advocacy group backing the Syrian opposition and lobbying the U.S. government to intervene in Syria. The Journal was forced to post a clarification that “in addition to her role at the Institute for the Study of War, Ms. O’Bagy is affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating as a 501(c)(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition.”

O’Bagy wrote in an email this Wednesday morning: “I was just fired from ISW and I’m no longer legally allowed to discuss my employment with them or affiliate it any way.”

In an interview conducted before O’Bagy was fired from ISW, she rejected claims that her research was compromised by her affiliation to the advocacy group, the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

“My research is completely separate,” she said. “Every journalist and every researcher goes into the conflict with their own background and their own ideas.”

“Elizabeth is one of the best experts on Syria and her field work inside Syria along with her extensive networks on the ground makes her one of few people that can help inform policy makers on the reality on the ground,” said Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

Kim Kagan, the founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, says she learned yesterday that O’Bagy had misrepresented her academic credentials and terminated her employment immediately.

O’Bagy has a masters from Georgetown University and was was enrolled in a Ph.D program, but had not yet defended her dissertation, a detail Kagan says she discovered while conducting “due diligence” and double checking O’Bagy’s work following a flurry of media attention on the young researcher.

Kagan stressed that the termination was not related to O’Bagy’s affiliation with SETF. “I had no problem with her affiliation, I approved it,” Kagan said.

Despite O’Bagy’s misrepresentation of her credentials, Kagan described her research as “rock solid” saying “the research stands, unfortunately, it stands alone.”

BTW if you thought Kim Kagan’ts name sounded familiar . . .

At Yale, Kagan met her husband Frederick Kagan, who is an American resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), son of Donald Kagan, a well-known historian and brother of Robert Kagan, another well-known writer and publicist. Robert Kagan’s wife is Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the United States Department of State.

Tragedy and farce

[ 51 ] September 11, 2013 |

Thoughts on a grim anniversary.

Diplomatic clown show or 11th-dimensional chess?

[ 192 ] September 10, 2013 |

You make the call.

It’s a stunning turn of events that could change everything on Syria — if it pans out.

Facing the threat of a U.S. military strike, the country’s leaders Tuesday reportedly accepted a Russian proposal to turn over its chemical weapons.

The development, reported by Syrian state television and Russia’s Interfax news agency, came a day after the idea bubbled up in the wake of what appeared to be an off-the-cuff comment by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry . . .

Details of such a transfer have yet to be worked out, such as where the arms would go, who would safeguard them and how the world could be sure Syria had handed over its entire stockpile of chemical weapons.

But President Barack Obama worked the idea in earnest on Tuesday, speaking with French and British leaders to explore the viability of the Russian proposal. . .

The idea surfaced Monday, when Kerry — responding to a reporter asking what Syria could do to stop a U.S. attack — suggested that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.”

“He isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously,” Kerry added.

His spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, sought to roll back the comments, saying the secretary was simply responding to a “hypothetical.”

But Lavrov quickly seized on the comment, suggesting publicly that it would be a way to avoid a U.S. strike on Syria.

Administration officials at first batted down the proposal.

A U.S. official who declined to be identified by name said Monday afternoon that no one in the administration was taking the proposal seriously.

But before long, deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was saying the United States would take a “hard look” at the idea. White House spokesman Jay Carney said administration officials were “highly skeptical” but had to take a look.

By Monday night, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Obama was calling the idea a “potentially positive development.”

“We’re going to run this to ground,” Obama said. He said the United States will work “to see if we can arrive at something that is enforceable and serious.”

. . . snarkiness aside, if Kerry’s bumbling over the past couple of days has forestalled more unnecessary carnage, that’s all to the good.

This is getting ridiculous

[ 74 ] September 9, 2013 |

And also familiar. From the Guardian’s live blog of Susan Rice’s comments this afternoon:

29m ago

Rice makes the credibility argument:

“Failing to respond could indicate that the United States is not prepared to use all the tools necessary to keep our nation secure… [it] would raise questions around the world as to whether the United States is truly prepared to use the full range of its power.”

“Other global hotspots might flare up,” she says.

“Most disturbingly, it would send a perverse message to those who seek to use the world’s worse weapons, that you can use these weapons blatantly and just get away with it,” Rice says.

Rice says that diplomatic efforts have been exhausted:

“We and others have already exhausted a host of other measures aimed at changing Assad’s calculus… these efforts have not succeeded.”

34m ago

Rice is starting to sound downright Cheney-esque. She says Assad gassing east Ghouta could “threaten our soldiers in the region and even potentially our citizens at home.” (emphasis added)

38m ago

New America Foundation president Anne-Marie Slaughter introduces Rice. She begins. Rice says it’s in the US interest to conduct “limited” strikes against the Assad regime.

She said the chemical attacks in Syria are a “serious threat to our national security.” (emphasis added)

She says she’ll explain why “it is in our national interest to take limited military action to [deter] future use” of chemical weapons.

Here’s a Rumsfeld-esque phrase: “Opening a door to their use anywhere threatens the United States and our personnel everywhere.”

There are (arguably) defensible arguments for bombing Syria, but since they’re not playing in Peoria, the administration has decided to switch to the indefensible ones.

Perhaps the new Russian initiative will allow for face-saving all around.

Bad guys “make up only 15% to 25%” of Syrian opposition

[ 41 ] September 6, 2013 |

Good to know.

Also, Munich.

To be fair to Kerry, the policy he is peddling is so exquisitely poised as to be untenable: a military strike that’s effective enough to deter Assad from using chemical weapons again, but not enough to tip the balance of power to the rebels. It’s the military equivalent of a unicorn, and nobody seems to believe in it.

On the legality of attacking Syria

[ 126 ] September 5, 2013 |

The arguments, they are not too good.

A question

[ 339 ] September 4, 2013 |

This is not a rhetorical question, nor is it intended to be snarky or otherwise disingenuous.

Why is killing a lot of people with chemical weapons considered so much worse, in terms of international law and geopolitical rhetoric (if not action, c.f. Kevin Drum’s excellent points here), than blowing the same number of people up with high explosive munitions, or machine-gunning them, or hacking them to death with machetes?

Deja vu all over again

[ 50 ] September 3, 2013 |

Perhaps the Jew Kaufman will provide LGM readers with a semiotics of the visual rhetoric of this ongoing series:




Young Republicans Salute Labor

[ 75 ] September 3, 2013 |

I haven’t been able to confirm whether or not this is authentic, but I suppose the fact that it very well could be is in some ways more significant.

Update: A commenter provides a link to a copy in a Cornell University library collection of political Americana.

ERIK–In my view, what is significant about this image is that labor was strong enough in 1956 that Republicans had to lie and say they respected it. They didn’t believe any of this in 1956 and they don’t now. But that they had to say to compete nationally, that is amazing from today’s perspective.

David Frost RIP

[ 19 ] September 1, 2013 |


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