The Collective
Sunday, December 10, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Jeff Stein writing at notes the woeful knowledge of high-level decision-makers in the US government, including the incoming Chair of the House Intelligence Committee:

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

And Reyes was considered more knowledge than some of his colleagues:

. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.

The piece is replete with depressing tidbits of that nature.

One of the things we should have done after 9/11 was push for greater knowledge about the region, including a major effort to obtain language experts. For some reason many in our government seem to think that major policy can be implemented with only tidbits of knowledge. No wonder the policy in Iraq has gone so awry.

Would it kill these members of Congress (and the administration) to read some books on the region?

h/t: OTB.

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  1. [...] In the previously cited piece by Jeff Stein there is a small correction to make in regards to the following bit of dialog: He laughed again, shifting in his seat. [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Speaking of Language… — Sunday, December 10, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

  2. Though we’re quick to heap condemnation on such officials, let me ask this question — does the electorate reward knowledge and seriousness at the ballot box?

    There’s enough blame to go around, and we (meaning all Americans) should share in it. I don’t see anything either in the out-going Republican Congress or the in-coming Democratic Congress to suggest that knowledge and seriousness have much reward at all in Washington politics … and as Stein’s piece implies, there is obviously much reward in pay grade for NOT letting knowledge get in the way of electorally-rewarding rhetoric.

    Comment by Richard Scott Nokes — Sunday, December 10, 2006 @ 6:28 pm

  3. You raise a legitimate point–the people in a democracy are ultimately responsible for the government that they get.

    However, there is also the assumption that elected officials to acquire the knowledge that they need to effectively govern. The general populace knows little about the agricultural subsidies, the tax code, the budget process or any number of other things, yet members of Congress need to acquire that knowledge they need to legislate in those areas.

    It is hardly unreasonable to assume that members of the Intelligence Committee would know the basic politico-religious alignments of the major actors in the Middle East.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, December 10, 2006 @ 7:11 pm

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