Saturday, July 31, 2004

Why does anyone still support the Czar system?

I'm really glad that some congresspeople are criticizing the 9-11 commission's recommendation for a single national intelligence 'czar.' Did the drug czar win the drug war for us? The terrorism czar prevent 9-11? Or the cybersecurity czar wipe out computer hacking? For that matter, are the original Czars remembered as wise, noble, and successful rulers of Russia, or did they lose a series of brutal wars, fail in every attempt at reform, and meet their end in front of a firing squad?

I just don't buy the argument that a new, centralized authority figure is the solution to any significantly complex problem. I would much rather see the CIA split into two competing agencies, with bonuses awarded to the analyst team with the best track record for predicting future events. We need more competing ideas, more disagreement, and more creativity, not more central control.

Richard Clarke, ex-counterterrorism czar and ex-cybersecurity czar, has proved that the only thing czars are good for is for publishing tell-all books about what went wrong. Even when he was right, he had almost no ability to get cabinet secretaries or other holders or real power to take his ideas seriously.