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.

A really bad idea

The Bush administration has just announced that the US no longer wants an inspection requirement to be part of a new treaty banning the production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. Is it just me, or is this a really bad idea? In 18 months, we've gone from citing non-cooperation with inspectors as a justification for war to abandoning inspections completely.

In the eighties, the Reagan administration fought for the principle of "Trust but verify," against people on the left who believed we could trust the Soviets without verification, and against people on the right who thought arms control was a waste of time and impossible to enforce. It disturbs me greatly to think that the people who opposed Reagan's foreign policy from the right are now winning policy battles in the Bush administration.

OTH, it is also possible that some other major countries told the US they would never sign the treaty if it included inspections, and the US has wisely decided to compromise as a sign of our multilateralism and humility. Which of these explanations do you think is more likely?