Foreign Policy helpfully compiles a top five list of the world’s worst policy advisors. Making the cut is the former vice premier of Taiwan, Chiou I-Jen, who “in an effort get Papua New Guinea to recognize Taiwan…recommended the allocation of $30 million to two men whom he believed had influence over officials in Papua New Guinea.” Cash in hand, the men and the money promptly disappeared; Chiou promptly resigned in disgrace. Also singled out is South Africa’s health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who in 2006 told an international AIDS conference that the disease could be treated using lemon, beet root, and garlic.
Last but not least on the list is a former US official, Douglas Feith, the Pentagon’s onetime undersecretary of defense policy, whose foreign policy intellect General Tommy Franks once had some choice words for. (His opinion was apparently seconded by Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson.)
When the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, the hapless postwar-planning group that Feith led, suggested outlining a comprehensive political-military plan for postwar Iraq, Feith told them this would not be necessary. After all, the Pentagon was planning to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 30,000 by the fall of 2003. Asked in July of that year why the United States had failed to deploy more forces, Feith explained that to do so would have given Saddam Hussein “more chances to send a Scud missile into Kuwait or Israel, rig bridges to explode, or prepare to hide and use chemical weapons,” adding, “It’s an old way of thinking to say that the United States should not do anything without hundreds of thousands of troops.” Feith also confessed surprise that the insurgency was “more sustained and more intense than anticipated,” despite two intelligence estimates from January 2003 predicting that the overthrow of Saddam could lead to internal violence and boost Islamist extremists. And how does Feith defend himself? By blaming everyone else: There was indeed a solid “plan for political transition in post-Saddam Iraq,” Feith said at a book-launch event in April. “It was a plan that my office drafted, Powell and Armitage tried to delay, President Bush approved, Jay Garner began to implement, and L. Paul Bremer buried.”
Recently, Feith was hauled up to the Hill to explain the Pentagon’s efforts to subvert the protections of the Geneva Conventions when it came to Gitmo detainees, a move he was allegedly a key advocate of. One of the hearings most memorable exchanges came when Feith and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) debated what “removal of clothing”—an approved interrogation technique—really meant. “Removal of clothing is different from naked,” Feith told Nadler, arguing that “it could be done in a humane way.”