down the drain

Snake close-upHalf dozen of the other. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Creatures of habit have an advantage. When they repeat what’s failed in the past, it comes as a surprise. Add to that the cliché and the euphemism as instruments of deception and you’ve got the essential ingredients of clandestine enterprise.

John McCain has been running his own foreign policy shop at the International Republican Institute (set up by Congress in 1983) for so long that it has probably become a cliché. The first time I ran across this enterprise, part of what Joseph Holliday (more about him later) would call the “think tanks industry,” McCain was visiting the Balkans and talking up strategic defense. This time around, the IRI, having spawned a number of ancillary outfits is pushing for solutions in Syria, employing some of the same people who made Iraq such a success.

Who are these people? Well, the Board of Directors of the International Republican Institute, a non-partisan outfit, are as follows:

  • U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman
  • Richard S. Williamson, Vice Chairman
  • J. William Middendorf, II, Secretary – Treasurer
  • Gahl Hodges Burt
  • Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.
  • Alison B. Fortier
  • U.S. Representative Kay Granger
  • Janet Mullins Grissom
  • Cheryl F. Halpern
  • Al Hoffman
  • William J. Hybl
  • U.S. Senator Mark Kirk
  • Jim Kolbe
  • Tami Longaberger
  • Peter T. Madigan
  • Constance Berry Newman
  • Alec L. Poitevint, II
  • John F.W. Rogers
  • Randy Scheunemann
  • Joseph R. Schmuckler
  • Brent Scowcroft
  • Margaret Tutwiler
  • Olin L. Wethington

Lorne W. Craner, their President, has recently been appointed by President Obama to head up the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Like all governmental agencies, the IRI hosts interns and these interns then circulate, like so many busy bees pollinating and collecting on behalf of the queen, or king wanna be. For example, there’s Jenna Consigli, whose Linkedin profile reveals the normal routine:

Jenna Consigli’s experience.

Middle East and North Africa Program Assistant
International Republican Institute
Nonprofit; 201-500 employees; International Affairs industry
July 2013 – Present (3 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area

Research Intern for the Middle East Security Project- Iraq
Institute for the Study of War
Nonprofit; 11-50 employees; Think Tanks industry
January 2013 – May 2013 (5 months)

Intern for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Government Agency; 10,001+ employees; International Affairs industry
September 2012 – December 2012 (4 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area
Gathered, summarized, and published weekly updates from the embassies in the Middle East and North Africa, translated documents from Arabic to English, monitored Arabic posts on U.S. embassy facebook pages, worked with grant proposals, assisted in planning youth conferences, and helped to host international delegations from the Middle East and North Africa.

Arabic Translator
Language International
Privately Held; 11-50 employees; Leisure, Travel & Tourism industry
June 2012 – September 2012 (4 months) Greater Boston Area

Translated staff biographies, country descriptions and company policies from English to Arabic. Edited previous translations and wrote emails and auto responses.

If this looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s not very different from the trajectory followed by the recently unemployed Elizabeth O’Bagy or, for that matter, Kim Dudine, who has currently rotated into the private sector:

Kim Dudine’s experience.

Quantum Communications, LLC
Privately Held; 11-50 employees; Marketing and Advertising industry
March 2013 – Present (7 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area
Business Development Associate from March 2013 – June 2013

Founded and headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2000 Quantum Communications is a full spectrum strategic communications agency. As a part of the Quantum Group, with offices in Beirut and Washington D.C, we manage all spectrums of communications around the world. We are best known for our influential thoughts on policy-related issues, culturally-sensitive creativity, information analytics, opinion galvanizing communication and content, and strategic networking and media relations. Quantum has devised and managed some of the most challenging engagement and influence programs in the Middle East, with the aim of promoting progressive policy agendas.

Iraq Researcher
Institute for the Study of War
Nonprofit; 11-50 employees; Think Tanks industry
September 2012 – December 2012 (4 months) Washington D.C. Metro Area
Middle East Security Project
Iraq Team

Tracked, analyzed and computed daily significant activity in Iraq into Palantir analytical software.
Utilized open-source research and information to create a brief on the Free Iraqi Army militia, and used Palantir to structure the formation, leadership, funding, and regional affiliations of the FIA.
Aggregated and contributed to a published time-line of Ali Mussa Daqduq’s involvement in Lebanese Hezbollah, tracked his recent activity involving his trial in Iraq, and analyzed his potential whereabouts following his release.

International Center for the Study of Terrorism
January 2012 – May 2012 (5 months) State College, Pennsylvania Area
The mission of ICST is to engage in and promote the scientific study of terrorism and political violence. In doing so, ICST creates multidisciplinary, cross-national research teams, drawing strongly but not exclusively from the social and behavioral sciences to respond to needs and opportunities in the areas of terrorism and counterterrorism. The overarching goal of ICST is to help integrate theory with practice by providing actionable knowledge and a conceptual basis to policy-relevant and operational counterterrorism activity.

The Strategic and Global Security Program
September 2011 – May 2012 (9 months) State College, Pennsylvania Area
Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence, sponsored by the Office of Director of National Intelligence
I did not know that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence sponsors a Center for Academic Excellence at Penn State.

Apparently, Ms. Dudine did not measure up in some manner. She only has one publication to her name from when she was at the Institute for the Study of War, a collaborative effort with, wait for it……

Kim Dudine’s publications.

Timeline: Ali Mussa Daqduq
Institute for the Study of WarNovember 2012
Authors: Kim Dudine, Elizabeth O’Bagy, Stephen Wicken

Perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the Institute for the Study of War–a part of the “think tanks industry” that locates itself:

We are on the front lines of military thinking.

Dr. Kimberly Kagan founded ISW in May 2007, as U.S. forces undertook a daring new counterinsurgency strategy to reverse the grim security situation on the ground in Iraq . Frustrated with the prevailing lack of accurate information documenting developments on the ground in Iraq and the detrimental effect of biased reporting on policymakers, Dr. Kagan established ISW to provide real-time, independent, and open-source analysis of ongoing military operations and insurgent attacks in Iraq.

Shall we call them Iraq war retreads or die-hards? For an outfit that admits to ten leaders and half a dozen analysts, they take themselves very seriously. So, who are they?


  • Dr. Kimberly Kagan
  • Jessica D. Lewis
  • Aaron Reese
  • Jim Adams
  • Katie Santoro
  • LTG James M. Dubik
  • Marisa Sullivan
  • Joseph Holliday
  • Aaron Menenberg
  • Valerie Szybala
  • Christopher Harmer
  • Elizabeth O’Bagy
  • Mara Tchalakov
  • Stephen Wicken
  • Ahmed Ali
  • Isabel Nassief

Dubik and Holliday are both Iraq war veterans, but it is Kim Kagan’s history that seems particularly interesting:

Dr. Kagan served in Kabul for seventeen months from 2010 to 2012 working for commanders of the International Security Assistance Force, General David H. Petraeus and subsequently General John Allen. Admiral Mike Mullen, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognized Dr. Kagan for this deployment as a volunteer with the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the Chairman can present to civilians who do not work for the Department of Defense.

Dr. Kagan previously served as a member of General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team, comprised of civilian experts, during his campaign review in June and July 2009. Dr. Kagan also serves on the Academic Advisory Board at the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence at CENTCOM. She conducted many regular battlefield circulations of Iraq between May 2007 and April 2010 while General Petraeus and General Raymond T. Odierno served as the MNF-I Commanding General. She participated formally on the Joint Campaign Plan Assessment Team for Multi-National Force-Iraq – U.S. Mission- Iraq in October 2008 and October 2009, and as part of the Civilian Advisory Team for the CENTCOM strategic review in January 2009.

In less sophisticated times, Kagan might have been referred to as a “camp follower.” But, perhaps that is unfair. It’s a public/private partnership.

Ms. O’Bagy’s visage has been removed from the IWS web site. Perhaps she always meant to be sort of underground. Unlike the aforementioned interns, Ms. O’Bagy was at IWS for a longer period of time. Indeed, in 2012 she produced a study, “Jihad in Syria” in which she credits IWS Fellow, Joseph Holliday, for his help. For some reason, despite his impressive list of publications, Mr. Holliday seems to have moved on,

Joseph Holliday’s publications.
The Struggle for Syria in 2011
Institute for the Study of WarDecember 2011
Authors: Joseph Holliday

Syria’s Armed Opposition
Institute for the Study of WarMarch 2012
Authors: Joseph Holliday

Syria’s Maturing Insurgency
Institute for the Study of WarJune 2012
Authors: Joseph Holliday

The Assad Regime
Institute for the Study of WarMarch 2013
Authors: Joseph Holliday

Assad’s Chemical Romance
Foreign PolicyApril 2013
Authors: Joseph Holliday

Iranian Strategy in Syria
Institute for the Study of WarMay 2013
Authors: Joseph Holliday

Telecommuting to War
Foreign PolicyJune 2013
Authors: Joseph Holliday

leaving Ms. O’Bagy to carry on. At least that’s what his Linkedin posting suggests. He’s moved on to Harvard, presumably carrying his Princeton and Yale credentials with him, but first he took a summer job.

Summer Analyst
Pathfinder Capital Ltd
Privately Held; 1-10 employees; Investment Management industry
April 2013 – August 2013 (5 months)
Conducted research and analysis in support of equity, commodity and foreign currency investments at a fund focused on Frontier Markets.

Senior Research Analyst
The Institute for the Study of War
Nonprofit; 11-50 employees; Think Tanks industry
October 2011 – August 2013 (1 year 11 months) Washington, DC
Conducted original research and wrote reports on the Syrian conflict, providing insight on conflict dynamics for defense, intelligence and foreign policy practitioners and policymakers. See Publications below.

Led a team of five analysts and linguists to structure conflict data using Palantir software; developed and implemented the Institute’s database management architecture in Palantir.

Provided analysis for print, radio and TV news outlets, spoke at policy forums in Washington, and briefed leaders in diplomacy defense and intelligence.

Battalion Intelligence Officer
101st Airborne Division
October 2009 – September 2011 (2 years) Kunar, Afghanistan & Fort Campbell, KY
Defined and prioritized operational and strategic obstacles. Advised commanders on the disposition and intent of enemy forces, contributing to the success of over 50 battalion & company operations. Identified underlying social, economic and political forces.

Managed a 10 person intelligence analysis section, integrating multiple sources of intelligence to develop accurate predictions of enemy activity. Directed the intelligence collection efforts of over 25 soldiers and a broad spectrum of aerial assets.
Executive Officer & Platoon Leader
10th Mountain Division
June 2007 – April 2010 (2 years 11 months) Baghdad, Iraq & Fort Polk, LA
Headquarters Company Executive Officer: Second-in-Command of a 210-man headquarters team, responsible for the administrative and logistical support. Responsible for the maintenance and accountability of equipment valued in excess of $30MM. Directed the loading and shipping of containers for redeployment.

Rifle Company Executive Officer: Second-in-Command of a 130-man infantry company. Assisted the Commander in planning, execution and tactical control of all missions. Planned and executed logistical support, increasing the maintenance capacity of the company outpost.

Rifle Platoon Leader: Led 30 soldiers through pre-deployment training and combat patrols in East Baghdad, Iraq.
Paralegal Intern Summer
Davis, Polk & Wardwell
Partnership; 1001-5000 employees; Law Practice industry
June 2005 – August 2005 (3 months)
Compiled, proofread & edited financial, legal & SEC documents, including the initial public offering of Chinese internet giant Baidu; acted as the representative of the firm during Baidu’s price setting and offering.

Holliday stopping off briefly at Pathfinder Capital as a summer intern before taking up his studies for an MBA at Harvard is interesting, if only for the company’s “business strategy.”

Our core business strategy reflects five dominant themes:

  • Opportunities for exceptional returns are available in post-conflict economies or within countries emerging from long-term isolation
  • Economic growth rates in frontier markets will continue to outperform those in developed countries for the foreseeable future
  • Information flow in frontier markets is less efficient than in developed markets, thereby making it possible for informed participants to outperform over time
  • Massive fiscal deficits in the developed world will leave central banks with no choice but to depreciate and devalue their currencies over the next decade
  • Food and energy prices, on a global basis, will continue to appreciate rapidly and will be the primary drivers of inflation and fiscal deficits

That’s the credo of the opportunistic predator.

Anyway, Joseph Holliday didn’t leave poor Elizabeth O’Bagy entirely on her own. If her co-authorship of an article for Foreign Policy with Edward P. Joseph is genuine, then Holliday left O’Bagy in the care of an old hand. Or, perhaps she was just being used as a front or a tool (cat’s paw, perhaps) by someone who says of himself:

I am a sought-after, compelling speaker and television commentator who can captivate listeners and explain complex international developments.

And who’s last gig was in Kosovo. Before that, he was with Benazir Bhutto the day before she was assassinated. Imagine that!

A Last Conversation With Benazir Bhutto


“Little did we imagine this would be her last encounter with international officials.” Edward P. Joseph, a 1981 SAIS graduate, Foreign Policy Institute visiting scholar, SAIS professorial lecturer and prominent foreign policy expert, interviewed Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto less than 24 hours before she was assassinated on December 27. Joseph was in Pakistan serving as an election observer with the International Republican Institute.

On a clear and unseasonably warm day in Peshawar, in the Taliban-infested North-West Frontier Province, the dusty streets were bustling with activity.

My International Republican Institute (IRI) colleague Samir Sarteep, a Kurd from Iraqi Kurdistan, and I were clad in the cape-like chador and round hat, chitrali topi, favored by the Pashtun, including the Taliban. Knowledgeable local figures had urged us to wear this traditional clothing instead of our conspicuous Western garb.

Who would have expected? Perhaps Ms. O’Bagy should consider herself lucky. She only got unemployed.

It’s all been very clever, you know. News stories all report that Kerry and McCain cited O’Bagy’s article in the Wall Street Journal, when it was McCain who brought it up, giving Liz the credit and getting Kerry to agree and, apparently, forgetting all about her mentor, Edward P. Joseph, with whom she’d “authored” an essay for Foreign Policy, which was published on August 29, 2013, just one day before the WSJ piece. What a chivalrous fellow!

Did Kerry get suckered? One hopes the N.S.A. has the numbers of O’Bagy and Holliday and Kagan and Stephen Wicken, who’s apparently not even a citizen but presuming to make policy for the U.S.of A.

Prior to joining ISW, Wicken served as a Teaching Fellow in Comparative Foreign Policy at Yale University, where he also worked with the Genocide Studies Program. He subsequently taught modern history at Brown University before working on disaster relief and development in Haiti. Among other honors, Wicken has been awarded a Mellon Fellowship from the University of Cambridge, a Fox International Fellowship to Sciences Po in Paris, a Bourse Chateaubriand Fellowship from the French Foreign Ministry, and a Harry Frank Guggenheim Fellowship.

Wicken has been quoted in the New York Times, TIME, and the Washington Post, as well as by the Associated Press, Reuters, and regional media sources such as Al-Ahram and The Daily Star (Lebanon). He has appeared on al-Hurra television.

Finally, I’d just note that the web address for the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is “” What’s to understand? War is killing our own kind made legal. When we do it on the home front it’s presumed to be punishment or unavoidable in the interest of law enforcement. When we do it internationally, it’s (recently) in the interest of the rule of law, an amorphous opportunistic regimen that has nothing to do with justice.

A nest of vipers is more ethical. They associate just to keep warm or reproduce.

Editor's Note: this story also appears at Hannah's Blog and Daily Kos. Image: Licensed by - © chere -

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."