Natsios Speaks Out
Mar-27-06 02:00 pm

Former USAID administrator and current Georgetown professor Andrew Natsios recently spoke about the Bush administration's failures in Iraq in an interview with Newsweek.  In the article, Natsios criticizes the CPA's handling of reconstruction contracts, and the lack of accountability in the contracting process. 

'Andrew Natsios has taken a lot of flak over his role in Iraq. The longtime director of America's foreign-aid program has been pilloried for his April 2003 remark, in an ABC News interview, that the U.S. government would spend no more than $1.7 billion to rebuild Iraq. In the ensuing three years, Natsios, a lifelong Republican, has played the loyal soldier for the administration. He regularly defended the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq even as he was lumped with other errant prognosticators like Paul Wolfowitz (That's 'wildly off the mark') and Dick Cheney ('We will be greeted as liberators'). After Natsios resigned in January to take a teaching post at Georgetown University, he maintained his silence about Iraq.

But this week, for the first time, Natsios publicly gave vent to his long-suppressed frustrations over the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq occupation. In an interview with NEWSWEEK on Tuesday, he harshly criticized the Coalition Provisional Authority led by L. Paul Bremer III for botching the reconstruction effort and allowing ill-qualified or corrupt contractors to dominate it. 'They didn't have [monitoring] systems set up. They were very dismissive of these processes,' he said. His U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was marginalized despite its expertise, and the CPA "didn't hire the best people,' he said. 'We were just watching it unfold. They [the CPA] were constantly hitting at our people, screaming at them. They were abusive.''

The article offers a disturbing picture of corruption and fraud in the reconstruction process, and begs the question of whey the experts at USAID were intentionally dismissed and marginalized.  Please send comments to


Last week at the Center for Global Development, two Georgetown development experts, Carol Lancaster and Andrew Natsios, squared off in a debate on the organization of US foreign assistance.  The debate centered on the wisdom of the Bush Administration's recent reorganization of US foreign assistance in which the head of USAID was given the title of  "Director of Foreign Assistance" in the State Department , a position equivalent to a Deputy Secretary.  Lancaster, Director of the Mortara Center for International Studies and former Deputy Administrator at USAID argued that this move will do more harm than good.  Natsios, who recently stepped down from the administrator position at USAID, argued that the current system is broken, and that this change will give the head of USAID the necessary clout to set priorities and get the job done.

Lancaster based her argument on the fact that when smaller agencies are embedded in larger ones, the mission of the smaller agency tends to get lost, citing FEMA's inclusion in the Department of Homeland Security as an example.  She expressed her fear that the development mission of USAID will be overrun by the political imperatives of the State Department, and that State will have a greater ability to use the foreign aid budget for short term goals rather than a long term development agenda. 

Natsios argued that the system was fatally flawed, and prior to the organization, the administrator had almost no leverage in determining development priorities as a result of congressional earmarks.  Therefore, he concluded that USAID and its development agenda would benefit from the higher rank of the "Director of Foreign Assistance", which would give USAID a seat at the table through which it could protect its priorities.   Natsios defended this move as non -partisan, asserting that the idea for the reorganization originally came from Brian Atwood, administrator during the Clinton Administration. 

There were several points of agreement.  Both Lancaster and Natsios identified the problem of decentralization in US foreign assistance with numerous executive branch agencies running development programs with little expertise and coordination.  They were also critical of the decision to establish the Millenium Challenge Account outside of USAID.  However, their interpretation of the impact of congressional earmarks differed considerably.  Lancaster expressed her view that NGOs lobbying for earmarks play an important role in maintaining a vocal constituency for development, while Natsios lamented USAID's inability to set its budget priorities as a result of earmarks.   Perhaps the most important point of agreement was that the system is flawed and that a reorganization in some form is necessary.  Lancaster expressed her hope that congress and the president would have the vision and political will to elevate the head of USAID to a cabinet level position, while Natsios argued that this wasn't realistic and the recent reorganization was the best that could be hoped for in the short term.  Lancaster responded that this was a step in the wrong direction.  Fortunately, the debate remained civil, since both Lancaster and Natsios work in the Mortara Building.  For the time being, they will have to agree to disagree. 

 Isaac Halpern is the Program Coordinator of the Mortara Center for International Studies and holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.


What impact does culture have on development? This politically incorrect question has been long debated by development practitioners, academics, and citizens of developing countries. Father Eugene Goussikindey, an African Jesuit from Nairobi and a Visiting Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center tackled this controversial topic in a recent seminar at the Mortara Center. Goussikindey, who studies how theology relates to conflict and politics, expressed his belief that culture does in fact contribute to the many challenges faced by development practitioners in Africa. 

      While there are many other factors impacting African development such as corruption, conflict, and debt relief, Goussikindey argued that more attention should be focused on cultural issues. He suggested that the importance of tradition in African institutions leads to inertia that inhibits development. While recognizing the contribution of individual business and social entrepreneurs, he cited an overall failure of African countries and governments to take the initiative to make economic progress. 

      He also noted the failure of Western governments and development organizations to take African traditions and culture into account when designing programs. According to Goussikindey, many internationally funded programs in Africa lack adequate feedback and influence from the local population, and are therefore unsustainable in the long run. However, incorporating culture into development strategies alone will be insufficient. According to Goussikindey, the culture itself also needs to adapt in order for development to be successful in Africa. He emphasized the fact that there is no quick fix, and that the changes must take place internally, and cannot be imposed by the West.

     Several times throughout the talk, Goussikindey emphasized that his view was based mostly on personal experience rather than empirical evidence. Nevertheless, it is a provocative and controversial opinion, especially coming from an African scholar. Goussikindey's argument leaves open the question of how African culture can change to meet the challenges of development, and what social forces can cause that change. Goussikindey left these looming questions unanswered in his talk. Please e-mail your views on the topic to The Mortara Center would be especially interested in hearing from Georgetown Faculty and Students working on development issues.

Isaac Halpern is the Program Coordinator of the Mortara Center for International Studies and holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Father Eugene Goussikindey's lecture was sponsored by the Mortara Center for International Studies, The Georgetown University Jesuit Community, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, The Woodstock Theological Center, and the African Studies Program.

Georgetown University Security Studies Professor, Paul Pillar, wants to know why the U.S. government is spending$40 billion on intelligence analysts if policymakers don’t want to listen to their analysis. As the CIA's leading National Intelligence Officer on Iraq from 2000 to 2005, Pillar has been outspoken in recent weeks on what he sees as a 'broken intelligence-policy relationship'. On March 1st, Pillar described this relationship for a standing-room only crowd in Copley Hall.

According to Pillar, the first major problem was policymakers’ failure to seek and take advantage of existing intelligence:

'You had an absence of requests to the intelligence community from our policymakers on just about anything related to Iraq… at the strategic level. I was the National Intelligence Officer that covered the region; anything in the way of community assessments or National Intelligence Estimates on anything in the Middle East from 2000 on to 2005 would have come through me… No such requests on Iraq were made by the administration before making this momentous decision to go to war.'

Even when information was directly available to policymakers, they failed to use it:

'There are also indications that of the analysis and insights that were available, little if any use was made, even on the WMD question, the most important question.'

Pillar also outlined the administration's failure to seek the CIA’s analysis on what a post-war Iraq might look like. According to Pillar, in its own analyses, the CIA was largely correct in predicting the challenges that the U.S. would face in the post-conflict occupation and reconstruction.

The second aspect of the broken policy-intelligence relationship was the administration’s public use of intelligence to support the war effort. Pillar described this situation as follows:

'Basically, what was happening here was the proper relationship between intelligence and policy was stood on its head. The proper relationship is… intelligence does its best through collection and analysis, and tapping the expertise of outsiders to try to make sense of and interpret threatening and difficult situations overseas…If the policymaker says, ‘We’re really concerned about Iraq’, that’s a legitimate request. That’s different from... ‘We’ve decided to go to war against Iraq. One of our main arguments is going to be in support of that war effort, that there is a relationship between the Sadaam Regime and Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Do everything you can to find evidence of that relationship… Part of the problem is the effect on the understanding of the American people.'

Pillar went on to describe a process in which, the Bush administration took bits and pieces of intelligence from many sources, and only disclosed the information that supported its arguments in favor of going to war, while dismissing contrary evidence. In doing so, policymakers missed out on the benefit of intelligence analysis, which according to pillar is, 'why we pay all those intelligence analysts out at Langley.'

In order to demonstrate the way in which the administration publicly disclosed favorable intelligence, Pillar discussed the now infamous 'yellowcake uranium':

'Warnings were provided to the White House against using it publicly. George Tenet provided one such warning… but this one little snippet had such rhetorical appeal… buying uranium, that has a simplicity, we can understand that, and so there was a push to put it in the speech. In short, it wasn’t enough for the intelligence community to get something right, and in this case they got it right… We are demanding of it, that it kick hard enough and scream loudly enough when the policymaker insists on getting it wrong…'

While Pillar conceded that there was a virtual consensus on the issue of WMD, the public misuse of intelligence by the administration was much more blatant in making the argument for a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda:

'(The connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda) to be quite blunt, was a manufactured issue. There was nothing that the intelligence analysts who cover these topics which… led them to conclude that there was an alliance with this particular regime. Nonetheless, in the murky world of international terrorism, if you work hard enough, and indeed there was a whole unit set up in the pentagon, dedicated to working hard on this particular issue… if you work hard enough to find circumstantial evidence… you will be able to link just about anyone to just about anything else. So much time and attention was spent on this and so much public attention was given to it, while losing sight of what was really the important issue here: was this particular regime assisting or sponsoring this particular group?'

The third aspect of 'brokenness' in the relationship was the 'politicization of the intelligence community’s own work'. Pillar dismissed the idea that policymakers directly told intelligence analysts what conclusions they needed to make, insisting that politicization has many subtle and more effective forms:

'You had an environment… in which there was intense policymaker interest, and I would add to that… it wasn’t just intense interest… it was interest always in one direction. There’s a huge difference for any intelligence analyst between an environment in which he or she knows that the policymaker wants the most unvarnished, unbiased judgment… and on the other hand, the awareness that the policymaker really has decided already and the intelligence is being used not to inform future decisions, but to sell decisions already made… and that has a number of more subtle effects that no one is going to pick up by asking an analyst, ‘was your arm twisted?''

He went on to describe an environment within the intelligence community which allowed multiple opportunities for politicization:

'In the case of the WMD… there was this consensus that needed to be challenged… What kind of incentives were there to challenge it? What kind of environment were people working in? Many of the differences… between the flawed intelligence analysis that was produced and what would have been perfect analysis were matters of nuance and caveat and qualification, and matters of emphasis… they had dozens of analysts throughout the community, working on all kinds of things, aluminum tubes and UAVs and what not… so you had many different people writing many sentences, coming down to little bits of wording. The opportunities for bias were numerous and finespun.'

The fourth and final aspect of the broken intelligence-policy relationship described by Pillar was the administration and the pentagon’s “outright hostility” towards the CIA and its analysts:

'No matter what the situation is, and no matter who the administration is, that can’t be good for the republic… when you have a relationship like that, a relationship of distrust, then we’re certainly not getting our $40 billion worth.'

In concluding his talk, Pillar addressed several possible solutions to this poisoned relationship, while admitting that there was no silver bullet. He asserted that there needs to be more distance between politicians and intelligence officials, decreased hostility between the CIA and the Pentagon, and a genuine non-partisan effort on the part of Congress to investigate what went wrong in the run up to the war in Iraq. and to institute better oversight to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.

From this commentary, it appears that there are a lot of problems with the intelligence-policy relationship, but few easy solutions.  How can the government begin to work towards fixing these serious issues, especially with such a poisonous partisan environment on capital hill? 

Please send your comments to

Isaac Halpern is the Program Coordinator of the Mortara Center for International Studies and holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Paul Pillar's lecture was sponsored by the Center for Peace and Security Studies.




Out of the Game
Feb-28-06 01:27 pm

By refusing to speak to a Hamas led Palestinian Authority, is the U.S. taking itself out of the game in the Israeli-Palestinian saga? This was the critical question posed by Casimir Yost, Director of Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, in a talk on February 27th called, 'Observing the Palestinian Elections: Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy.'

Yost, who recently traveled to the West Bank as a member of a team of international election monitors, shared his observations on the election and its implications for U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian policy. He explained Hamas’ victory as a result of their superior political organization and Palestinian frustration with the corruption and ineptitude of Fatah:

 'What is fair is that Hamas outorganized Fatah in the election. Fatah’s vote was spread across multiple candidates. One Palestinian polster noted, Hamas won 44% of the popular vote, but got 56% of the seats. Fatah… won 56% of the popular vote, but got 43% of the seats.'

In allusion to the 2000 election, Yost noted that:

'Americans, of course, have a good appreciation that the party that gets more votes, does not necessarily win the election.'

The Hamas victory puts the U.S. and Israel in a difficult bind, since it appears that in the near--term Hamas is unwilling to renounce violence and recognize Israel.  In the run-up to their own election, Irsraelis are also ready to take a tough line. 

According to Yost, the U.S. appears incapable or unwilling to adjust to emerging realities in the region, and continues to offer the same old rhetoric about the 'Road Map to Peace', which is no longer a viable option:

'American foreign policy has been rhetorically forward looking, but practically disconnected from emerging realities in the Middle East… We’re now confronted with two major inconsistencies in the U.S. approach to the Palestinian-Israeli Dilemma. First, the U.S. pressed for elections in Palestine, and we have now embarked on a policy seeking to undo the results of those elections. The second inconsistency in U.S. policy is our rhetorical commitment to the road map leading to a two-state solution. The reality on the ground today is that neither of the dominant parties in Israel, nor the newly dominant party in Palestine shares this commitment.'

Yost went on to describe a worst-case scenario in which the Palestinian Authority collapses, resulting in chaos in the territories:

'Israel may have no choice but to reimpose a full-scale military authority in the West Bank. The plan for disengaging will have to be put on hold. There will be no security barrier to retreat behind.'

Furthermore, he argued that this situation emerged in part due to U.S. complacency:

'American policymakers somehow believed over the last five years that they had the luxury of time… they believed that America’s Middle East policies could remain consumed by Iraq, at no cost to other pressing issues.'

As for America's current options, he put forth three possibilities: 'breakthrough, breakdown, and muddle through,' with 'muddle through' as the best to be hoped for under the current circumstances. This scenario would be one in which:

'Hamas, operating in conjunction with Fatah would have to address Israel’s security concerns. Israel in turn would have to ensure that resources were permitted to flow to the Palestinian people so that the humanitarian crisis could be averted. America’s role in this scenario would be relatively limited, since we refuse to speak to one of the parties involved in the conflict. So much for the transformational role of American Power. On a central issue of American foreign policy, we’ve largely taken ourselves out of the game…'

This commentary leads to several important questions. First, what type of dialogue or relationship could the U.S. have with a Palestinian authority led by Hamas, which refuses to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel? Would any American administration, Republican or Democrat, be willing to take the political risk of talking with Hamas? How and when might the administration adjust its rhetoric and policies to meet the new realities in Israel and the Palestinian territories? Finally, how can the U.S. defend its interests in the Middle East, and prevent a total breakdown in the peace process and a resumption of large scale violence? 

Please share your thoughts by e-mailing

Isaac Halpern is the Program Coordinator of the Mortara Center for International Studies and holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.  Casimir Yost's lecture was sponsored by the Center for Peace and Security Studies

About the editor:

Carol Lancaster
Associate Professor; Director, Mortara Center for International Studies