The Decline and Fall of Brookings « The Washington Independent
To track [Iraqi political] progress, we have established “Brookings benchmarks” — a set of goals on the political front similar to the broader benchmarks set for Baghdad by Congress last year. Our 11 benchmarks include establishing provincial election laws, reaching an oil-revenue sharing accord, enacting pension and amnesty laws, passing annual federal budgets, hiring Sunni volunteers into the security forces, holding a fair referendum on the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk, and purging extremists from government ministries and security forces.
At the moment, we give the Iraqis a score of 5 out of 11 (our system allows a score of 0, 0.5, or 1 for each category, and is dynamic, meaning we can subtract points for backsliding). It is far too soon to predict that Iraq is headed for stability or sectarian reconciliation. But it is also clear that those who assert that its politics are totally broken have not kept up with the news.
Nowhere in the piece does he define what a Brookings Benchmark is. Often his Times op-eds are distillations of his Brookings Iraq Index work, where he has more space to explicate what he means, but — nope, not this time, as Democracy Arsenal’s Ilan Goldenberg points out. O’Hanlon isn’t just moving the goal posts, he’s building a whole new playing field. Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein also take the guy to task.
But notice something else. O’Hanlon isn’t calling his new measurements O’Hanlon Benchmarks. He’s calling them Brookings Benchmarks. The whole institution, which contains real scholars, has been sucked into this morass. What does Strobe Talbott, Brookings’ president and Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, think about this? Do the undefined Brookings Benchmarks represent responsible scholarship? I have a call out to Talbott and will report back.