Saying all the right things

It’s going to be another day with me mostly away from the blog, sorry, but in the interim you should enjoy my friend Brendan James’s profile of natsec “expert” Robert Caruso. Caruso is, apparently, a Navy veteran with impressive credentials:

Which brings us to the strange case of Robert Caruso, a young, intense, and charismatic wannabe warmaker. He touts an impressive résumé for a 31-year-old: Per his bio at the Guardian and elsewhere, Caruso shops himself as a Navy veteran who “served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense” and “in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the Department of State and as a contractor for the Department of the Army.”

who has shot to the top of the national security pundit world by highlighting his expertise:

People who know Caruso describe him as a smooth talker, a quote-machine eager to brag about his security clearance and access to the political and military elite. Multiple editors recall him aggressively pitching himself as an expert in intelligence, ordnance, and cyberwar, and generally as a top-brass military consigliere. From early on, that attitude got Caruso into the right parties, packed full of young journalists to whom he’d pitch and plant stories.

The only problem is that the supposed expertise he keeps throwing around is, to a large extent, apparently bullshit:

Let’s begin with his résumé. Several sources close to Caruso say they never heard of him holding a job that went beyond an administrative assistant. “His opinions should not be taken seriously,” said a onetime military colleague, who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation from Caruso. (As you’ll see, this is not an unreasonable fear). “His opinion on Kit Kat bars should not be taken seriously.”

As Brendan writes, there have been multiple high-profile cases of this same resume puffing in the natsec community over the past few years, enough to make you wonder how it keeps happening. It’s no great mystery; the bottom line is that if you say the things the establishment wants to hear, and say them authoritatively, people don’t spend so much time looking into your background. And Caruso says the right things: anti-Iran, pro-war, pro-intervention, the whole package.

Caruso himself seems to be a particularly, uh, interesting guy (go read Brendan’s story), with a penchant for tough talk, bad breakups, and wild conspiracies about Russian operatives out to discredit him, but at its core his story is no different from Elizabeth O’Bagy. If you confirm the biases of Important People, then you get to be an Important Person yourself, even if you lie about your credentials in the process. If you get caught fibbing, then either nothing happens (a strong possibility in Caruso’s case) or, at worst, you drop into the War Party’s Safety Net–for example, after O’Bagy got fired for lying about her resume, she wound up getting a gig in John McCain’s office. The club takes care of its own.


One thought on “Saying all the right things

  1. You make it sound like National Security is exactly like Science: the life of a practicing Scientist is hard. It requires decades of education, discipline, sound moral character, persistence in the face of adversity, with the occaisional flash of rewarding insight.

    Then we have the celebrities, the Golden Kids, young and flashy and totally unscrupulous. I have seen these people commit the most egregious intellectual errors, but they fail upwards as Science chugs right along by virtue of its sound underpinnings.

    I believe the Sumerians complained of this kind of thing as well, so I don’t expect it to change anytime soon. Shame about the bodies, I just hope there aren’t too many.

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