When the below item first came across my inbox, I thought it was a pretty clever bit of satire. After a couple of inquiries, however, it turns out that you really can’t make this stuff up:

Sent: Friday, July 25, 2014
To: Sais Alumni

Subject: Call for Applications — Advanced Institutes in National Security

I work for the Hertog Foundation, an educational philanthropy in New York City. We are offering two seminars this fall in New York City and Jerusalem that I believe might be of interest to SAIS alumni.

  • The first program, a weeklong study of the Iraq War, will be led by Paul Wolfowitz (AEI) and Lewis Libby (Hudson Institute), and will take place from October 27-31, 2014 in NYC.
  • The second will be led by William Kristol (Weekly Standard) in Jerusalem, and will examine the idea of nationalism and its future.

The Advanced Institutes offer promising individuals, from a broad range of academic and professional backgrounds, an opportunity to engage with leading thinkers and practitioners. They are an important part of the Hertog Foundation’s mission to advance serious discussion of issues of public policy and political theory.

Details for the institute and how to apply can be found at hertogfoundation.org. All come with a stipend to cover travel, lodging, and time. The application deadline is August 1, 2014.

I hope you will share this email with outstanding candidates who might be interested. I would be glad to answer any questions you might have.

Hertog Foundation | Tikvah Fund

One has to wonder what lessons will be gleaned from rubbing shoulders with such luminaries as the convicted felon Libby (5 counts) and the brilliant architect of the second Iraq war cum ousted World Bank president Wolfowitz. The promotional material for their weeklong (weeklong!) program tells us:

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 quickly removed the regime that had repeatedly defied America and gave Iraqis a chance to devise their own future. However, the war soon devolved into a messy combination of insurgency and sectarian fighting that brought thousands of U.S. casualties, sapped American will and credibility, and worked to the benefit of America’s other regional nemesis, Iran.

Well, that’s actually a surprisingly forthright assessment considering the source—though it leaves out a few things that came about because of the war, such as the 300,000 or more American veterans who now suffer from brain injuries; the roughly 600,000 dead Iraqis (mainly non-combatants); the estimated 3,500,000 to 5,000,000 Iraqis who became displaced persons; the 4,500,000 children who are now orphans in Iraq; and the $3,000,000,000,000 it cost U.S. taxpayers to accomplish all this.

Prospective participants are then told:

These events occurred not in isolation, but against the backdrop of broader international developments, particularly the ending of the Cold War, the attacks of 9/11/2001, and the on-going U.S. confrontation with radical Islam.

So I guess Libby and Wolfowitz are planning to put the decade-long (and counting!) disaster into to its proper global “context”; they’ll dust off some of the classic IR texts and tell the assembled that, yeah, maybe it didn’t work out the way we told everyone, and true, perhaps we were a little less-than-forthright about the reasons we decided to roll the dice and risk the lives and limbs of hundreds of thousands of our young servicemen and women, but hey, part of the reason we failed was “structural,” the end of the Cold War, and all that.

It should make for a fascinating week in New York.

James Carden is a TAC contributing editor, and served as an advisor to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department from 2011-2012.