The List: The World’s Worst Advisors
Some say a leader is only as good as his advisors. Here’s a look at a few would-be sages who should have never been listened to, much less given a job.
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images
Former minister of agriculture, Zimbabwe
Worst advice: When Zimbabwe was offered international food aid in 2004, Made told Mugabe that the country actually had a surplus of maize and had collected 2.4 million tons during the previous harvest. Mugabe, acting in part on Mades advice, told donors, Why foist this food upon us? We dont want to be choked. We have enough.
The effect: In fact, experts say the number was closer to 700,000 tons. The next winter, Zimbabwe announced that 1.5 million people, some 12 percent of the population, urgently needed food aid. Made, appointed minister of agriculture in 2000, has played a key role in destroying the countrys once bountiful agricultural sector. He supervised Mugabes controversial land redistribution program, in which 5,000 of the countrys 8,000 white-owned farms were seized and redistributed to black farmers. In June 2006, as many of those farmers struggled to access working equipment, Made was busy stashing a fleet of state-of-the-art tractors at his farm. Made is also good at passing the buck: He once told Parliament that a monkey sabotaged government preparations for the planting season when it electrocuted itself at a fertilizer plant.
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images
Former vice premier of Taiwan
Worst advice: In an effort get Papua New Guinea to recognize Taiwan, Chiou recommended the allocation of $30 million to two men whom he believed had influence over officials in Papua New Guinea. The money was paid, but Chiou was conned. The menone a U.S. passport holder and the other a Singaporeandisappeared with the cash.
The effect: Chiou, who has since resigned and now faces possible corruption charges, met the two men several years ago and recommended them to the Taiwanese foreign ministry. Checkbook diplomacy is nothing new for Taiwan, which handed out $3.5 million to Gambia in 2006 and $305 million to Honduras in 2007 all to maintain diplomatic relations. (Taiwan is only recognized by 23 countries; 171 countries recognize China.) But when dispensing such large sums, its probably wiser to do so directlyas Chiou found out.
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Health minister, South Africa
Worst advice: While speaking at an international AIDS conference in Toronto in August 2006, she recommended that HIV/AIDS be treated with lemon, beet root, and garlic.
The effect: Tshabalala-Msimangs comments provoked condemnation abroad and embarrassment at home. Local newspapers said that she had reduced South Africa to an international joke. Her response? South Africa is doing pretty well with AIDS. It wasnt. Tshabalala-Msimangwho assumed her post in 1999effectively stalled South Africas response to AIDS while in office. In 2001, according to one study, 24 percent of pregnant women in South Africa were infected with HIV. By 2006, that number had risen to 29 percent. Shortly after the beet root incident, the South African government pushed Tshabalala-Msimang aside, and the countrys AIDS policy has improved. Still, nearly 1,000 South Africans die each day from the deadly virus.
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Former minister of labor, France
Worst advice: Aubry was the chief architect of the 35-hour workweek in France, a law imposed on large firms in 2000 that decreased the number of hours that an employee could be obligated to work from 39 to 35.
The effect: The law was intended to stem high unemployment in France. Eight years later, the countrys unemployment numbers have barely moved, and what progress has been made isnt credited to fewer working hours. A 2006 working paper published by the International Monetary Fund found that the policy hurt large-firm employees by forcing some workers to take a second job or move to small firms where the 35-hour limit did not apply. The law also failed in its key mandate to increase aggregate employment, and, perhaps worst of all, did not make the French any less misrables in their jobs. President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to abolish it.
Douglas J. Feith
Former under secretary of defense for policy, United States
Worst advice: Feith is widely considered to be one of the chief authors and planners of the Iraq war. The Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, which he oversaw, took charge of postwar planning and was instrumental in projecting troop levels for the occupation.
The effect: When the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, the hapless postwar-planning group that Feith led, suggested outlining a comprehensive political-military plan for postwar Iraq, Feith told them this would not be necessary. After all, the Pentagon was planning to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 30,000 by the fall of 2003. Asked in July of that year why the United States had failed to deploy more forces, Feith explained that to do so would have given Saddam Hussein more chances to send a Scud missile into Kuwait or Israel, rig bridges to explode, or prepare to hide and use chemical weapons, adding, Its an old way of thinking to say that the United States should not do anything without hundreds of thousands of troops. Feith also confessed surprise that the insurgency was more sustained and more intense than anticipated, despite two intelligence estimates from January 2003 predicting that the overthrow of Saddam could lead to internal violence and boost Islamist extremists. And how does Feith defend himself? By blaming everyone else: There was indeed a solid plan for political transition in post-Saddam Iraq, Feith said at a book-launch event in April. It was a plan that my office drafted, Powell and Armitage tried to delay, President Bush approved, Jay Garner began to implement, and L. Paul Bremer buried.
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