AEI Takes Care of Its Own …At Least at RFE/RL

Diane Zeleny is not exactly a household name, but she was last in the news in December 2006 when the Washington Post’s Al Kamen reported that her appointment to a top job under then-Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes as the head of the “Public Diplomacy Rapid Response” office in Brussels had been overturned by the State Department’s director general, George Staples, who found that normal personnel processes had been manipulated to ensure that she got the job. Staples made that determination after the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) formally protested her selection, calling it a “pre-cooked deal” that had violated personnel rules, in part by making it impossible for foreign service officers to apply for the post. Zeleny was described as a “talented …mid-level civil servant” by Kamen who noted that the appointment was particularly sensitive at a time when “career diplomats were seething over jumps by several other lower-level officers with political connections into top jobs that the career folks thought should have gone to senior officers.”

In Zeleny’s case, the political connection was through her husband, AEI senior fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht, although, in an earlier article, Kamen had noted that Zeleny worked in Brussels with Victoria Nuland, wife of Robert Kagan, a Gerecht “pal.” In any event, Zeleny landed softly, and not too far from Brussels which she finally left last summer. Indeed, she was hired last September by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president and AEI alumnus Jeffrey Gedmin to work as his director of Communications in Prague (which has really become the neo-con capital of Europe, particularly since last June’s Conference on Democracy and Security (about which I have written here, here, and here, among other places.),

Since taking over RFE/RL, I hear from correspondents with the agency that a number of AEI fellows and associates have been showing up there to help the staff do a more effective job against favorite enemies, including, of course, Iran, Russia, Syria, etc., including Joshua Muravchik, Vance Serchuk (who also works with Sen. Lieberman, I understand), Michael Rubin, Michael Ledeen, and Gerecht himself. (RFE/RL’s announcement in March that it will launch an Azeri-language broadcast into Iran later this year, bears all the hallmarks of Ledeen, who has long argued that Iran’s minority populations are the key to regime change or at least national fragmentation.) Meanwhile, of course, the nominee for Hughes’ old job is AEI senior fellow James Glassman, who also serves as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the Voice of America and RFE/RL and chose Gedmin to head the latter.

Coincidentally, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum appealed in an April 22 op-ed for Congress to provide a lot more money for RFE/RL, whose budget, despite the addition of Radio Farda in the last couple of years, has dropped steadily since the end of the Cold War to some $75 million. Applebaum, herself an adjunct fellow at AEI, is married to Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski, who, in the run-up to the Iraq war, was the director of AEI’s “New Atlantic Initiative,” the very same program that was headed by Gedmin until he left immediately after 9/11 to head the Aspen Institute in Berlin, a think tank which, under his leadership, became a virtual AEI bridgehead in the heart of Germany. John O’Sullivan, the former National Review editor and columnist, was the founder and co-chair of the New Atlantic Initiative and now works as an editor with Gedmin at RFE/RL. Call it the network at work.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.