You Read it Here First

If this was part of the print media, the editors would proudly flap their wings when an idea their editorials helped advance ended up becoming public policy. The editorials would be flagged as "scoops"--news they broke first or best predicted. Well, you read it here first that Obama ought to offer Hillary the Sectary of State position (here); that the stimulus package will and ought to grow to a trillion dollars or higher (here - we are almost there); and that public buildings should be greened in short order (here and here-- the House stimulus package includes $6 billion for the greening of federal buildings).

Above all, you read here the wisdom of changing U.S. foreign policy to focus first on security (ours, theirs, and of the globe), and of not starting with the lofty but highly elusive goal of democracy building, especially by the use of force (here, among others). This is clearly where the Obama Administration is heading. It is all folded into the President's masterful statement -speaking to the Muslims world--"we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

Frankly, I am reluctant to post these lines because I am painfully aware that most people frown upon those who run around saying "I told you so." However, much more is at issue here than pride of authorship. For a society to function well, those who regularly send us in the wrong direction ought to be retired, and those who get it right should be given more of a hearing in the future. Public leaders can be sent packing during elections. The same should hold for public intellectuals and policy advocates. Indeed, it would be very helpful if every time one made a prediction, one's previous predictions would pop up. Thus, for instance, I found it very useful to read in the Wall Street Journal on December 27th that Goldman Sachs predicts oil at $35 dollars a barrel for the fist half of 2009. The Journal also noted that the same firm predicted that a barrel of oil would cost $200 in 2008. While the Journal did not mean it this way, for me it was a fair warning: why should I pay mind to the predictions of someone who was dead wrong last time?

In other areas, we compile performance records. We can, with a click of the mouse, find out the stats for a quarterback, a basketball star, or a Fortune 500 company, or how often an official running for office has won -or lost. Publications, and those of us who use their spaces to prognosticate, should be subject to the same discipline .

Amitai Etzioni is Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University and author of Security First (Yale, 2007). email: