Objective metrics Dep’t

What if Gen. Petraeus were Britney’s PR guy?

Joel Stein imagines how the Petraeus report would have sounded if Gen. Petraeus were running a psy-ops campaign on behalf of a catastrophically failing pop-music career rather than a catastrophically failing occupation policy:

September 14, 2007

Thank you Jive Records, MTV, Clear Channel and members of Congress for the opportunity to present my assessment of Britney Spears’ career. Which, according to nearly every objective metric, is going completely, totally awesome.

Sure, progress made over the last few months has been uneven &#8212 the number of Star magazine “not normal” incidents is still disturbingly high &#8212 but we are hitting most of our major benchmarks. To wit, not only has there not been one single divorce this year, there also haven’t been any marriages, significantly curtailing the assessed threat of divorce.

In recent months, despite brutal summer heat, we have achieved progress in the underwear-wearing arena. Shoe wearing in public bathrooms is up 38%, while T-shirt messages with the phrase “baby daddy” are down 46%.


We have gained the initiative on Ms. Spears’ McDonald’s consumption by wresting fast-food eating sanctuaries &#8212 most notably the automatic windows lock on her SUV &#8212 from her control. I’d also like to direct you to this chart, showing the 99 billion served meals not consumed by Ms. Spears.

As shown by this other chart, public approval of Ms. Spears is up roughly 1 trillion percent over this time last year, though to properly explain the methodology would require one of those nerdy laser-pointer thingies Al Gore uses, so you’ll just have to trust me.


Tabloid magazine covers are down 22% in six of the last eight weeks, the lowest level since the New Year’s Eve party collapse, thanks largely to our Brangelina rumors propaganda. Other successes include disruption of sex-tape distribution, containment of make-out sessions with female friends to above-the-neck contact, and the quick resolution of the incident in which Ms. Spears attacked a photographer’s SUV with an umbrella, thanks to our well-executed giant fan maneuver creating a “Mary Poppins effect” that the mainstream media has under-covered. To put this all in perspective, if Ms. Spears were a movie, and that movie was “The Bourne Ultimatum,” then Ms. Spears would have grossed $210 million.


We have launched a series of offensive operations, many involving Paris Hilton, aimed at neutralizing senior-level suitors, including Stavros Niarchos, Travis Barker, Brandon Davis, Wilmer Valderrama, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, three backup dancers and, in a particularly dangerous maneuver in Las Vegas in which Ms. Spears sustained limited tongue damage, a naked Italian man who turned out to be an ice sculpture.

In describing the recommendations I have made, I should note again that I believe Ms. Spears’ problems will require a long-term effort, like 40 to 45 years. I suggest we continue doing the same exact thing we have been doing thus far: skimpy outfits, gyrations, mindless techno music with lyrics implying extreme horniness. By the time Ms. Spears is 65 or 70, this strategy should work perfectly.

The important thing to remember is that to secure our national interests, we need Britney Spears. If Al Qaeda knew it had the power to destroy our former teen pop stars, it would feel empowered to mess with Zac Efron’s Facebook profile, or expose the real identity of Hannah Montana.

Democracy depends on our resolve.

Move-on was wrong to imply that Gen. Petraeus is capable of betraying the country. But Sen. Clinton had it exactly right when she said that lending credence to the claims in the Petraeus testimony required a willing suspension of disbelief. And as screenwriter Ron Falzone once remarked, “You can only disbelieve your suspenders for so long before they break.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com