Proponent of U.S. Help for “Moderate” Syrian Rebels Fired for Lying About Ph.D.
Written by Michael Tennant
Questionable claims that most of the rebels in Syria’s civil war are “moderates” didn’t do 26-year-old Elizabeth O’Bagy’s career any damage. Quite the contrary: They were cited by high-ranking politicians as justification for greater U.S. involvement in the war.
What nipped O’Bagy’s career as an interventionist mouthpiece in the bud was an easily disproven falsehood about her academic credentials. Her primary employer, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), sacked her Wednesday when it emerged that she had lied about having received a doctorate from Georgetown University.
The neoconservative think tank’s online biography of O’Bagy was replaced with the following statement: “The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”
O’Bagy told Politico on Monday that she was in a joint master’s and doctorate program in Arab Studies and Political Science at Georgetown and that “she had submitted and defended her dissertation and was waiting for Georgetown University to confer her degree.” The university, however, said that she “received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2009 and a Master of Arts degree in 2013” but that “at this time she is not a registered student.”
O’Bagy started her career at ISW as an intern, getting a leg up on others because of her fluency in Arabic at a time when the institute was looking for ways to make the case for U.S. intervention in Syria. She was hired as an analyst in 2012 and indicated at that time that she was working toward her Ph.D. at Georgetown.
ISW founder and president Kimberly Kagan told Politico that O’Bagy “misrepresented to me in May that she had successfully defended her dissertation.” Subsequently, Kagan said, she began referring to the analyst as Dr. O’Bagy in internal communications, and O’Bagy’s biography on the institute’s website was updated to reflect this understanding later in the summer.
As it turns out, however, O’Bagy actually “failed her defense” of her dissertation, Kagan told Politico; and that is why she was terminated.
O’Bagy’s dismissal is significant because she has been one of the most prominent exponents of the notion that the Syrian rebels are mostly moderates, not Islamic extremists.