ISG: Model UN for Old Folks

Friday, December 8th, 2006 3:46 pm by Neal
James Baker, Lee Hamilton and company head back into the classroom to resume study hall.

Thanks, HR, for pointing out this great analogy between the Iraq Study Group and high-school, Model UN play sessions:

After thinking about it a few days, though, it occurred to me what the ISG reminds me of: the Model UN from high school. Now, for those of you who did not attend a Model UN conference, the idea was that each school’s delegation represented a country and you were supposed to be like the real UN, sitting down to hammer out compromises on an array of international issues. In fact, a lot of people were there to get away from their parents for a few days, party and pick up girls . . . which maybe isn’t so different from the real UN after all, when you think about it.

That said, the emphasis at the Model UN was all on reaching compromises and consensuses, but it quickly became obvious to me, even as a teenager, that this was an absolute sham because everybody wanted to make a deal and nobody actually had any real interests at stake or real leverage other than the hollow threat to not make a deal.

This is essentially what the ISG is: Model UN for retired public servants, a bunch of people sitting around reaching meaningless compromises. There are two ways to make decisions: do what you think is right, or reach a compromise that represents a middle ground between what two or more people think is right. But consensus-based decisionmaking only has a chance at working when the people reaching the consensus actually represent the contending interests and can compel them to accept the deal.

Read on…

And on that score, the ISG is no more representative of the contending parties than I was of Botswana back in high school. Not only are the members of the ISG representative of nobody, elected by nobody and answerable to nobody, but their composition includes nobody from the military, no real left-wingers, no libertarians, only one conservative (Ed Meese, who has little foreign affairs experience), no Israelis, no Iraqi Shi’ites, no Iraqi Sunnis, no Kurds, no Saudis (unless you count Jim Baker), no Iranians, no Syrians, etc. They’re making deals with Monopoly money, but they can’t make anybody accept the whole deal, which means they ended up proposing an unprincipled compromise as the starting point for negotiations.

They probably didn’t even get any decent parties out of it.

Or get laid.

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