The Model ISG

I have not had time yet to plow through the entire Iraq Study Group report, although I’ve been digesting a lot of the reaction. The above is from the front page of yesterday’s New York Post, under the headline “Surrender Monkeys,” which seems apt.
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.
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.

13 thoughts on “The Model ISG”

  1. I see the Post headline as a knee jerk reaction from the far right, which, as usual, takes criticism as well as a teenager does (and I speak from experience): a sulk, a whine, a cry of, “You don’t understand.” Never as admission of fault in any way, shape or form.
    Essentially, the ISG, headed by two pretty bright fellas, including the guy who handed the oval office to his pal’s son, stated that the people who decided to play war had no idea that it wasn’t a game.
    Crank, I think your suddenly bringing in the Model UN idea, which really doesn’t address the issue of: is the ISG right, by making fun of it in an unusual way, is unfair. Bush wants the group to parrot him, that he and his henchmen were right, and suddenly finds out they aren’t, even by those they expected to say otherwise. Iraq is broken; it was broken in a different way before, but it wasn’t our mess. Now it is.

  2. The appropriate reaction for Bush is to say to Baker and Hamilton: “if you think all those parties will get together to help Iraq, the YOU go make it happen.”
    Seriously, if I were Bush, I’d appoint Baker/Hamiltor as Special Middle East envoys and see if they can back up their report with results.

  3. That cover by the New York Post is the reason why it’s the worst newspaper in the country. Just like the Axis of Weasels cover. Its a paper written by children, for children. No insight, no analysis, just knee jerk support for conservative policies no matter how destructive and pointless. This is the only way the Post can compete with the New York Daily News.

  4. Yeah, if only the Post could act more grown-up like the Times and expose anti-terror measures by the administration – just, you know, because.

  5. The New York Times exposes anti-terror measures? It’s called investigative reporting. The adminstration is screwing up the anti-terror effort, just fine.

  6. Steve, what world do you live on? The Times has exposed several classified operations, which were previously secret, and which have since ceased being as effective. This is beyond dispute.

  7. You think that the terrorists did not know that their phone calls were being intercepted, or that their financial transactions were being monitored? Any member of a criminal enterprise would know this. I recall reading somewhere (I don’t recall where) that some of these operations were not previously secret.
    There has to come a point where conservatives stop blaming the messenger for the failures of the Bush administration. You think the New York Times is the enemy, but it sold us the war in Iraq. Please don’t tell me that you don’t know about Judith Miller’s dishonest reporting in the run-up to war.

  8. “Surrender Monkeys”?
    You want us to “stay the course” in Iraq and fight in the middle of Civil War while the Taliban has resurged in Afghanistan and the opium trade is the best it’s ever been and feeding arm sales?
    If so, THEN GET YOUR OWN @$$ OVER THERE. Or send your kids. I love how most people who are for “staying the course” right now have never been on a battlefield.
    You notice how all the veterans of the war who ran for an office during the last election were AGAINST the war? But, then again, you can call Tammie Duckworth, a woman who had both her legs blown off, a “Cut and Runner”.
    Get a smell of reality, Republicans, or get to nearest draft office.

  9. Lord knows that I have spent too much time already on the “chickenhawk” nonsense on this site… ChiroDocPSUalum, you must know that that is false. Van Taylor, for example, comes to mind as a pro-Iraq War veteran of the war. Sure, there are people of all political views in the military, but frankly, the idea that a majority of the soldiers who have fought in Iraq are in favor of immediate withdrawal or cutting a deal with Iran and Syria is utter nonsense.
    steve, there is indeed evidence on repeated occasions of terrorist channels of communications clamming up as a result of media disclosures. In the NSA case in Detroit, the plaintiffs submitted affidavits saying people stopped talking to them as a result of the program’s disclosure.
    Daryl, naturally I disagree strongly with a lot of the ISG proposals but the point of my post is that the entire idea of setting up an unrepresentative commission to reach a consensus solution was wrong from the beginning.

  10. Crank, my disagreement with you was on your reaction: You changed the subject, and somehow got on this Model UN thing, and made fun of the ISG. Would you have done so had they concluded what you believe?
    Bush reacted like Nixon did with his pornography commission. When you don’t like the message, disagree with it, and ignore it if you can. When James Baker, the Bush family’s Tom Hagen starts to tell you that you are wrong, you can either agree with him or make fun of him. The Conservative movement seems to have no phrase that can admit it’s ever wrong. Which is a majopr weakness: when you can’t, then how can you fix a mistake? This time, it’s costing our kids their arms, legs and lives.

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