Tuesday, July 17, 2007

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

The Elders are coming, the Elders are coming!!

In his column today, Thomas Friedman ($$) writes the following:

President Bush baffles me. If your whole legacy was riding on Iraq, what would you do? I’d draft the country’s best negotiators — Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, George Shultz, George Mitchell, Dennis Ross or Richard Holbrooke — and ask one or all of them to go to Baghdad, under a U.N. mandate....
Clearly, the reason Bush hasn't done this is that he's been waiting for.... The Elders!!!!

Cue the press release:

Out of deep concern for the challenges facing all of the people of our world, Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, and Desmond Tutu have convened a group of leaders to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world's toughest problems.

Nelson Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, today in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday. He was joined by founding members of the group, Desmond Tutu, Graca Machel, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus. Founding members, Ela Bhatt and Gro Harlem Brundtland were unable to attend.

"This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken," Mandela commented. "Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair."

Tutu, Chair of The Elders remarked, "Despite all of the ghastliness that is around, human beings are made for goodness. The ones who ought to be held in high regard are not the ones who are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They are the ones who have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. We -- The Elders -- will endeavor to support those people and do our best for humanity."

The Elders will use their unique collective skills to catalyze peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts, articulate new approaches to global issues that are or may cause immense human suffering, and share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world....

"I see The Elders as a small but independent group that may fill an existing void in the world community," said Jimmy Carter. "Almost impervious to the consequences of outside criticism, the group will conduct unrestrained analyses of important and complex issues and share our ideas with the general public and with others who might take action to resolve problems."

The Elders will invite new members who share the attributes of the original ten: trusted, respected worldly-wise individuals with a proven commitment and record of contributing to solving global problems.

You can read Michael Wines' New York Times write-up by clicking here.

Before I succumb to the Elders' power of unrestrained analysis, I have to point out that their website makes the language in the press release seem modest. My personal favorite: "Never before has such a powerful group of leaders come together. Free from political, economic or military pressures. The only agenda of The Elders is that of humanity." I mean, with an agenda like that, Bush would be a fool not to turn over Iraq to them.

The founders of The Elders are Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel (according to Wines, “I was talking about the need for a group of global elders to be there to rally around in times of conflict,” [Branson] said, “and Peter said he’d had a similar idea.”), so you know this group will have both plush travel accomodations and a kick-ass theme song (they're so much... larger than life). Just imagine Jimmy Carter parachuting into Iraq to solve the civil war there backed by this song. Or, better yet, Desmond Tutu standing in the West Bank with a boom box over his head playing this song over and over again until all sides relent.

I could go on and on with the mockery (just imagine the supervillians that will unite to counter The Elders!!), but that's not really fair. This group has a large enough collection of Nobel Peace Prizes to ponder: bombastic language aside, will The Elders actually have any influence?

My hunch is "not much", based on this quotation from Wines' story:

Asked how [The Elders] differed from what United Nations diplomats were supposed to do, Mr. Annan replied: “We are not out to defend the positions of any institution or government. We’re ordinary global citizens who want to help with the problems of the world.”
While Track II diplomacy has its occasional uses, the fact is that most conflicts in the world usually require the cooperation of powerful institutions and governments. And sometimes they disagree -- not because of misunderstandings or mispeceptions, but because their interests genuinely diverge. And all the cajoling of all the trained negotiators in the world won't fix that problem.

The Elders won't be able to solve the conflicts that bedevil Iraq, or the Greater Middle East, or Darfur, or Somalia, or Nigeria, or Colombia, or Kosovo, and so on. At best, they will be able to leverage their star power to address problems or conflicts that are so off the radar that the great powers truly do not care... think Congo, for example.

Of course, once they start wearing capes, all bets are off.

UPDATE: Blake Hounshell finds another reason to be wary of The Elders.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I believe The Elders have found their Zan and Jeyna!!!

Mark Steyn alerts me to a Nick Clooney column alerting me to yet another new grouping of famous progeny. According to Clooney, they are called -- I swear I am not making this up -- the "Gen II Peace Team"!!! Click here to read their press release:

The Gen II Global Peace Initiative will work to promote world peace and nonviolence by building on the examples set by members' parents and grandparents to inspire current and future generations to fight injustice and encourage nonviolent means to achieve positive change. They will examine a range of options that will draw attention to humanitarian crises and potential solutions to conflict and to decide on a series of initial fact-finding missions to such "hot spots" as Darfur, the Middle East, Burma and Korea.
Among the participating luminaries listed is Naomi Tutu, daughter of Desmond Tutu, Chair of the Elders.

I, however, refuse to take the Peace Team until they have a pet monkey.

If The Elders and the Peace Team ever unite forces.... hoo, boy, look out.

posted by Dan on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM


How could they neglect to include Bono?

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

This monkey is shocked.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

It is interesting concept.
Two problems 1. The ire of the paranoid "black helicopter" crowd will be raised. 2. No policies of Israel toward the Palestinian could ever be questioned without the group being written off as "anti semtic" and therefore be deemed unable to solve ANY problems worldwide.

posted by: centrist on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

(they're so much... larger than life)

Made me snort coffee onto my computer screen, you bastard!

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

Big time!

posted by: Drew on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

Big time!

posted by: ODB on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

I'm sure the Freudians would have a field day with that Gen II bunch. But really, I have only one letter for those who think DNA entitles somebody for leadership on anything.

That letter? W.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

The problem with relying on people with interests resting on the outcome of crises is that their ability to come up with solutions is circumscribed by their interests.

The problem with relying on people without interests resting on the outcome of crises is that their ability to implement the solutions they come up with is circumscribed by their lack of interests.

Any reasonably smart person could come up with a utility-maximizing solution to the Israel/Palestine problem, just like the Elders will be able to. But the Elders will have only slightly less trouble than anyone else at getting the interested parties to agree.

Cute idea, obvious shortcomings.

posted by: jb on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

centrist wrote '2. No policies of Israel toward the Palestinian could ever be questioned without the group being written off as "anti semtic" '

Quite right. Just because Mary Robinson presided over the 2001 Durban conference where a majority of the members supported a resolution equating Zionism with racism; Jimmy Carter's book caused the mass resignation of Jewish members of the advisory board of the Carter Center (which has received substantial funding from Saudi sources) as well as that of Carter Center fellow, historian and former advisor Ken Stein; and Li Zhaoxing served as the foreign minister for a totalitarian regime which has supported the current governments of Myanmar, Sudan, North Korea and Iran including during his time in office is no reason for Israel to be suspicious of the "Elders".

posted by: CRW on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

Have these "elders" developed their "protocols"
about "Zion" yet?

posted by: LordActon on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

I actually thought this was onion style satire until you provided the nyt link. Unbelievable. The idea is bad enough. The members make it even worse.

posted by: p on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

I am not sure how you could resist:


posted by: David Quartner on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

This is something straight out of the Family Guy! No wait, it's not...another example of "the truth is stranger than fiction".

And I totally agree with the first poster - Bono is going to be pissed.

posted by: veblen on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

Here is a copy of the comment that I just left at the Elders website. Although, I am not going to hold my breath waiting for them to invite the people on my list into their little group I still said my piece.

"Your list seems to be a bit lopsided in outlook. If you really want to build peace, shouldnt conservatives be included in your little group or is it that you can't find a way to agree with the representatives of most of the people in the world? Where is the balance here?

My nominations for new elders are:

Pope Benedict XVI
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
George H W Bush
Billy Graham
Lech Walesa
Vaclav Havel

Anyone else with conservative or moderate values who also works for peace and good will among people. A love of peace and the will to work for it is not just a socially liberal thing.

posted by: Peggy on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

How about:

Newt Gingrich
Frank Fukuyama
Lindsey Graham
Orrin Hatch
Trent Lott
John Negroponte
John Bolten
Paul Wolfowitz
Dick Cheney
Don Rumsfeld
Condi Rice
Dick Armitage
Scotter Libby
Henry Kissinger
Bill O'Rielly
Sean Hannity
Rupert Murdoch
Al Gonzalez
Tony Blair
Colin Powell
Eizabeth Hasselback
Monica Goodling

hmmmm....sweet dream team, sweet dream team, they really really have solutions for everything, everywhere...boy I would love to this group of people in power, I am sure they can change the world, and spread democracy everywhere. In fact, it woud ooze with democracy everywhere.

posted by: Academic Troller on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

Its' Elders could not save Krypton, remember. so what chance does Earth have?

Sure, some would protest that time will tell - but then even the 'leader' of the free world, and so many clubs, failed.

Maybe if this club tells Hizbullah to 'stop doing this shit', they would listen. Or the umpteen groupings fighting for their perception of what is right.

So where should The Elders start? Obviously at street level. Not at 'Global Village', but at City, Province and Country, level.

Where the UN, OAU, AU, etcetera, etcetera failed.

posted by: daBuzzd on 07.17.07 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?