Monday, November 19, 2007
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And I thought I was disorganized
In the spring, I'm going to be running a conference at the Fletcher School on the future of policy planning. This means I'm going to have to flex my administrative muscles, which are about as well-developed as my pectorals. Which is to say, I'm a bit disorganized.
Of course, if the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler is correct, I can always console myself that my conference can't possibly be as badly planned as the upcoming Annapolis meeting on the Middle East:
A few days after Thanksgiving, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plan to open a meeting in Annapolis to launch the first round of substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during Bush's presidency.Question to readers -- if you're going to go through the trouble of assembling such a large collection of officials in Annapolis, isn't it worthwhile to have them stay for more than a day? Or is this a case where more discussion would not necessarily equal more fruitful discussion?
UPDATE: The AP now reports that invitations will be sent out seven days in advance:
As the U.S. finalizes preparations, the State Department will start sending out invitations overnight for the event, U.S. officials said Monday. The conference will be held in Annapolis on Nov. 27 in between meetings in Washington. The main guests are the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Bush administration also is inviting Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and key international players in the peace process, the officials said.posted by Dan on 11.19.07 at 10:29 PM
Kessler, I think, uses the verb "plan" in the sense of "intend." Bush and Rice intend to open a Mideast meeting in Annapolis; I planned years ago to start dating Meg Ryan. Same thing. Well, almost the same thing. There actually are governments who want to attend an American-sponsored Mideast conference.
This should make the actual planning of the Annapolis meeting much easier, since the biggest hurdle most meeting organizers face is getting people to show up. However, getting people to show up is the biggest problem for most meeting organizers because most meeting organizers know what they want from the meeting before they ask people, or governments, to attend. If you don't know that, you have an even bigger problem.
Bush and Rice appear to sort of know what they want -- a meeting in Annapolis that makes it look like they are putting a peace process for the Mideast back on track and possibly even does so, without running any risks or upsetting any of Israel's most passionate supporters in the United States. Calling it the first round of substantive talks is a nice use of language, since victory can be declared if substance is discussed at all and anything short of complete disaster can be excused because, after all, this was only the first round.
This is not precisely what everyone else wants from the Annapolis meeting. The Israelis want international acknowledgment that they are trying, without actually changing any of the policies -- notably on settlements on the West Bank -- most offensive to Palestinians. The Palestinians want the United States and allied states to force Israeli compliance with a detailed list of steps as a means of demonstrating to their badly divided constituency that the political faction engaged in negotiating with Israel is the one Palestinians should support. Everyone else badly wants to see some kind of movement; physical movement of Israel and the Palestinians to a location just off the Ross Ice Shelf would be ideal, but movement of the two sides' negotiating positions would do. Bush and Rice can't deliver any of these things.
They could, if they wanted to, make a start, by acknowledging frankly and in public what everyone knows -- about how unhelpful West Bank settlements and their expansion are, about how divided the Palestinians are, about how the Israeli security wall can't be taken down without a renewal of suicide bombings and can't be continued without being used as a tool to disrupt Palestinian communities and appropriate Palestinian land, and lastly about the several conditions of a final peace settlement that everyone knows will have to be agreed to eventually, if a peace settlement is ever to be reached at all.
This would look like a pretty limited step compared to Madrid, Oslo and all the rest of the pre-intifada meetings in the last decade and where they seemed to be pointing. Sadly, it also seems an unlikely step, given that Rice in particular has a long record of describing the Mideast in absurdly optimistic language. What Annapolis looks like to me is a meeting called because it seemed to the White House that some kind of Mideast meeting needed to be called. Everything beyond that is just being made up as the meeting date approaches.
I hope Dan's skill as a meeting organizer promises better things for his policy planning event.posted by: Zathras on 11.19.07 at 10:29 PM [permalink]
Painted into their own corner by offering a 'peace conference' without a plan during the sunset of their eight years in charge, isn't the hazard for this Annapolis conference that the U.S. administration will feel especially anxious about producing results, and then do or say something precipitous?posted by: a Duoist on 11.19.07 at 10:29 PM [permalink]
I'm sure everyone will enjoy the crabs, anyway. Note to Dr. Drezner the key to a successful event is simple--don't run out of coffee and serve lots of food. Catered Chinese is great because there is always lots of it and it does not cost very much. Having grown up around academics, I understand the connection between them and free food (and drink). Appeal to their baser instincts and your conference will be raved about for years.posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 11.19.07 at 10:29 PM [permalink]
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