- Benjamin Franklin
Topics: track I - track II cooperation, intervention, communication
Interviewed by Julian Portilla — 2003
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A: In terms of an overview, I've been involved with the Peace Institute for about eleven or twelve years now. I started out by doing kind of a memoir, a firsthand, first person, practitioner memoir of efforts to bring peace to Southern Africa in the '80s. That led to a lot of other things. Before long we were doing a series of book projects that were aimed at helping the professorate and students figure out what the paradigms are for dealing with conflict issues in the post-Cold War environment, because everybody was at sea, and didn't even know how to do an IR syllabus anymore. People were reaching out for ideas about how to structure a discussion of international relations. What is at stake? Why it's important? What roles can our great nation play in other countries, as well as non-governmental actors? That led to what's now a series of five textbooks, many of which are focused on third party intervention issues. I guess from my personal perspective, I was not trained in conflict resolution or conflict management before going into government.
I had two phases of government life, but I wasn't trained formally in it. In my second incarnation in government I spent eight and a half years working on war and peace issues in Africa. After having made it work in practice I came back to Georgetown, which was my original base, to see if I could make it work in theory, and that was the kind of sequence. I was looking around with wide eyes to see what's out there in terms of theory, and what made any sense to somebody who was a fairly experienced practitioner. What would be useful to future practitioners, based on that combination? I'm very much a theory-in-practice sort of person. That's the overview.
Q: Can you tell me about a moment that was particularly inspiring during your practice?
A: There are hundreds, but it's hard to know what's easily described.I think there's a notion out there in the literature that somehow Track I people and Track II people operate in fundamentally different ways, with very different techniques. I think that that's a distortion, that in fact what happens is that you operate in fundamentally different ways at different stages in the life cycle of a conflict, or at different stages in the progress of a peace process. For example, when you haven't yet got the parties to even agree on a common agenda or agree to meet, you're dealing with what I still call the pre-negotiations phase. You are often using pretty basic tools of statecraft: carrots and sticks, if you like, and manipulations and efforts to come up with ideas about future formulas that might attract parties. In other words, you're engaged in ripening.
Once you're pretty well along and you have parties with delegations going to the same city, even if not the same conference site, and you're engaged in proximity procedures or even direct talks, or direct plenaries followed by side talks or whatever model you use, once you get to that point, you're using very much some of the techniques that people in the Track II side of the literature would think of as theirs. You know, you're getting people to actually listen to each other and not so much to feel each other's pain-I'll leave that lingo to somebody else-but to hear each other and to engage in assessing the seriousness of the other side to see if in fact there's a deal to be done. These kind of techniques that involve a lot of listening training sound almost like Track II at times, but Track I people, if they're any damn good, better be able to that. That's my point. These things converge.
Q: That's an interesting point. Can you talk a little bit about the factors of a conflict that are most salient for a party to consider when that party's taking into account the possibility of an intervention?
A: In an intractable conflict?
A: Well, there are some pretty basic nostrums, I think. One of them is the Hippocratic Oath. In these intractable cases, they've already probably been made somewhat worse by poor tradecraft in the past. In other words, above all else, don't make things worse and think carefully about whether you are up to it, because this is serious business. It's not something where you mess around, and you shouldn't even consider getting engaged unless you have staying power, enough autonomy, and a clear enough mandate to be able to do something for a sustained period of time. Those are some basic benchmarks, I think. Staying power means a lot of things. It means an institutional base that will be with you. It means that you can get a mandate and you'll have the likelihood of support during the carrying out of your mandate. It means some degree of resources and people, because these things may require years.
I've actually answered this question in some length in a chapter that's coming out fairly soon in one of our two books of the Peace Institute, which we call Getting Started: What Are the Things to Ask Yourself, and they have to do with what I'm suggesting. They also have to do with a lot of analytical work to figure out what are the main obstacles? What are the main sources of intractability, not just the obstacles that were at the outset of the conflict, that you might look at as the outstanding issue, but to look beneath them to how has the intractability made this even harder to get at and what are the sources of the intractability? For example, you may find in a conflict there are ethnic or regional differences, and that that's the stated grievance or the stated dispute, but behind that you may find that essentially the armed entities are living on this conflict and it's their way of life. Anyone who comes in as a conflict manager or conflict revolutionist is basically threatening their way of life. You had better get serious if you want to try and influence people who are living in the war. By getting serious, you've got to address that obstacle somehow.
Q: In other words, people who are waging their conflicts have no interest in ending the conflict because that's their source of daily bread.
A: Daily bread, but also their identity. Who they are has been caught up in the conflict. The idea of ending the conflict would be a basic threat to their identity, their self image, maybe their power base, and maybe their role in the future of their country. Making peace is dangerous. It's very life threatening. It's not easy, that's one reason these conflicts are intractable. You know, there may be a difference between the top leadership elites, who literally live on the conflict, and their grunts, their troops. The way to deal with the troops is to offer them a better life. If you look at all the literature about reintegration of warring sides and the retraining of people to get them back inside a civilian economy somehow, and that takes serious work. As far as the elites are concerned, this is very tricky. You may need to reach out individually to people to figure out what can be done. There's an interesting program at Boston University for African former heads of state, which you may have heard about. It is an effort to treat former African leaders as patriots when they step down, to treat them with dignity, and to give them a chance to tell their stories, oral histories. There's sort of like a panel of eminent persons that's composed of these former wise men, former leaders, who can be made available to serving presidents as kind of a sounding board on issues. There's life after government, is the basic message. It's kind of interesting.
Q: Sounds a bit like a golden bridge constructed to allow the folks to step down without losing face.
A: Well, and to give them an idea of something to do, a period of reflection that is supported. Quite often the day after you lose power you have nothing, and so there isn't the kind of support networks that we're used to in advanced, Western countries. So that's an issue. There are lots of sources of intractability that we argue (my colleagues and I at the institute) that are distinct from the sources of the conflict itself.You need to address the intractability sources. This may have to do with, people living on conflict, but also have to do with poor tradecraft, or with the need to go beyond existing formulas that have just gotten shopworn and are not taken seriously anymore, because the literature of previous negotiations is the literature of failure.
Q: In the sense that they talk about things that haven't worked?
A: Yeah. There are a lot of discredited formulas.
Q: Like what?
A: You think of the idea of a federal solution in the context of Sudan. It's been talked about and talked about and it's become a term, which provokes debate, rather than leading to conflict. So, maybe there's a time for getting beyond the word and just going to the substance, rather than talking about the "federal solution," which drives people into their corners.
Q: So rather than the substance, it's the very language?
A: I think it's often language issues, sure. I mean, like sovereignty is a key factor. Look at what the Tamil Tigers are now talking about in Sri Lanka as an alternative to their dream. Look what the Ecuadorians accepted in their war with Peru as the alternative to their dream. Peru didn't change by one iota its commitments in term of the Rio Protocol of 1942. They didn't change a thing back in the 90s when they renegotiated this thing. What they did was redefine the word sovereignty-very, very skillful tradecraft. This war's gone back to the 19th century, so it was quite an accomplishment.
Q: When you say that poor tradecraft is often a source of intractability, what does that mean, exactly? Poor tradecraft by outside interveners?
A: Yeah, poor tradecraft by outsiders. For example, maybe the best of example of poor tradecraft that I can think of is what was done in the early 90s to try to bring about an end to the Angolan Civil War. It was peacemaking on the cheap. The timing of the election process could not have been planned worse because it happened to fall right in the middle of American election season, which guaranteed there'd be no U.S. sustained oversight of the peace process because we were distracted by our elections, you know. A very ambitious 60-page-long agreement had been drawn up in 1991, but two thirds of it was never implemented, and they went ahead and held the elections anyway. Plus, there was not enough observers on the spot, or military units on the spot, to prevent massive cheating. So there was massive cheating. There was neither enough oversight to guarantee no that there was no cheating or to prove to skeptical minds, and UNITA was full of skeptical minds, that in fact they had some reason for confidence in the process. So any way you cut it, this was a laboratory case of really poor tradecraft. The Mozambique success that came a couple years later was part of a learning process there. I think people looked over their shoulders at Angola, and said now that's an example of what not to do.
Q: So that poor tradecraft ultimately led to greater intractability in Angola?
A: Well, the war went on, again, until just a year ago in February. It was never resolved through a conflict management intervention or a conflict resolution intervention. It was resolved by victory by one side, with the help of a shift in the balance of power on the ground, a military balance. A lot of outside intelligence and other technological support from the Israelis to the Angolan government made a big difference. Basically that conflict ended through victory.
Q: Winning and losing?
Q: Let's turn that around and talk about what elements successful interventions often have in common.
A: Well, I think there's a few that are obvious, but I think it's really very hard to generalize on some of these points. That's our job, is to generalize, but I think are maybe a few things you can generalize about. You do have to know your conflict, as well as the parties know it. That means a massive investment in knowledge; in case knowledge. It means working to recruit, as part of the effort, as many people as one can who are conflict veterans, so that you wind up with kind of a series of concentric circles and networks that are, in fact, all with the mediation or all with the intervention. Now that sounds complicated, and it may be more appropriate for a Track I actor to try and organize something like that than a Track II actor. And maybe Track I actors might need that more, like in Sudan for example.
Why are the Norwegians involved in this thing? They're involved in it because they have a limited number of people who are literally world-class on the Sudan conflict, and have decades of experience in dealing with the Sudanese actors, far more detailed relationships across the spectrum than any American official has ever had. What we bring to the table as Americans is that we are Americans. Nobody can say no to the Americans, least of all, the Southern leadership. John Garang, is very dependent on his support base in this country. The regime in Khartoum is very anxious to avoid being added to the Axis of Evil. So that combination makes us a powerful actor, but it doesn't make us a skilled actor, necessarily. I do think it's important that one start out one of these things with a sense of trying to recruit partners.
Q: So is that a good combination, skilled Norwegians and powerful Americans?
A: Yeah, and highly knowledgeable Brits are also part of that troika; the Brits used to run the place, they know it pretty well. They provide a bit of a balance mechanism because they're more open, perhaps, to the views and voices of Khartoum and we're more open to the Southern views and voices. There's a balance in there that's useful. I think it's a good combination. We also, I believe, are talking to some of the NGOs who are close to this conflict and have a lot of those relationship skills too, from the humanitarian assistance community and others. That's another bit of what to remember as you're getting involved. I think that you should always start with a clear sense of a mandate from somebody, and you better be damn sure what that mandate is, and have that conversation upfront.
Q: Somebody like who?
A: Well, like your boss, or like your institutional support base leader, whoever that might be.
Q: So in the case of the Sudan, for example, who might that be? You mean the actual negotiators need to have a mandate from, say, the State Department?
A: From their authority structure, whether it's the president or the secretary or whoever. Sometimes people think of these situations as, oh, well we don't know what else to do, let's have a mediation. My advice is don't ever accept that assignment. If that's the reason, if that's the motivation, don't do it.
Q: In other words, if it's a last choice?
A: Oh yeah, or to be seen doing something.
Q: Oh, I see.
A: Just a C.Y.A., you know. We don't know what else to do, so we'll send Cye Vance and David Owen out there to try and resolve the Bosnian problem. Not that we seriously are going to support them, or even that we care what they say to each other, but at least we can say, oh they're doing something. It's a bit of a C.Y.A. operation in that regard. This is another point that I think is crucial, you've got to have some coherence in a third-party intervention. There are so many cases where you have a multiplicity of actors. One of our books is on multi-party mediation, you may have seen it, it's called Herding Cats, and it's about multi-party structures. Those are inevitable, I think, in the modern age because lots of people get involved. It's one thing to get involved, it's something else to get involved coherently, which means that people talk to each other, and they may be able to share assignments and share burdens and that kind of thing.
Q: You mentioned Mozambique as a success and having learned lessons from the failure of Angola. What elements do you think made that a successful intervention?
A: There's two phases to Mozambique. There was the Sant'Egidio phase, which was actually negotiating the G.P.A. [General Peace Agreement], which was endorsed in 1992. That took two or three years and it was led by an Italian-Catholic lay organization called Sant'Egidio, which is pretty well described and documented in lots of places now, including Herding Cats. What made that a success was a very skilled Track II intervention, which had cultural linkages, as well as arguably political and other kinds of linkages to the country concerned. Interestingly enough, that country was Italy.
You may ask yourself, why Italy? Italy doesn't have a colonial history in Africa apart from Somalia and Libya. Italy, in part, because one of the largest foreign assistance programs in Africa for Italy was in Mozambique because the Catholic Church played an important role in Mozambique. It was a bridge to Mozambique, in a sense. I think the Socialist Party of Italy had some ambitions, and perhaps even some very practical considerations in wanting to do well in Mozambique; a lot of factors came together. Sant'Egidio's tradecraft was that of a small, modestly funded NGO, but with very good linkages to the Italian government and to other Italian institutions. Their smartest move was to be able to build confidence among the Mozambiquean parties, and to link what they were doing to the actions of the major states, in the Track I sense, who would be players in any kind of future for Mozambique, including the implementation of an agreement. That meant that they were very open, put their cards on the table.
They talked a lot with the U.S., with the U.K., with the Italian government, with the Portuguese, with the South Africans, with the neighboring Africans, Zimbabwe and Malawi and so on-recognizing the limits of Track II, and the need for Track II to be there at the crucial moments when you get to defining military accords and guarantees for military commitments. You need states for that. NGOs can't do that stuff. There was a very good sort of a meshing of Tracks II and I. In the second phase, the implementation of the G.P.A., what accounts for success has a lot to do with that inherent structure and with the coherence, again, that an Italian international civil servant appointed by the U.N. secretary general. He's a very skillful guy. His name is Aldo Ajello, and he didn't know Mozambique before this, but he was given this assignment and he played his cards very well, maintained the unity of the donors and the key countries that had embassies in Maputo, so that the parties were not given a lot of slack. When parties are given too much slack, they mess around, they play games, they get divided, and they get greedy.
Q: Slack by whom? Who gives them slack?
A: The third party. If the third party gives the contending parties too much opportunity to mess around and play games, inevitably they will. There's got to be a sense of focus and intensity to make this thing succeed at the implementation phase. Agreements don't just self-implement, as a rule. They need some kind of adult supervision, going forward.
Q: That's an interesting way to put it. Let's explore, just for a second, the notion of slack. How much authority does a third party have to give or remove slack in an agreement?
A: Well, the idea of slack may sound like it's all top-down and controlling, and in some ways it is, but more than anything else, it's just keeping the parties engaged, keeping them in touch with each other. If there are problems blowing up, then solve the damn problems, don't just let them fester. That's the point I'm making, you've got to keep the think alive, focused, and moving ahead. You don't want to leave long periods of inaction or drift, or periods when there are no meetings so parties begin to develop the sense that the other side is just engaged in massive cheating, and never intended to go forward in the first place. That's what I mean, really, by slack.
Q: It sounds like holding the parties to the agreements that they sign.
A: Yeah, and holding them to regular communications, and if problems arise, discussing them and working them out. In other words, what I'm saying is the settlement is really just one phase of an overall process. The signatures at the bottom of the page are just one phase. You have to assume that there'll be other issues to be negotiated going forward.
Q: You started to talk about the mix between Track I and Track II. I read that you said that Track I often underestimates Track II, and that Track II often overestimates itself. Can you elaborate on that?
A: Well, I think to some extent the practitioners of these different Tracks know each other better than they did ten years ago, but they're still not in the same world. They do not live in the same world and they don't necessarily know each other very well. There's some isolation and probably some stereotyping, and that leads to these misperceptions. The Track I actors typically assume that what they can bring to the table is the only thing that counts. Because they do have certain kinds of sources of leverage, they may assume that nobody else has anything much to contribute, and they probably exaggerate the extent to which tangible carrots and sticks are what make all the difference. That's especially true of major powers who may think that way. When France called the parties together in Cote d'Ivoire recently for a meeting just outside Paris, one wonders the extent to which the organizers were thinking through who really has good linkages to these guys and who really knows them well. Chirac personally and ??? went in there with an agenda and said here's the way it's going to be, work with us and you'll get peace.
Q: Is that a likely formula for success?
A: Well, you do have to be self-confident and have a sense of direction, but being too closed with blinders on may lead you to mistakes, and people may say things that they want you to believe without really meaning it. I think sometimes Track I actors may either be ignorant of or skeptical of the contributions that Track II actors can make. That's historically not surprising because Track II has come into its own so recently. It really did not have the potential until the Cold War was over that it seems to have today. That's maybe a couple of reasons why Track I participants may underestimate what Track II can accomplish. Track I actors may be suspicious of Track-Track II actors, and maybe on good reason on occasion. It may seem that Track-Track II actors in fact are direct rivals, either strategic rivals or just in terms of coherence of their rivals, and that they will encourage the parties to go forum shopping and play mind games with the parties and distract the parties.
Often these parties are fighting as well as negotiating, and they have limited talent and that talent gets distracted. The Track I people may look at all the initiatives that they see coming from offstage, so to speak, as complicating the game. In fact, it does complicate the game. That's why a smart Track I actor will try to find out what the other guys are doing, the other third parties, and where possible try to coordinate rather than just be in the dark. An awful lot of Track II is based on if you read some of the early Track II classics, and I'm sure you have, the writings makes it sound a little bit as if Track II is morally anointed or ethically anointed, a kind of superior tradecraft or practice because of a presumed notion that objectivity, neutrality, and lack of bias are good, and that they have a monopoly on lack of bias.
The reality is much more complicated than that, as I think many people now recognize, that every institution has its agendas. Even small institutions have their agendas, and sometimes the motivation of small actors can be as suspect as the motivation of big actors. I think warring parties have come to realize that sometimes too. Why are there so many of these people getting off these airplanes and coming to talk to me? What's in it for them and what's in it for me? It may be that there is, as I say, this presumption that people who work for governments are basically either biased or they're carrying out agendas that are not consistent with the parties' own interests. That's, frankly, a view that I have great difficulty with, but I can understand, if people aren't talking to each other, why they might have that notion. The reality is that a world at peace is a world in which most government's interests will be advanced. To put it another way, a world that is at peace is one in which a commercial superpower like the United States will have more exports, and exports means jobs.
Q: In this country?
A: In this country? Sure.
Q: So there's the agenda.
A: Yeah, I mean, peace is good. Peace is good for Americans, and I think that message is not all that complicated to understand. I don't really have the difficulty, the hang-up with the motivations of Track I that maybe some of my friends in the Track II universe have. The real issue here, and it's been one that's studied a lot-I'm sure you've read countless articles about it-is the issue of whether bias is good for you or bad for you, whether interest is good for you or bad for you. On that point, my take is very simple: if you don't have interest you won't mediate anyway. I'm looking for interested mediators, especially amongst governments, because I want them to really care. I don't want to see our country or other governments go into this business just to play pretend games. I want them to care enough to see it through and to get a result.
Q: That reminds me more of the Latin American model of an insider partial, where the two parties might have confidence in the third party because they have a vested interest in seeing a good outcome, because they live in the environment.
A: Exactly, and I think you can have outsider partials as well as insider partials. Good outsiders need to know who the insider partials are because they may have to work with them, and in fact if they don't work with them they're missing something.
Q: Talk a little more, if you would, about your work as a Track I diplomat and how you engaged the Track II part of the conflict resolution field, and especially in seeking insider partials.
A: We didn't think of it as Track two at the time, but I spent, as I said, over eight years working to try and get South African troops out of neighboring countries, to get Cubans out of Africa, where they had no business being, and in effect to end the Cold War on the regional level in South Africa. We were often groping for channels and insider partials. It's really all about channels.
We found it very easy as a government of a superpower to get received officially, of course. People don't say no to the United States when you ask for a meeting. That official meeting didn't necessarily mean much, and what you really want to do is to get to the people who really make decisions. You're trying to figure out how to read what are quite often very darkened rooms where there's very little transparency. You're trying to figure out who in the Cuban government makes decisions, who in the South African government, who in the Angolan government, who within SWAPO, or some other such movements really make the decisions. The way you find that out is quite often by talking to their friends, their ideological allies and bedfellows, just the veterans who've been around the story for a long, long time, where there's lots of fraternal conflicts that go back a long time. We wound up spending a lot of our time, doing that nearly-decade-long experience talking to people who didn't have official jobs at all, but who know the parties much better than we did. Sometimes we'd learn interesting things and that's as far as it'd go. Sometimes we actually got hot information that we would never have gotten through official channels.
Q: People like that will actually talk to American Track I diplomats?
A: Sure they will, but only if there's an effort made to build the connections, you know. Part of the Track I job is to make your self the center, the pivot, and to make yourself indispensable to progress. That sounds aggressive, and to some degree it is aggressive. What you're doing is killing alternative approaches, or co-opting them. On the other hand, part of what you're doing is trying to build the strongest-possible intervention, so that it's irresistible and it's attractive. By the end of the story everybody was on our side of the table: the Russians, the U.N., and the Cubans. I mean, this agreement that I'm referring to almost went off the table, went off the Tracks after an unexpected military adventure by SWAPO's leadership, just before the implementation of the peace agreement was about to begin. We got on the telephone before that was common practice and called the Russians by open-line telephone calls, which never used to happen, got in touch with the Cubans on the open line to consult them as to what we were going to do to get this thing back on the Track. The reaction of the Cubans was startling, these people are threatening our agreement. In other words they saw it as their agreement.
Q: Which is a success?
A: Absolutely. That's what you've got to do ultimately, but that takes a lot of time, to make this everybody's agreement and to isolate those who would be spoilers or feel threatened by it.
Q: So if I understand you, the parties to this agreement were Cuba, South Africa
A:Angola, and indirectly SWAPO, the liberation movement in Namibia.
Q: The players included were Russia, the United States, and several others I'm sure, in Southern Africa.
A: All the frontline states. The British were very central players in this. We had a contact group of Western allies who involved in it as well, but the Brits were the key players for many reasons. They had good judgment, they knew the region well, and they had excellent channels of their own to some of the key players.
Q: When you get that kind of support from Cuba, in a situation like that, which would be an outlier, possibly a spoiler, how do you use that then to deal with someone like SWAPO? Can you say, look, the Cubans are upset that you're doing this, back off, or do the Cubans then take direct action and intervene to save the agreement, as in that particular case?
A: In that particular case, what we did was to summon an emergency meeting of a joint commission that we'd established just a few months earlier to work out the problem. We let these, shall we call it the liberation alliance or the socialize alliance or whatever you want to call it, we let them sort it out amongst themselves. In the meantime what had happened is that the only way to stop this military adventure was for the UN to authorize the South Africans to go after SWAPO, which is what they did. There was a military response as well as a political response. That sorted things out, and within months SWAPO was behaving itself and was back inside the country in a non-military fashion, and working effectively within the terms of the agreement. Of course that led to the constitutional process. Then came their first election, which, not surprising to anybody, SWAPO won and they're now the government of Namibia. That wasn't a surprise either, but they did not come in through the barrel of a gun, which was the key optical point.
Q: Is that an example of not allowing too much slack for the parties?
A: I think it is an example, yeah.One of the things we designed, intentionally, but it was sort of by learning on the job, was that as soon as there was a settlement there should be a joint commission set up amongst the signatory parties with the observer parties participating. That would meet every month for the duration of the agreement, and the agreement had about a 30-month calendar for implementation. I think that's something that has wide applicability in other cases. I think it should be systematically used so that the signing parties have a forum.
Q: So if I understand you, you've got at least three lessons that you might suggest to Track I people, which are: teaching the parties how to listen to each other, not allowing too much slack when the implementation of an agreement seems to go awry, and the third is to channel into as much deep communication lines as possible to the decision makers of the parties around the table. I think that is related to the idea of knowing the substance of the conflict, like your example of the Norwegians being experts in the substance.
Q: Is there anything else that you would recommend to Track I diplomats in situations of conflict?
A: Don't expect to get rich and famous. This is work for people who really are interested in substance. It is work for people who are genuinely interested in what they're doing to the point of being able to make kind of a sustained commitment to it, there are lots of examples of people like that. It isn't something which you can sort of fit into an existing portfolio of other responsibilities for a two-year assignment, and just say, "Okay, and after this I'm going to move on and become DCM in Kuala Lampur," or something. That's not the way it works. I think you have to sort of think of staying power, and some people are really cut out for that more than others.
Q: What advice would you give Track II folks on dealing with Track I?
A: Well, I think the main lesson or the main realization is to know your niche, and to be clear about your niche. There are many different kinds of Track II initiatives and Track II institutions, so there's not just one niche. There's probably quite a few, and some Track II organizations operate at the decision-making level amongst warring parties. That's the kind of thing that Jimmy Carter often has taken initiatives of that kind, and he's not the only example. Others are more focused on, for example, a conflict resolution workshop, interactive type procedures, which may be at the elite level, but not the decision making level. They are dealing with the influential maybe more than the actual decision makers. That's a different niche, and of course there are many kinds of grassroots, bottom-up type Track II initiatives, with lots of different niches there. I doubt if anything that one could say what applied to all those different sorts of institutions. When I say, know your niche, I'm really saying know your limits. Understand your strengths and understand your weaknesses. Understand what you can do and what you cannot do.
To me, the example of San Hajezio's ??? tradecraft in Mozambique is an interesting example in that respect because they knew what they could do and what they couldn't do. They helped to stitch together a fabric of communication between Renamo and Philimo that would never have been possible by a government. What they could not do was establish a military agreement that would lead to a UN peacekeeping force coming in between the government and rebels. There is an element of humility there that was important. A second bit advise for Track II is that letting a hundred flowers bloom may seem like a nice open flat hierarchy kind of situation that we are familiar with in our society, may be nice, may be congenial to let a hundred flowers bloom. If you let a hundred flowers bloom in Nepal what you are going to get is a lot of crushed flowers. You need some coherence. That implies making sure that there is a role for you that is not being played by someone else, or being willing to join teams, which is hard. I don't think that NGOs like to be coordinated by anybody.
Q: Certainly they don't.
A: That is an issue, and it is an issue because in fact what you are doing is exporting your own confusion to the warring society unless somebody figures this out. I think there have been cases of that when we have seen just an awful lot of spontaneous complexity introduced into war torn countries. People don't know how to make coherence out of it. Without coherence you don't get focus, and without focus you don't get decisions. It is not just about building bridges to nice people in war torn countries, it is about getting them to move.
Q: What do you think that Track II folks should know about Track I?
A: They need to know that Track I is composed of all sorts of actors from the most short term minded people, bureaucrats, to people of genuine commitment that might share some of the idealism that Track I people might think that they have a monopoly. I think they need to look very carefully at Track I individuals and do their homework on who is Track I, and who is this person who is engaging in this effort. That is one kind of lesson. Another might be that there are ways to work together to maybe have an open mind about that and not assume that you are going to be co-opted or whatever. Those are just a few further points.
Q: So Track I is not a monolith in any given conflict?
A: I think that we haven't talked enough about the differences in Track I, because Track I might be the UN. What is the UN? It is an empty vessel, it is a shell that consists of a mandate that may come from the secretary general or may come from the temporary coalition of members of the secretary council. What is Track I? Track I is one thing in Cyprus where you have had Alvro Desoto speaking for the secretary general, and Avro Desoto is a first class Track I type negotiator working for an international organization. Sometimes what comes out of the UN is kind of a special representative who has basically got a license to buy air tickets and he moves around, talks to people, and then sends reports back home. He doesn't really get much of anything done, or doesn't have the means to get anything done. There are lots of different types of actors here.