Track I/II and the Ivory Coast

Chester Crocker

Georgetown University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: 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.