Announcing policy paper on counterterrorism policy by Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First, and ... me!
(Update, Thursday, March 7, 2006: Welcome Opinio Juris readers, and my thanks to Peter Spiro there for calling attention to Elisa's and my piece!)
The Stanley Foundation, headquartered in Muscatine, Iowa, has an ambitious and exciting foreign policy project in the run-up to the 2008 elections. Called "Bridging the Foreign Policy Divide," it brings together pairs of experts across the center left, center right divide to write a joint paper exploring both common ground and differences on important foreign policy topics. David Shorr, a long time human rights and foreign policy expert and advocate in DC, now with the Stanley Foundation in Iowa, coordinates the program. It has many outstanding participants - Mark Lagon and David Shorr on the UN; Gary Schmitt and Michael Schiffer on China; Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan on America and the Use of Force; Michael O'Hanlon and Frederick Kagan on Iraq and US military strength - you can see the full list at the Stanley Foundation website. The project is just starting to release the published reports - starting with Lagon and Shorr on the UN - and they can be accessed here. The series is edited by Derek Chollett of CSIS, Tod Lindberg of Hoover and editor of Policy Review, and David Shorr of the Stanley Foundation; they also writing in the series.
Elisa Massimino, long time Washington director of Human Rights First - the leading civil liberties/human rights advocacy organization on the US war on terror - and I were asked if we would write a paper together on issues related to the war on terror. The idea, once again, is to pair a centrist conservative with a centrist progressive (Elisa, can I call you a "centrist progressive"?) to see what common ground - without ignoring the differences - we could work out. I found this to be one of the most enjoyable collaborations in writing I've ever had - almost entirely due to Elisa being such a wonderful person. She never hesitates to state her view plainly, without pulling punches, so you always know where she's coming from, but at the same time is utterly reasonable about everything and is always willing to try and see the other side and try to find the common ground. I can see why her reputation as a human rights advocate is so high here in DC. She's also a great writer and editor, knows all of these issues like the alphabet - this article was a great pleasure to produce.
It's also hard, of course, if you are in Elisa's institutional position - I'm just an academic and can say anything I like, but if you are a leading institutional advocate, then you have to think very carefully about how an attempt to build common ground, find compromises that you might not have advocated on your own, will go over with your own human rights community. It took some guts for Elisa to sign off on this project in a way that is simply not an issue if you are, like me, a free agent academic. But one of the great things about this project is that working closely with someone as experienced, informed, and smart as Elisa really did cause me to rethink my positions - I changed my mind on some important things, not on some others, but I have a far better understanding of the complicated arguments on all sides, and that's thanks to Elisa's patient discussions.
Anyway, our paper, The Cost of Confusion: Resolving Ambiguities in Detainee Treatment, is being released next week. We're having a small dinner to launch it Tuesday night, and then a larger lunch event in DC on Friday. It is not long - deliberately held down to 6 or 7,000 words, and we've tried to avoid swamping the piece with legal technicalities. But we think it's a pretty good policy statement of where a new administration ought to go. I will be writing more on this myself down the road, and I'm sure Elisa will be as well, and this joint project has underpinned my thinking about these issues. The paper can be downloaded from the Stanley Foundation, but I've also posted it to SSRN, here.