The Corner

Risk Management

A reader — I’m going to hazard a guess he’s recently been laid off from a financial-services job, with a lot of time on his hands to ponder stuff like this — has a quant’s solution to the Guantánamo problem.

Derb — The problem with releasing these Guantánamo detainees is that no one really knows for sure whether any one of them is a really bad guy, a sort of bad guy or just a fellow who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore, a particular detainee’s country of origin doesn’t want him, the USA doesn’t want him and no third party country wants him.

What to do? Well, although the criminal risk of any one Guantánamo detainee is unquantifiable, thanks to the law of large numbers a whole bunch of detainees rolled together into a group will have an average criminal risk that will be easier to estimate and manage. So instead of looking for a home for any one detainee on a case-by-case basis, we should be trying to find a home for packaged groups of detainees. There will be some better and some worse guys in each group but the outliers will average out.

These packaged groups could even be sliced up into “tranches” with the more sketchy characters sprinkled more heavily into some of the lower tranches. That way a lower risk tolerant sovereign nation (in Western Europe perhaps) can have a higher comfort level in what they’re taking on in the name of global justice and take down the top tranche. And a country that is less risk adverse (maybe one of the ‘Stans or an African nation) might be willing to take the lower tranches in exchange for a higher maintenance fee paid by the US Government. Since Barack Obama has a tremendous amount of goodwill with the international community, who all seem to share his view that the Guantánamo detainees aren’t as dangerous or risky as they were originally cracked up to be, I think the highest tranches of these group detainee packages could receive the equivalent of a tripple-A rating from the UN.

What a great idea! Can we get Legal working out suitable language for the event-of-default provisions?

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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