10/09/2006 02:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What This Administration Clearly Doesn't Know About Negotiation

Skillful negotiation rarely has anything at all to do with giving in, giving up, going along or being taken for a ride. Why? Because truly competent negotiators know their bottom line, --the point at which they're better off walking away, if just for a while. They think in terms of what they most want but always have in mind contingencies to circumvent loss. They estimate the potential gains of each, consider what they can give away without suffering - often things they don't need or want anyway - and then they do something George Bush arrogantly and ignorantly refuses to do - they talk.

There is a vast difference between acquiescence and skilled negotiation, which is about seeing what you can get while giving what you can afford to let go. George Bush and all the short-sighted, puffed up, barely functioning around him are oblivious to the fact that skilled negotiation more often than not results in outcomes far superior to not negotiating. In other words, it's more frequently a process of gaining than of losing. When skillfully done, there may be accommodations but not the capitulation, acquiescing, and humiliation this administration keeps erroneously and gratuitously associating with negotiation.

This is how truly skilled negotiators think about a problem. They don't try one way and leave in disgust or call the other side "evil" and walk away.


The only impasse path mastered by this administration is the coerce, threaten and overpower one.

Skilled negotiators don't walk up to opportunity, knock and walk away sputtering if the door doesn't open at their command. They think of other means of entering a dialogue because they know they can get more by talking than by walking. They know that even power is negotiable.

Until they get this in the White House and on the Hill, the world is going to be in constant peril.

Emphatically and repeatedly asserting that the U.S. will not negotiate with world leaders unless and until they first do as they're told is not only a policy of extraordinary arrogance but also one of paralyzing myopia. And that's a nice way of saying it.

As R.J. Eskow pointed out, it does indeed take brains and guts to negotiate. It isn't the weaker choice with a hostile adversary; it's the far wiser one. Somebody needs to explain this to George Bush. Someone needs to tell him to stop designating who is evil - to stop throwing stones from his glass house. And they'd better do it before he and the pompous and egocentric advisors around him take this world to the brink or over into an unimaginable war.