Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Wrong Way to Negotiate

All children learn the difference between right and wrong.  As they grow older they learn how to apply this distinction to more and more areas of human behavior.

Among the most sophisticated and difficult of adult social skills is negotiation. There are right and a wrong ways to negotiate, but the differences are sometimes so subtle that they are difficult to grasp.

We can study them in relation to personal behavior, but that would oblige us to present much too much personal information. Thus, I try to  show the right and wrong way to negotiate by using situations where we all have the same access to the relevant information.

Today, the Obama administration is trying to negotiate its way out of a crisis with Iran by using what it calls smart diplomacy. And it is also trying to show that it is strong, tough and resolute.

The reality is another story. Today the Wall Street Journal editorialized about the latest administration foray into the world of negotiation.

It analyzed a recent statement by Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Speaking for the administration, Dempsey stated that he thought that Israel should not attack Iran.

That is what is generally reported, but Dempsey said more, and the Journal analyzed it brilliantly:

Appearing on CNN, General Dempsey sent precisely the wrong message if the main U.S. strategic goal is convincing Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. He said the U.S. is urging Israel not to attack Iran—because Iran hasn't decided to build a bomb, because an Israeli attack probably wouldn't set back Iran by more than a couple of years, and because it would invite retaliation and be "destabilizing" throughout the Middle East.

"That's the question with which we all wrestle. And the reason we think that it's not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran," the General said, referring to a possible Iranian response to an attack. "That's been our counsel to our allies, the Israelis. And we also know or believe we know that the Iranian regime has not decided that they will embark on the capability—or the effort to weaponize their nuclear capability."

In a single sound bite, General Dempsey managed to tell the Iranians they can breathe easier because Israel's main ally is opposed to an attack on Iran, such attack isn't likely to work in any case, and the U.S. fears Iran's retaliation. It's as if General Dempsey wanted to ratify Iran's rhetoric that the regime is a fearsome global military threat

Clearly, the Obama-Clinton foreign policy team continues its amateurish ways. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the administration is pursuing a policy of appeasement.

The Journal continues to explain the right way to negotiate with Iran:

If the U.S. really wanted its diplomacy to work in lieu of force, it would say and do whatever it can to increase Iran's fear of an attack. It would say publicly that Israel must be able to protect itself and that it has the means to do so. America's top military officer in particular should say that if Iran escalates in response to an Israeli attack, the U.S. would have no choice but to intervene on behalf of its ally. The point of coercive diplomacy is to make an adversary understand that the costs of its bad behavior will be very, very high.

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