Friday, July 17, 2015

How Not to Negotiate

How badly do you want it? If you really wanted it, you would have gotten it. If you didn’t get it, that can only mean that you did not want it badly enough.

Our culture, such as it is, teaches these principles and precepts. It tells us that we need to know what we really, really want. Then, success will naturally follow. It’s not quite the same thing as what used to be called “the secret,” that is, imagining yourself successful will make you successful. Those who sold “the secret” even claimed that if you imagine that there will be an empty parking space, then there will be an empty parking space. It suggested that your mind can command reality. One imagines that it was all a test to see how gullible you are.

In the meantime, the alternative to wanting things very badly is working very hard to get them. Some will say that if you want it badly enough you will work hard to get it. Others will note that if your desire is the most important you might well convince yourself that you do not need to work as hard.

I suspect that the fact that we use the phrase—wanting something badly— is the way language tries to tell us something. We might say that we want something good, but when we are consumed by desire we say that we want something badly… though not necessarily that we want something bad to happen.

Anyway, Peggy Noonan made a very good point this morning, point about our president, the hapless negotiator. It has often been noted—on this blog and elsewhere—that President Obama is one of the world’s worst negotiators. From the failed negotiation with Iraq over the Status of Forces Agreement to his failure to negotiate with Congressional Republicans on just about anything to his gross mismanagement of relations with our allies around the world, and culminating in the deal he just negotiated with Iran, Obama has set a very bad example.

When people do not know how to negotiate, they sometimes prefer confrontation and drama. At other times, they simply capitulate. None of it looks like the exercise of cool reason.

Noonan argued that the Obama negotiates badly because his negotiating partners know that he wants the deal… too much. If you want the deal too badly, your adversary will take advantage of you. If you want the deal too badly you will be acting like you are negotiating the terms of a surrender.

First, she refers to the new deal with Iran, but then she expands her thought:

There will be plenty of serious criticism of the deal, accompanied by a generalized sense that the U.S. probably got taken—because Mr. Obama always wants it too much. As with the opening to Cuba, Mr. Obama put his face on it too early, put his name on it too hard, talked about it too much in public, let his aides give background interviews saying this is a crucial effort, a historic gambit, part of the president’s visionary legacy. The adversary sees this, the need and the want—they watch the news too!—and proceeds accordingly.

When negotiating with America’s adversaries Obama tends to project weakness. But, no one wants to look like a coward. Thus, Obama tries to balance and disguise his weakness by going to the opposite extreme: becoming a bully. He reserves that form of recalcitrance for his Republican adversaries… which used to be called the loyal opposition.

It’s not as though Obama is treating America’s enemies as friends. He is treating them as winners, as people who have won their war against America-- perhaps because, not being capitalists, they occupy the moral high ground. But, Obama is also treating Republicans as enemies. They occupy the moral low ground and thus must be crushed, mercilessly.

Noonan explains:

Mr. Obama is an odd one in that when there are rivals close by, in Congress for instance, with whom he could negotiate deals, he disses them in public, attacks their motives, yanks them around with executive orders, crushes them when possible. But when negotiating with actual tyrants he signals deference, hunger. I leave it to others to explain what it means when a man is bullying toward essentially good people and supplicating toward bad ones. But the sense is he always wants it too much and is consequently a poor negotiator, and this will have some impact on U.S. and world reaction.

How to explain what it means? Obviously, it means that Obama does not know how to negotiate. Also, it suggests that Obama does not see himself as America’s president. He does not see America’s enemies as enemies because he does not see them as his personal enemies.

He sees Republicans and people who criticize or question him as his true enemies. Being terribly thin-skinned, lacking in confidence or backbone, he strikes out against his political opponents. He does not care that they are loyal Americans, but only that they are his personal enemies.

One might also say that his actions derive from his view of the world and of world history. Obama is at war with the American right because he believes it to be the enemy of everything he considers good in the world. He does not see America’s enemies as hating people like him. They only hate Republicans. Being as the Republicans are the root of all evil, they must be bullied and defeated. At that point, America’s enemies will become America’s friends.


Sam L. said...

Seems to me you have summed him up as he is. I await Ares' disagreement.

Anonymous said...

So President Bush must have been a very poor negotiator since he resorted to confrontation by invading Iraq and subsequently failed to negotiate a long term status of forces agreement.

Larry Sheldon said...

I think you have it all wrong. I think he got exactly what he wanted.

Anonymous said...

I suspect you mean Bush did not want to negotiate with the deposed regime in Iraq. However his administration established the new government. If Bush wanted a long term status of forces agreement he should have secured it as a good negotiator. Since he failed to secure that status of forces agreement he should also be judged a bad negotiator according to the logic applied above.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Anonymous, therefore you are saying Bush sucked as a negotiator. Yes?

Anonymous said...

Logical assertions applied with obvious political bias are not valid expressions of applied logic.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Anonymous @July 19, 2015 at 10:29 AM:

Being a good negotiator -- at least in terms of the outcome you stated: a status of forces agreement -- is in some way dependent on the interests and intentions of those you negotiate with, is it not? I don't know how that's indicative of political bias. Bush did not secure a long-term status of forces agreement, nor did Obama. This is fact.

If I was to be political, I would say the consequences of not securing such an agreement have been disastrous for the people of Iraq, its neighboring countries, and the United States. Politics is determined by the choices one makes in seeking and using power. Bush's was aggressive in invading, Obama's was passive in never effectively seeking a status of forces agreement, choosing to abandon the American position in Iraq rather than carry on in that part of the region. After all, he characterized Afghanistan as the "good war," implying that the other was not. That was his choice.

Whatever the case, I'm not sure why logical assertions are not applied assertions by virtue of an adjective you've selected in characterizing the expression and application. Your declaring my assertion "not valid" is most curious.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

President Obama seems to have contempt for America.

As I have said many times before, I do not believe he has learned anything since college. As I have also said before, he does not seem to have an American understanding, bearing, nor outlook on the world.

One could say he is sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Fair enough. But he could have done lots of other things in his life besides being President of the United States. So there's something more to it than that.

Washington observers have noted Obama is very mindful of his image, sometimes obsessive about it. So he's calculating, intentional, and aloof... some might say "cool." Fine. He’s intentional and calculating. It would hardly be the first time we’ve seen that with a politician.

But he reserves his worst moments for his fellow countrymen. Our enemies have benefited from his presidency far more than our friends. And we're not even talking about imagined enemies... these are clear enemies. He's been tougher with Putin, but that's because Putin has been aggressively disdainful of him, and in very personal ways during personal encounters. But the idea that we just struck a nuclear deal with Iran with few concessions from the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world is... baffling.

When one is baffled, it is wise to check our premises.

The premise is that he is president, and therefore has an interest in the country's welfare and interests. But he offered no real vision in 2012, content to savage his opponent in the most personal ways, attacking his motives... while offering precious little on his vision or positions. He spoke in soaring platitudes in 2008. Most of the country gave him an honest chance, save Rush Limbaugh and the far right. I think everyone wanted him to succeed. Now I sense there are a lot of people who cannot wait for him to leave. And he's not done yet... not by a long shot.

The actions he will take in the next 18 months will be dizzying, and will leave most people -- including those of his own party -- in great consternation, looking for cover. We refuse to see him for what he is: Barack Obama is a Leftist. He has contempt for America and its history. He seeks to transform the nation, and doesn't give a whit about limitations imposed by some document composed by slaveholding elites back in 1789.

This may sound like a stinging indictment, but I think we have to say what's really going on. Our president is not an American in the traditional sense we all recognize and would accept. No one thought FDR was un-American. Carter was a hapless Christian who applied his religious purposes to his foreign policy with disastrous results. Bill Clinton had demons (and still does), but I had no doubt he had an American core. I believe Hillary wrong on a lot of things, but I don't doubt her patriotism.

I do doubt Obama's patriotism. He seems foreign, detached, other-worldly, seeking utopian outcomes for a "brighter" future that will bankrupt us and destroy individual opportunity for citizens. I find the same things of many of his cabinet members and key subordinates. Samantha Power as U.N. ambassador would be a joke if it weren't true. But I don't sense Obama is looking out for our nation's interests, and too blinded by ideology to see that he's not really serving his own long-term interests, nor his family's. He'll forever be the darling of those who connect with his ideology, but I suspect that will be all.

We have a long way to go in the Obama presidency. The nation will survive, but the American spirit will take a huge hit. And that’s something I think he’s deaf to.

Anonymous said...

I could easily argue that President Bush is a bad negotiator using the same logic Stewart applies to play Monday Morning Quarterback while criticizing President Obama. I am questioning the "applied logic" of the original post merely to point out that the partisan bias is obvious and invalidates the supposed "logic."

Your opinion of Obama and what's really happening is foreign to my opinion of Obama and what I see happening. But I don't mistake my judgments of the world for reality. I just realize stuff happens and I form judgments which are often similar to and often different from the expressed judgments of others.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I have occasionally reported judgments of those who consider Obama an especially bad negotiator. The Iran deal was a perfect example. As for the Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq objective journalists like Michael Gordon of the NY Times and Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker have affirmed that Obama botched the negotiations. The view is widely held by those who know anything.

Anonymous said...

Others have criticized Bush for invading a country on a pretext and for not securing a long term status of forces agreement when he had the chance to do so.