Comments: Negotiation Fables For Children And Adults

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Ed Hall, Flower Mound TX   09/09/03
Negotiation Fables
Mr. Benjamin, Pepperdine certainly should be proud! Having worked internationally most of my life I am happy to see someone else who sees "the wizard behind the curtain." Over the many months leading into the second Gulf War I found myself appalled by the focused and constant drumbeat of our own government's propaganda machine, choreographing the need for our young men and women to put there lives on the line for what I felt sincerely to be nothing more than our President's own personal agenda in Iraq. Worse even yet I found was the "with us or against us" mentality of many of our own citizens - many even the parents of the same young men and women being sent off to war. A mob scene to be sure. My question is, have we become a country of free men with free opinions protected by the constitution, or have we become like so many other countries in this world where we are expected to "preach the party line," or be crucified by our own neighbors for having an open and honest differing of opinions. You be the judge - as history sure will be our jury. Before I get further on my own soapbox, I would just like to say thank you for an excellent article. I pray there are others like you still left in our great nation to stand up for the injustices still found in this world - including as discussed the offensive occupation of ANY country against the wishes of its own citizenry by another - U.S. or foreign. Sincerely, Ed Hall

R. D. Benjamin, Portland OR     09/04/03
Response to the comment from Robert Benjamin: Thank you for your comment. You caught be on a bad or good day, depending on your point of view, where I was in the mood for a good rant. I discussed the ethics of deception in negotiation in an article I wrote, "The Constructive Uses of Deception". While there is always a gray area between an outright con job and the necessary spinning that takes place in the normal course of negotiation, I would construe the presentation of the war by the Bush Administration to the US public as the former: a destructive form of deception wherein the purpose of the scam is solely for the benefit of the Administration at the expense of the citizenry. That would be if I were to entertain the notion that it was a negotiation at all and not just a swindle. At the same time, as Arthur Leff noted in his far too often overlooked book, Swindling and Selling, there is no question but that the 'mark' in a scam, in this case the American public, has some willingness to be deceived. I am so far awed by the willingness of the public to be taken-in. In any event, to characterize the negotiation between the Administration and the public as anything but the sleaziest and worst example of negotiation, and certainly not in any sense a reasonably informed interest based negotiation process stretches credulity well beyond the breaking point. The 'Fables of Negotiation' I discussed in my article applied as much to the presentation of the War to the public as they do to how the United States most unfortunately negotiates in the World. I was amused (consternated, frustrated, embarrassed) to note from a New York Times article that in the negotiations with North Korea convened by China, that the United States is viewed as at least as big an impediment as North Korea, because they have no overall plan and continue to simply re state their demands. It remains demoralizing that the demonstrated level of sophistication of negotiation of our government is so primitive.

jeff    09/03/03
The actions outlined in Benjamin's "Fables" contain the substance of the rhotoric from Washington prior to the Iraq War. Clearly, the "fables" would not lead to an interest based negotiation between the USA and Iraq. However, if one were to look at the "fables" as a "negotiation" between the Bush Administration and the people of the US, they were effective. A majority of Americans supported the War in Iraq because they were influenced by the positions presented by the administration. Thus the interests of the Bush Administration were served.