Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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The new Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies, based on the true story of the prisoner exchange for captured U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, shows an attorney living up to the highest standards of advocacy as well as negotiating ability. The movie’s lawyer-hero, James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) is first seen as a typical insurance company lawyer making clever legal arguments about whether an accident involving five motorcyclists should be considered a single “incident.” Even when doing that, however, Donovan is able to impress by tying those arguments to a higher purpose. When Donovan is asked to defend accused Russian spy Rudolf Abel, he takes his ethical responsibilities, and his devotion to the Constitution and to his client’s interests, […]

President Obama’s statement announcing the framework agreement reached with Iran this week outlined the three options the world has for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. First, we can reach a robust and verifiable deal — like this one — and peacefully prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The second option is we can bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, thereby starting another war in the Middle East, and setting back Iran’s program by a few years — in other words, setting it back by a fraction of the time that this deal will set it back.  Meanwhile we’d ensure that Iran would race ahead to try and build a bomb. Third, we could pull out of negotiations, try to get […]

President Obama’s speech to the United Nations this week is worth reading to study the evolution of the president’s foreign policy views in response to new and continuing conflicts around the world. With respect to such crises as Russian aggression toward Ukraine, preventing a nuclear Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the president reiterated his belief in finding cooperative, negotiated solutions: This speaks to a central question of our global age: whether we will solve our problems together, in a spirit of mutual interests and mutual respect, or whether we descend into destructive rivalries of the past. When nations find common ground, not simply based on power, but on principle, then we can make enormous progress. And I stand before you […]

Conflicts that have recently erupted into violence in Gaza and in Ukraine raise the question of how to end the killing and lead the parties back to a less destructive process. President Obama yesterday, in his press conference following the tragic downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over the Ukraine, attempted to respond forcefully without further inflaming the situation. The president was careful not to jump to any more conclusions than are warranted by what we know so far. He was firm in condemning the responsible parties, yet careful to emphasize the goal of de-escalating tensions and violence so as to prevent further loss of life. In short, it was just the sort of speech that was bound to infuriate hawks […]

Last night I had a chance to hear Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd discussing their new book A Sliver of Light, which recounts their two year ordeal of imprisonment in Iran. You might be more familiar with them the way they were usually characterized in the press as the “three American hikers.” They prefer to be thought of as hostages rather than hikers. In actuality, they were tourists visiting the Kurdish region of Iraq. Hiking was just the activity they happened to be engaged in on the day they accidentally crossed (or were lured across) the border into Iran. Their story is compelling as a prison and survival narrative, and as a result of their experiences, they have […]