Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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President Obama yesterday succeeded in getting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas to meet in the same room in New York. The President said “Simply put, it is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations, and time to move forward.” (quoted in the Los Angeles Times) According to a Netanyahu aide quoted in the New York Times, the meeting was to take place “without preconditions, as the Prime Minister has always wanted.” This is obviously a reference to the Palestinian insistence on a settlement freeze prior to any serious negotiations. But the Israelis have also set preconditions to various meetings in the past, and Israel and the United States still will not negotiate with Hamas unless Hamas […]

It seems appropriate to follow up on my earlier post about the factors that create impasse (as applied to California budget negotiations), with a post on what finally broke the impasse. In other words, why did the Democrats cave in to the Republican demand that taxes not be increased? Some political analysts attribute that result to the Democrats simply being more “wimpy” than the Republicans. Because Democrats seem perpetually less organized and more prone to infighting, because they seem to have more difficulty getting a coherent message across, or because they just lack backbone, the thinking goes, they are always getting rolled. I’m sure there is something to this kind of personality analysis of the parties, but I’m not sure […]

Often parties to a negotiation will make a certain amount of progress, then get stalled. Each side may have made what they feel are reasonable compromises in their positions, but have arrived at a point that is still distant from the other side’s position. Mediators use various techniques to bridge this gap, which may be as simple as calling a break, or may require getting the parties to consider a mediator’s proposal. I see it as a process of getting both sides to cross a line they did not want to cross before the mediation, and often the way to make them do that is to make them understand that the other side is making a similar leap of faith. […]

Paul Krugman says that President Obama messed up on health care big time at his press conference on Tuesday. Supposedly the President did that by undercutting his eloquent pitch for a so-called “public option” by refusing to state that a public option was a non-negotiable feature of his health care reform proposal. The exact quote is as follows: “We have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured.” According to Paul Krugman, President Obama is making a mistake by negotiating with himself, and thereby giving away more than he needs to. Krugman displays a common view of […]

As he has done since the beginning of his campaign, Barack Obama likes to talk about a new kind of politics in which people sit at the same table and talk to one another instead of shaking their fists at one another. Here he is this week bragging about bringing together different players in both the energy debate and the health care debate. If these initiatives bear fruit, do they herald a new dominant mode of problem-solving? Does President Obama reject the whole idea of dialectics that has been so influential in political philosophy, in favor of more positively-reinforcing ways of achieving change? Can he really get the political system to work in this new way? The rise of mediation […]