Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Critics who accused President Obama of leading an “apology tour” during his early foreign trips might claim some vindication from this week’s presidential visit to Israel, which culminated in a spectacular apology that took place in a trailer at the airport as the president was about to depart for Jordan. But it wasn’t President Obama who was apologizing. The president instead acted as a mediator in brokering a restoration of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey. In order for that to occur, it was necessary for Israel to apologize to Turkey for mistakes that occurred during the 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish ship trying to run the blockade of Gaza. Clearly, both Israel and Turkey will greatly benefit from […]

Getting closer to the deadline for avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the budget negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner have reached a delicate stage, with the president suggesting concessions some of his supporters are having difficulty swallowing, and the speaker threatening a “Plan B” that would circumvent the deal the two principal negotiators have been discussing. These negotiations are a little different from those that typically occur in mediation, where the negotiators (usually lawyers) are usually constrained by the clients in advance from offering anything the clients have not authorized. In this negotiation, the “clients” take the form of members of the House and Senate, an unruly bunch on both sides. The extent of the authority they have […]

My prior post on this topic attempted to refute one of President Obama’s critics from the left, Thomas Frank, who is skeptical of the value of bi-partisanship. Critics on the right seem even more strongly attached to the notion of politics as struggle, rather than as an effort to reach accommodation. According to Ramesh Ponnuru, a writer for National Review, President Obama is kidding himself if he thinks that after winning re-election, the Republican Party is likely to become more cooperative than they have acted during his first term. If Obama wins re-election, the Republican Party will react by moving right, not left. It will become less likely to compromise with Obama, not more. Ponnuru reaches this conclusion based on the likelihood that President Obama […]

Is a willingness to negotiate a sign of weakness? That seems to be the thrust of the critique of Thomas Frank, the latest prominent leftist critic of the Obama administration. Frank charges that Obama gave away too much to the right, because he stressed the importance of bi-partisanship, when he should have been fighting harder on substantive issues, such as punishing Wall Street bankers, or achieving more economic stimulus. Frank seems to think because the president placed the ideal of bi-partisanship above these other policy goals, he was forced to concede too much to the opposition. The idea is that Obama’s emphasis on bi-partisanship makes him a bad negotiator. Frank thinks that if you announce agreement with them in a cooperative way, that will make […]

Even in the course of the most hard-fought lawsuits, opportunities may arise for the parties to decide to stop fighting for a moment, and try to work out some problem or another together. Parties are encouraged to resolve discovery disputes cooperatively, for example, instead of fighting over every document request and deposition notice. Parties are also encouraged to resolve entire disputes through mediation rather than battling it out in court. To do that, we need to change the atmosphere from one of mutually assured destruction to one of cooperation. How do we do that? Think about changing the atmosphere in politics, a field of endless, irresolvable conflict and argument. In 2008, candidate Obama talked a lot about transforming political conflict, in a way that sounded familiar […]