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Negotiating from Strength
Paul Corrigan

When not working on this column or enjoying my family, I negotiate for a living. When it comes to the philosophy of negotiating from strength, I agree with President Bush and his administration. They are correct when they say they need unencumbered authority if they are to negotiate from a position of strength. Anything less puts them in a weak negotiating stance. Does this mean that I support Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, and the other Democrats who support giving President Bush the authority to use military action against Iraq? I absolutely do not!

In the corporate model championed by George Bush and Dick Cheney, senior management reports to a board of directors, which in turn acts under a duty of care and loyalty to the corporation and its shareholders. The board represents its shareholders in the same way that Congress represents its constituents. Negotiation is a common practice within corporations. When I negotiate, the party on the other end of the negotiation wants to know that the organizations I represent have given me the authority to do their bidding. In short, the other party wants to know that a deal is a deal. The board only gives me that authority if I demonstrate that I will act responsibly with the care and loyalty entrusted to me.

I manage negotiations by objective. On the large scale, these objectives are simple: maximize value for the organization, close the transaction in a timely manner, and maintain positive relationships. Depending on the specific negotiation, each of the individual objectives may increase or decrease in importance. In every negotiation, I begin the negotiation by treating the other party in the way that I would want to be treated. I do not make idle threats and I do not make unreasonable demands. My offers always consider the strengths and weaknesses of the other party. Invariably, I offer even parties with a weak position a carrot. I do so not only to maintain the relationship, but also to avoid unnecessary conflict. Winning at any cost usually comes at too great a cost.

Given its position in the world, the United States is usually negotiating from a position of strength. Despite this advantage, the Bush administration deems it necessary to use sticks, not carrots, in negotiations with other countries and the United Nations. The administration has shown bad faith by breaking past agreements and treaties. Its propensity for taking great risk for limited upside is gambling. Bush has also broken a cardinal rule of negotiation: he has reverted to personal attacks and threats. The Bush administration does not negotiate; it attempts to impose its will.

Bush does need to huff and puff to disarm Iraq. By doing so, he and his administration betray the larger purpose in their bellicosity. Congress has acted irresponsibly by giving war powers to a commander-in-chief who has given clear signals that he may use them irresponsibly.

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