Conflict With Iraq: What Role For Negotiation?

Event Date: Thursday December 5, 2002
Time: 6:30 P.M.
Location: Langdell South, Harvard Law School

Video Archive of this Event
Conflict with Iraq
RealPlayer Recommended (download here)

Roger Fisher
Samuel Williston Professor of Law Emeritus
Harvard Law School

Robert Mnookin
Samuel Williston Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

Michael Watkins
Associate Professor of Business Administration
Harvard Business School

Brian Mandell
Lecturer in Public Policy
Kennedy School of Government

On November 20th, 2002, as President Bush spoke at a NATO meeting in Prague about the disarmament of Iraq, a panel of distinguished conflict management professors gathered at Harvard Law School to discuss the role of negotiation and peacemaking in this emerging international conflict. The panel, composed of professors Roger Fisher, Robert Mnookin and Michael Watkins, and moderated by Brian Mandell, sought to explore the role negotiation analysts might play in contributing to the resolution of the conflict in Iraq.

The panelists represented a diversity of perspectives, addressing both the negotiation techniques that had thus far been employed by the United States government and other actors, and the prospects for the continuing role of dialogue and negotiation.

Professor Fisher spoke of the possibility of pursuing dialogue between lower to medium level officials in the United States and Iraq, emphasizing the importance of allowing openness for the exchange of ideas and information. “Certainly talking makes it politically easier for Iraq to accept ‘what was worked out at the meeting,'” Fisher commented, “rather than to back down to a unilateral ultimatum from the President of the United States… There’s no face-saving involved in giving in to an ultimatum.”

Emphasizing the perspective that Saddam Hussein had already sufficiently demonstrated his interests and motivations, Professor Mnookin argued that there are some instances in which continuing discussion is unlikely to reveal new solutions. Instead, Mnookin argued that President George W. Bush, like his father, had made an astute calculation: “‘By supporting me,” Mnookin summarized Bush’s position, “…you can help make my threat more credible, and this offers the best hope for a peaceful resolution.'”

Professor Watkins focused on the need to pursue a multilateral approach to United States foreign policy and stressed alternatives to war, such as continued United Nations weapons inspections. Watkins punctuated his remarks with a reflection on the broader consequences of the debates that had arisen over the past several months. Recognizing that perhaps the time for negotiation in Iraq had nearly run out, he emphasized that “…the most interesting negotiation has and will continue to go on elsewhere. It will continue to go on within the United States, it will continue to go on within the Security Council, it will continue to go on within the regions of the Middle East — and more broadly in the world — about whether we are going down a productive path or not.”

The Program on Negotiation has been actively involved in promoting discussion and reflection on the war in Iraq. Related events include a showing of Three Kings, a film addressing issues of the first Gulf War, and a panel discussion on post-war Iraq.

Free admission, pizza And drinks.


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