The Foolishness of Absolute Positions

Maniakes at Dean’s World has an excellent explanation of why the extreme, absolute positions on negotiations being articulated by Sens. McCain and Obama are both foolishness:

Walking away from the negotiating table or refusing to sit down at the table in the first place is a well-known negotiation tactic. It’s a very aggressive tactic. Sometimes it’s appropriate, and sometimes it isn’t. It often makes sense when you suspect there isn’t any real middle ground to negotiate over (and thus talking is a waste of time), when the other side’s opening position is completely unreasonable and you want to call his bluff, when you have a very strong position which you want to exploit, and when you need to bluff that you have a very strong position. Whether it’s appropriate is a judgement call which needs to be made on a case-by-case basis.

A stated policy that you will sit down and talk with everyone without preconditions is foolishness, as you’re unilaterally renouncing a valuable negotiation tool. Likewise, categorical statements against negotiating with our enemies (or the enemies of our allies) are also foolishness because they tie our hands unnecessarily if we follow through and they diminish our credibility if we don’t.

Read the rest.

It outlines pretty well why I think the current rhetorical positions are fatuous and counterproductive. In particular I think that renouncing negotiating tools in advance of negotiations is lunatic but it’s become something of a specialty of ours lately.

Look at the evidence. We are already negotiating with the Iranians, we have been for some time, and in all likelihood will continue to do so regardless of whom is elected president. I think more would be better but I think that reasonable people can differ on this. But pretending it isn’t so doesn’t cover anyone in glory.

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