Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World's Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts. (Book Reviews)

By Colonel McCallum, James S. | Parameters, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World's Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts. (Book Reviews)


Colonel McCallum, James S., Parameters


Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World's Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts. By Michael Watkins and Susan Rosegrant. Foreword by Shimon Peres. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. 346 pages. $40.00. Reviewed by Colonel James S. McCallum, USA Ret., Professor of Peace Operations, US Army Peacekeeping Institute, Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College.

Breakthrough International Negotiation contains four case studies of complex international negotiations or interventions in the last decade: the North Korea nuclear crisis (1994); the Oslo negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians (1992-93); building and maintaining the coalition for the Persian Gulf war (1990-91); and the negotiations leading to the Dayton peace talks on ending the war in Bosnia (1995). Three of the four cases are US-centric while the fourth emphasizes the interaction-at the Oslo negotiations of Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Norway. The cases are well researched, with significant reliance on interviews with key participants in the negotiations from the US perspective and from all perspectives in the Oslo case.

The authors consider these to be significant international negotiations with high stakes in cases that proved resistant to earlier attempts at resolution. They call them breakthrough negotiations because the negotiators succeeded in overcoming the formidable barriers that had thwarted agreement previously. Lastly, these cases helped define the evolution of the international order in the 1990s as the Cold War ended. This focus on complex and difficult negotiations at the highest levels of government in a diplomatic context offers the reader an inside view of how the negotiators practiced their craft.

Two features of the book are particularly useful. First, the studies are abridged versions of cases available from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government Case Program, which, despite the breakthroughs achieved, remain part of the international landscape. The authors offer the reader an update on what has happened since the breakthrough negotiation concluded. Two dilemmas a negotiator faces in intervening in a conflict are whether to pursue narrow or broad goals and whether to focus on the short term or the long term. The updates to the cases give the reader a succinct history of the rest of the story to the end of 2000 that enriches the book's analysis of these dilemmas.

Second, the book is organized into 14 chapters that provide conceptual frameworks for analysis of each of the four cases. About half the book is used to describe the North Korean case and to develop what the authors describe as the four core tasks to achieving a breakthrough: diagnosing the structure of the negotiation; identifying the barriers to agreement; managing the conflict; and building momentum toward favorable agreements. …

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