French Negotiating Behavior: Dealing with La Grande Nation

The latest in the U.S. Institute of Peace series on negotiating behavior, Charles Cogan's book takes on France, one of the most timely cases. Cogan, who spent 37 years in the CIA (including as Paris station chief) before becoming a historian at Harvard, plausibly argues that there is something particular about the way the French negotiate, due in part to their history and education. "Cartesian" logic and commitment to principles lock them into fixed positions that clash with the pragmatic Anglo-American approach. (One is reminded of the French diplomat who supposedly said that although NATO peacekeeping worked in practice, he wasn't sure it would work in theory.) Ultimately, however, it seems that the real issue with the French is a matter of what they want more than a matter of how they go about pursuing it. As Cogan demonstrates in this erudite and wide-ranging study, France's enduring desire to have a major role in world affairs and its persistent opposition to U.S. hegemony better explain its diplomatic positions than does any particular approach to negotiation. As one French ambassador admitted to him, France is pursuing "interests clothed in reason."

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