Courtesy Reuters

The Complexities of Negotiation

As the war in Viet Nam grows in bitterness and destructiveness, the call for negotiation grows more insistent. The issue we confront, however, is not simply whether a settlement of the war should be negotiated. The question rather is a threefold one. How should we go about it? What can we expect from it? Can we arrange a settlement that has a fair chance of success? During the next several months, the American people, already emotionally tortured and intellectually frustrated by the war, are destined to be treated to large doses of oratory which will do nothing to lift the veil of confusion surrounding the question of negotiations. It may be worthwhile, then, to explore some of the issues and implications that we (and our allies and our adversaries) will have to deal with if, in fact, negotiations get under way.

At the outset we need to examine several critical preliminary factors which seem obvious when discussed in the abstract, but which become increasingly befogged as we get down to actual cases. There is, first of all, the assumption, made explicitly by some and implicitly by others, that negotiations - settlement. This assumption is not without some validity; once the negotiating process starts, the pressure of domestic opinion in the countries actively involved, and of international opinion generally, may force both sides to move toward an agreement. However, we should recognize that public pressure, whether domestic or external, will operate with more intensity and with more effectiveness on our side of the table than on theirs-and this will not necessarily result in a "better," or a more lasting, final settlement. Moreover, those counting on domestic pressures to force the United States to water down its terms in order to reach an early agreement would do well to look at the recent swing of American public opinion in the direction of a "hard" rather than a "soft" line; the pressure of the present mood of public opinion on American negotiators might result

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