Archive for the ‘war’ Category

Culture of War

May 19, 2009

War, Fight Continues, Battle Rages On, Fight to the Finish, “A” & “B” Continue Attacks

Sure, I could be talking about actual war between two armies but all too often these headlines refer to anything but actual armed conflict. It’s between politicians, feuding corporations, neighborhood organizations, civic groups and businesses. And it’s not just the papers, but the people themselves use the same language.

Why is it so? Is it a part of our culture to refer many of our interactions as some sort of violent confrontation? Do we always need an enemy?

Keeping all of this in mind is important when preparing clients for mediation. It is also important if you are the mediator as you might have two parties entering the mediation thinking it is another ‘battle’ to be fought.

In preparation, it is key to let the parties know that this is not a battle, but in fact the only way for the mediation to be successful is if both are willing to work together. Butting heads, and win at all costs is for another time and place, not in the mediation room!

I must also realize just because I know this, the other parties might not be able to handle, or absorb all of this at once. Plus, certain situations like community mediation and court based mediation there is no time for you to prepare the parties. A mediator does not find out about the case until the moment the parties are walking towards you. You basically have your brief introduction to explain the joys of collaboration and that is if they are even listening to you.

This is why it is important to include certain statements in your opening remarks. Hopefully, your opening statement will help set the tone of the next couple of hours, so make sure it is fine tuned.

We have no control of the ominpresent references of war in the media, but what we do have control over doing is our best to prepare the parties to work together, and then making sure we promote that concept in the negotiation or mediation.

African President Assassinated

March 2, 2009

African President Assassinated

In a set back to peace and stability not only in the tiny West African nation of Guinea-Bissau but to the continent as a whole, President Joao Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in his palace hours after a bomb blast killed his rival.

Currently it is unknown who is in charge of the nation. The United Nations and the African Union have yet to make a comment or response.

Note this is breaking news, so the links and stories provided below might not be as accurate when reading (updated 0800, New York City, USA time).

AP BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau – Renegade soldiers assassinated the president of Guinea-Bissau in his palace Monday, hours after a bomb blast killed his rival, but the military said that no coup was in progress in the fragile West African nation.
The military statement broadcast on state radio attributed President Joao Bernardo Vieira’s death to an “isolated” group of unidentified soldiers whom the military said it was now hunting down.

Full Story [here]

A brief history of the problems in Guinea-Bissau [here]

The International Herald Tribune’s article is [here]

“Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese colony in West Africa that is known as a transit point for South American cocaine shipments bound for Europe.”

Background information on Guinea-Bissau from the Guardian [here]

The tiny west African state of Guinea-Bissau won its independence from Portugal in 1974 after a guerrilla liberation campaign that was led by the charismatic Amilcar Cabral and supported by Cuba.
With a population of 1.6 million, it has had a post-colonial history of coups and military unrest, and now has a reputation as a staging post for Latin American cocaine shipments to Europe.

Is Civil War Better than Negotiation?

March 1, 2009

Is Civil War Better Than Negotiating?
Read the article [here]

“For history demonstrates that civil wars, particularly ethnic civil wars, end more durably when there is a decisive military victory.”

A nice sensational style way to start today’s blog, eh? Well, this quote is from the International Herald Tribune’s Bennett Ramberg. His piece is titled “Fight to the End” and it refers to how over history, in civil wars, actual fighting which results in one side clearly defeating the other is more sustaining that negotiating a truce.

Mr. Ramberg adds that the alternative to actual violence and fighting- “negotiated power sharing, ethnic autonomy or federalism – generally offer more hope than stability, as former combatants eventually become disenchanted with the new order and return to the gun.”

That is an interesting statement that grabbed my interest, but unfortunately the example then given I feel falls a bit flat since he then refers to a civil war from almost 200 years ago- our own American Civil War! Other examples are added, including Tibet and Chechnya. By the way, not to create an entirely seperate discussion but what happend in Tibet over 50 years ago I would not call a Civil War but more of an invasion.

For those of you who are statistical junkies, this one’s for you, “Statistical analysis of the dozens of civil wars between 1945 and 2004 shows that 77 percent ended in a decisive victory by one side, while 23 percent ended in negotiated accords. Four fifths of the decisive victories held; two-thirds of the negotiated agreements failed.”

Finally, the article concludes with a message to President Obama (doesn’t it seem like each day more and more people are offering their advice to the President in articles?), “The Obama administration should heed the lessons of history. In civil war, as in all war, events on the ground dictate outcomes – including opportunities for effective international mediation. Wishing that it were otherwise will not make it happen.”

I am a bit confused in the statement “events on the ground dictate outcomes”. Yes, events on the ground can dictate outcomes however the street does not flow only one way here, but rather in both directions. Negotiation/mediation can also determine the events on the ground in that a successful mediation could stop any ground events.

Additionally, allowing negotiation to take place many times in fact stops any ground events as a condition for the mediation to even begin. Admittedly many times it is agreed to be done on temporarily basis, but that in itself can be viewed as a success as that agreement, albeit done on a temporary basis, is a start to the foundation of accumulating yes’s.

What I mean by yes’s is that as the mediator, you want to get people to say yes more than no. It helps break down barriers and adds to an environment of collaboration- not confrontation (that’s what war is for, right?). Collaboration promotes the idea and vision of working together, not the “us” versus “them” mentality that can lead the parties back to the battle fields.

A core point I offer to the writer and readers of the article is that the whole idea of negotiation is to get away from the very idea of what the title says, “Fight to the End”. A mediator wants to remove the very idea that the mediation is an extension of the battlefield.

Negotiation might take longer, but is well worth the effort when looking for a ‘everyone lives and wins’ result in mediation compared to ‘we win, you die and lose’ in war, right?