The Debt Ceiling Negotiatons From This Mediator’s Perspective — Part II

Many have wondered aloud how a mediator would work with the parties to the debt ceiling negotiations. Last time, I wrote about how the Speaker of the House lacked “authority” in his negotiations with the President. That’s just one of the hurdles that we have seen in attempts to resolve the debt ceiling dispute  — and one that a mediator would be hard pressed to fix.

Another, equally important, obstacle has been the division within one “side” of the bargaining table. As we have heard repeatedly, some House Republicans aren’t that interested in reaching an agreement. It’s hard to engage in conflict resolution with folks who don’t want a resolution.

Apparently some of them believe that a failure to reach an agreement won’t be as bad as others on their side believe and publicly state.  From a conflict resolution perspective, they have defined their WATNA, the Worst Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, quite differently from the Republican leaders.  Consequently, they measure any proposed negotiated agreement against a less terrible alternative.  The better your WATNA (or even the less awful that it is), the less important it is to you to reach a resolution to the dispute. I doubt that a mediator, no matter how skilled, could change their view of their WATNA.

Posted in Conflict Resolution in the News, Sunday, July 31st, 2011

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