Andrew Semmel: How to Negotiate Anything- Lessons Learned From the Capitol Leaders Program

by PSA Staff | December 8th, 2014 | |Subscribe

PSA Executive Director Dr. Andrew Semmel discusses PSA’s Harvard Negotiation Program and its potential for building bipartisanship. Article written by Rebecca Gale and published by  Roll Call.

Capitol Leaders Program

Forty House and Senate foreign affairs and national security staffers came together recently at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs to learn the necessary skills to overcome gridlock in Congress. The program was organized by the Partnership for a Secure America and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. The bridge to bipartisanship, it seems, will be built by cooperative staffers.

The bridge to bipartisanship, it seems, will be built by cooperative staffers.

But can such teamwork lessons be applied more broadly outside of a Harvard-sanctioned setting and in the halls of Congress? Yes, says Andrew Semmel, executive director of the Partnership for a Secure America. He shared his insights with Roll Call in a lightly edited Q and A.

Q: So you got 40 staffers in a room, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. How easy was it to cut through the rancor and find consensus?

A: On day one, we focused on several exercises and case studies that challenged the idea of negotiation being a zero-sum game — the “you win-I lose” calculus. Dissecting successful historic deals based on a collaborative model — including German reunification, the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and various corporate negotiations — helped establish a mindset on how to approach complex negotiations.

We believed, from the start, that most staff were tired and frustrated by congressional gridlock and low productivity and were eager to learn new skills and ways to improve the legislative process. We’re convinced, from our observations and analysis, that our initial beliefs were correct.

Q: The 40 staffers all came with foreign affairs backgrounds. Do you think foreign affairs is an issue area where partisanship is rampant? Why?

A: Foreign affairs is an area where partisanship exists, but it is not as rampant as in other policy areas. Policymakers generally have more latitude on foreign affairs than in domestic policy because voters are more disengaged on these issues.

Q: What surprised you most about the program?

A: “Active listening” was a surprisingly dominant theme over the course of the program. Humility, too, goes a long way in generating trust and strong relationships among negotiators. Case studies of the best negotiators demonstrated this time and again.

The other biggest surprise was the consistency of participation by staffers recruited for the program. We maintained a strict attendance policy, and they continued to arrive prepared and eager to engage with instructors and each other.

Q: What do you think was the greatest takeaway from the program?

A: That it is possible to create value during a negotiation so all parties can walk away with more than they thought they could achieve. The goal should be to increase the “size of the pie” first, and then negotiate dividing up the pie second.

Q: Why staffers? Do you think the partisan divide is greater at the staff level than at the member level?

A: U.S. congressional staff are more influential than in any other national legislature. Staffers are the gateway to members and help shape members’ views, priorities, and votes. To tackle gridlock and improve the culture of Congress, it is as important to work at the staff level as the member level.

The partisan divide may be less at the staff level. Staffers often live in or around D.C., enjoying more opportunities to interact across the aisle outside of the office. Fortunately, this provides fertile ground for building bipartisan relationships.

Q: How did you find staffers for the program?

A: For this program*, we recruited staffers responsible for national security and foreign policy issues in committee and personal offices — half Democrats and half Republicans, half House and half Senate.

Q. What would you recommend for staffers who want to improve their negotiation skills?

Negotiation skills are like any other skill — they improve with use. A staffer who is interested in improving his or her skills should proactively and consciously engage in negotiations wherever they occur. Remember to actively listen to understand the other party’s underlying interests behind a position, offer ideas for “expanding the pie” in a deal, and prepare, prepare, prepare with research on the issue and the other party. Help those across the table reach an agreement that works for you and them. Finally, keep in mind the words of Italian diplomat Daniele Vare, who said negotiation is “the art of letting them have your way.”

Q: Did staffers explain their reasons for partisanship? What was a common theme that emerged?

A: Staffers are as frustrated as many Americans by meaningless partisanship that yields no results. Many staff follow the lead of their members, and there is hiring selectivity that reinforces prevailing views. Compromise has become a dirty word. Staff (and members) must realize that today’s adversary can be tomorrow’s ally, and building good relations is central to success.

Q: With the wave election ushering in new staffers this January, what is the best piece of advice you would give them on how to negotiate most effectively?

A: Forging strong relationships with staffers from other offices — especially across the aisle — will be absolutely essential. Ninety percent of the work of a successful negotiator is building good rapport, credibility and trust with your counterparts within and between parties. But don’t wait until you need something to reach out to people. Establish those connections and solidify relationships even before there’s a negotiation on the horizon. Find out who the important players on your issues are — what offices, what committees — and reach out just to introduce yourself. Make an effort to meet them in person. Lunch lines, staff trips and after-hour social activities all play a part. This is very time consuming, but you will make a great impression and position yourself well to become an influential Capitol Hill staffer.

*Staffers interested in participating in a future negotiation session should contact Nathan Sermonis at sermonis@psaonline.org.

Jamie Metzl: Is Kim Jong Un More Dangerous than His Dad?

by PSA Staff | November 12th, 2014 | |Subscribe

PSA Board Director and former Clinton administration National Security Council official Jamie Metzl weighs in on the changing calculus for the North Korean leadership. For further information about Kim Jong Un, check Dr. Metzl’s CNN commentary.

North Korea’s Changing Calculus

It is no coincidence in my opinion that American detainees Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller were released by North Korea just as President Obama is arriving in Beijing for the APEC Summit. With North Korea-China relations more strained than they have been in years, the US moving towards a potential deal with Iran, the North Korean economy in shambles, and a resolution just being introduced to the UN General Assembly calling for North Korea’s leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, Kim Jong Un and his cabal are being squeezed as never before. Absolute terror remains a very effective means for North Korea’s leaders to maintain control of their population, but it’s hard to see how the status quo can be maintained for too long. It may be that North Korea sees this too, and has come to realize both that the costs of its global pariah status is increasing and that an Iran-like deal (where they negotiate over a long time and ultimately give up enough of their nuclear program to make the world happier and secure aid but not enough to limit deterrence) could be to their advantage. Don’t expect a Burma-like about face any time soon, but a lot seems to happening in North Korea and Asia more generally (including the new Xi Jinping-Vladimir Putin alliance) that will pose new challenges to America and our allies, but could also create new opportunities.

Give Diplomacy With Russia a Chance

by PSA Staff | September 14th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Jack F. Matlock Jr. was the United States ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991. Thomas R. Pickering is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors and  was the United States ambassador to Russia from 1993 to 1996, and James F. Collins from 1997 to 2001.This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

Give Diplomacy With Russia a Chance

The crisis over Ukraine has all but frozen official communication between the United States and Russia. The Russian reaction to the political upheaval in Kiev — the absorption of Crimea, and the armed intervention in eastern Ukraine — and the American responses to those actions have brought about a near-complete breakdown in normal and regular dialogue between Washington and Moscow. Relations between the two capitals have descended into attempts by each side to pressure the other, tit-for-tat actions, shrill propaganda statements, and the steady diminution of engagement between the two governments and societies.

Reports from the NATO summit meeting that ended in Newport, Wales, on Friday indicate that the United States and its allies will respond to Russia’s intervention and violence in Ukraine with an escalation of their own — including further sanctions, enhanced military presence in front-line states, and possibly greater support for Ukraine’s armed forces. This amounts to more of the same, with little if any assurance of better outcomes.

(more…)

Bordering on surreal — live images of war

by PSA Staff | July 23rd, 2014 | |Subscribe

Bordering on surreal — live images of war

Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at George Washington University and former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in the The Hill Contributor’s Blog.

A civilian aircraft is shot down over the border between Russia and Ukraine, wreckage burning on the ground. Two hundred ninety-eight innocent souls lost. In another quadrant of your screen, outgoing rockets from Gaza meet incoming missiles from Israel along the border as Israeli ground troops seek to destroy tunnels connecting the areas. Cut to the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of people are streaming across to escape life in Latin America, facing uncertain conditions. Pause before watching scenes of insurgents marching toward Baghdad. They came over porous borders with Syria.

Everywhere you look, a boundary is in dispute at a time when we supposedly live in a virtual e-everything world with no borders. The question arises — what role do borders serve? (more…)

Russia Violates International Law & Complicates International Priorities

by PSA Staff | April 29th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Gregory Gleichauf is a foreign affairs intern at Partnership for a Secure America. He currently attends James Madison University.

Russia Violates International Law & Complicates International Priorities

“I was in the middle of a phone call—I won’t tell you with whom—but with a prime minister from a country somewhere, and in the middle of it, I swear to God, the phone call got dropped twice while we were talking, so we had to reconnect and that’s why I’m late and that’s modern communications, I guess.” Even before he had gotten to the substance of his presentation, Secretary of State John Kerry had hinted at an underlying theme. On March 18, the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. State Department was filled with college students who had gathered to hear Secretary Kerry’s presentation entitled ‘Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign’ where he addressed some of the major issues facing American foreign policy today. The Secretary showed that even though the world has become more interconnected through globalizing forces, there are still countries that operate as he described as “on the wrong side of history.”

Innovations during the past century and into today have toppled barriers that inhibited greater international cooperation and connectivity among countries with mutual interests. Technology now allows for a Philadelphia corporation to talk with a partner in London in real time. With transportation advancements, a plane can leave Miami and land in Madrid just hours later. With these and other major developments, doors have opened to allow a greater and more rapid flow of culture, ideas, information and commerce that help bring the world closer together. With this increased cooperation and interdependence, enforcement of international law became a necessity to govern the workings of the world.

(more…)

How to deal with Russia without reigniting a full-fledged Cold War psychology

by PSA Staff | March 31st, 2014 | |Subscribe

George P. Shultz, a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, was secretary of state from 1982 to 1989. Sam Nunn, a former U.S. senator from Georgia and chairman of the Armed Services Committee from 1987 to 1995, is co-chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Both Nunn and Lugar serve as members of PSA’s Advisory Board. This article was originally published at the Washington Post.

How to deal with Russia without reigniting a full-fledged Cold War psychology

Russia has taken over Crimea and threatens further aggression. Now is the time to act but also to think strategically. What basic strategic approach should the United States and its allies take, and how can that approach be implemented over time so that the tactical moves benefit our long-term interests? Is it possible to avoid the reemergence of a full-fledged Cold War psychology, which is encouraged by Russia developing an “I can get away with it” mentality?

(more…)

Ghost Port

by PSA Staff | March 26th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Gary Hart served as US Senator of Colorado from 1975-1987 and is currently a member of PSA’s Advisory BoardThis article was originally published on Huffington Post Blog

Ghost Port

Twenty-five years ago or thereabouts I brought together an international consortium to build a new seaport at Novorossiysk, north of Sochi on the Russian Black Sea coast. There was already a small port at Novorossiysk on the natural Tsemes Bay (due East of Sevastapol). Needless to say, the proposed world class port never got built. But if it had, it might have changed history.

(more…)

Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

by PSA Staff | March 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe
Sam Nunn is currently a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors and is the CEO and co-chairman of NTI. He previously served as a U.S. Senator. The article was co-authored by Des Browne, Wolfgang Ischinger, Igor Ivanov, and Adam Daniel Rotfeld. The article originally appeared in NTI News

Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

On Friday, March 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in London to discuss the Ukrainian crisis. The situation that we now see in Ukraine graphically demonstrates the inadequacies of the current Euro-Atlantic security system. More than twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the states of the Euro-Atlantic region have yet to define, agree, or implement an approach to security that can ensure peace, independence, and freedom from fear of violence for all nations.

(more…)

Still No Sanity in Nuclear Budgeting

by PSA Staff | March 7th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Erica Fein is currently working with Women’s Action for New Directions as a nuclear weapons policy officer. She is an alumnus of PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. This piece originally appeared on WAND’s tumblr page. 

Still No Sanity in Nuclear Budgeting

The President’s budget release is a perfect time to think about our national priorities over the coming years: Do we want to invest in programs to keep America vibrant, well-educated, and healthy, or do we want a hollowed-out America where spending on expensive and unworkable weapons systems take precedent?

(more…)

Ukraine a Victim of Weak Western Allies

by PSA Staff | March 7th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Paula J. Dobriansky, a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, was under secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration. She is also a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article was co-authored by David Rivkin. The article was originally published in USAToday.

Ukraine Must Wish it Had Kept its Nukes

The world seems to have forgotten that Ukraine began its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 as a major nuclear power, possessing the world’s third largest nuclear force, more powerful than Chinese, British and French forces combined. That capability gave Ukraine great foreign policy leverage with Russia and other countries.

No doubt, Ukraine probably wishes that leverage was still available today to resist the aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(more…)

Next Page »

All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.