Consider the Other Side's Choice
By Roger Fisher, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Kupfer Schneider
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Fisher, Roger, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Kupfer Schneider. "Consider the Other Side's Choice." Beyond Machiavelli: Tools for Coping with Conflict. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 1994. Pp. 52-56.
It is important to understand the decision making process of the opponent. A good technique for this can be making a table of the consequences of a decision for the other party. It can consist of two columns: "consequences if I say YES" and "consequences if I say NO" (p. 55).
The authors present such a chart for the decision on withdrawal from Kuwait for Saddam Hussein. According to this chart, the consequences of saying NO to withdrawal were much more attractive than those of saying YES. The chart appeared to be close to Hussein's view of this decision, which can be concluded from his conversation with Yevgeni Primakov, the Director of the Soviet Institute for World Economy and International Relations, in October 1990.
The choice of staying in Kuwait outweighed the choice of withdrawal because there was no reason to believe that the US would remove its forces from Saudi Arabia after Iraq left Kuwait, that UN sanctions against Iraq would be lifted after withdrawal, that Palestinian interests would be linked to withdrawal, that Iraqi access to the sea would be ensured, etc. Thus, Hussein's position on this issue becomes understandable. Knowing this, something could have been done to reduce his uncertainty about the consequences of the decision to withdrawal.