Summary of "Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transfor"med the World's Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts

Summary of

Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World's Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts

By Michael Watkins and Susan Rosegrant

Summary written by Brad Spangler, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Watkins, Michael and Rosegrant, Susan. Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World's Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001), 346 pp. <>.

The seven principles of breakthrough negotiation are discussed, and the approaches that skilled negotiators employ in the management of conflict and momentum-building are explored.

Breakthrough International Negotiation is a work designed to inspire and instruct aspiring conflict resolvers as to how to overcome an array of barriers to agreement in the context of complex, high-stakes negotiations. This book is well structured and offers an effective combination of conceptual and theoretical discussion along with complementary case studies. The four case histories presented in the work, illustrate the enactment of the general principles of a breakthrough approach to negotiation. The cases are based on in-depth interviews with key participants in critical post-Cold War negotiations. The skilled negotiators and conflicts discussed the book are "Robert Galluci in Korea, Terje Larsen in the Middle East, James Baker during the Persian Gulf crisis, and Richard Holbrooke in Bosnia" (xi).

The Introduction of the work concisely lays out the seven principles of breakthrough negotiation, which then structure the presentation of Part One, entitled "Foundations of the Breakthrough Approach." The seven principles of breakthrough negotiation are:

1) Take an active part in the structure of the situation by getting the right people involved, building coalitions, and focusing the agenda.

2) Learn about the history and context of the conflict and the parties. Identify the primary elements of the dispute, and ask questions about any points that are unclear.

3) Carefully design the negotiation process, and work to make it fair and productive for all involved.

4) Be prepared to change tactics as the negotiation progresses; nurture agreement, but do not hesitate to be more assertive if the situation so requires.

5) Learn to approach conflict from multiple viewpoints, to reframe, and to respect the emotions and history of the parties.

6) Clearly reinforce the goals and direction of the negotiation at all times.

7) Value and foster consensus, both between and within parties.

The eight chapters of part one alternate between chapters on the conceptual frameworks and approaches to the aforementioned principles of breakthrough negotiation, and case-specific discussions that demonstrate practical application of those ideas in the context of the 1990s conflict between the U.S. and North Korea.

Part two of Breakthrough International Negotiation, "Building the Breakthrough Toolbox," offers more in-depth discussions of the approaches that skilled negotiators employ in the management of conflict and momentum building. The six chapters of this part also alternate between case histories of high-profile breakthrough negotiations and accompanying conceptual chapters. Topics included in the conceptual chapters include; getting to the table in complex negotiations, coalition building, and a look at the complex and difficult roles that negotiators assume in international negotiations. Cases discussed in this section include the Oslo negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, assembling the Persian Gulf Coalition to confront Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and ending the war in Bosnia. The final pages of the book offer some brief advice to ambitious negotiators on how to become a breakthrough negotiator.