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The Fog of Negotiation: What Negotiators Can Learn from Military Doctrine



On the surface, warfare and negotiation may seem to be polar opposites. The objective in war is to defeat the enemy. In negotiation, the goal is to find a solution that satisfies all the parties. Not surprisingly, little cross-learning and exchange has occurred across the two domains.

In spite of important differences, however, the dynamics of war and negotiation have much in common. Specifically, both involve the interaction of motivated agents with distinct interests, perceptions, and values (especially in high-stakes contexts). As a result, robust strategy, creativity, and nimble tactics are essential both on the battlefield and at the bargaining table. Just as negotiation theory could be enriched by principles of maneuver warfare, military doctrine offers officers and soldiers a potentially useful foundation to better understand and manage the negotiation process, especially in complex, cross-cultural contexts.