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Zwier's New Book Explores Benefits of Talking with Adversaries

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By Kyle Cristofalo
07/08/13

In our post 9-11 culture the concept of negotiating with enemies poses a considerable challenge for politicians, policymakers, and citizens. Fearing that talking with terrorists will compromise security and weaken our image abroad, many opponents maintain that such a tactic runs counter to common sense.  A new book by Emory Law professor Paul Zwier strongly challenges this perspective. In Principled Negotiation and Mediation in the International Arena: Talking with Evil (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Zwier envisions a foreign policy in which the United States, through the use of principled and pragmatic mediators, actively engages with the “enemy,” no matter how “evil.” By doing so, the United States can be actively involved in sustainable conflict resolution throughout some of the most intractable conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

As a global super power, the United States runs the risk of being accused of entering into dialogue merely for its own economic and political gain. On the international stage, Zwier contends, “For the United States, in particular, it is hard to be taken seriously when it preaches democracy and human rights around the world but stands idly by while various regimes imprison, torture, and kill human rights advocates in these countries.” To mitigate this paradox, Zwier highlights the necessity of utilizing skilled and neutral mediators invested in the work of securing and maintaining peace. For talking with “evil” parties to be most effective, sessions must occur in a controlled environment, one that clearly communicates U.S. foreign policy in a principled and pragmatic manner.

Drawing upon his experience with the Carter Center and lawyer advocacy trainings throughout the world, Zwier utilizes a narrative approach to apply his model to numerous countries. Chapters focus on thorny dilemmas faced by ten nation-states—Israel-Palestine, North Korea, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and Liberia. Each case study explores the challenges present in each of these contexts as well as the ways in which mediation can help improve the direction of U.S. foreign policy. The work of principled and pragmatic mediators is shown to provide local leaders understanding of how to address collective memories of mass violence and bring together adversaries in such a way that each side admits to past faults so that people are able to re-build community and live in a just and peaceful society. In doing so, mediators build off their past successes in this work to solidify their standing in a local community as they help it establish a society that cares for all of its members, minority communities included.

Despite the pervasive stream of media clips reminding us of another terrorist attack or the breakdown of peace talks in a conflict zone, Zwier believes history also bears witness to another aspect of human nature, “one that longs for more than simple survival and that is capable of imagining a new and better ways for people to live together.” This book cautions readers to not lose hope for the future, and trusts that by employing pragmatic and principled mediation it is yet possible to move toward justice.

 Zwier is Professor of Law and the Director of the Program for International  Advocacy and Dispute Resolution at Emory University and a CSLR Associated Faculty

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