Why negotiation could be key to countering Daesh


DUBAI: The fact that German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer spent 10 days in Daesh-occupied territories across Syria and Iraq, observed on-ground functioning of the dreaded militant group and was allowed access to select fighters, means only one thing: That even Daesh is not closed to the idea of negotiations — and honoring their end of the commitment.

No harm came Todenhöfer’s way (who went on to publish his reports last year), whereas Daesh has been regularly executing journalists on its trail. He must have done something right. Negotiate.

“(That) is the power of negotiation,” pointed out Professor Stuart Diamond, author of New York Times best seller Getting More, during a talk on ‘How you can negotiate to succeed in work and life’ at the Khaleej Times offices.

Diamond, a Pulitzer-winning former journalist and a professor of negotiation for more than 20 years at Wharton, clearly knows the rigors of both domains — journalism and rules of engagement — as he set out to reinstate the importance of proactive interaction in a technology-ridden world that is fast losing its human touch.

“There’s something intrinsically wrong with the way terror is being countered,” he said. It’s one reason why the world is “a mess.” “I believe all forms of terror — in the Middle East, in America — is being spawned because we lack the basic skill to negotiate … Parties need to know more about each other.”

And this is not possible unless all concerned decide to come to the table. And if nothing, an effort to negotiate will “give you better intelligence on the human psyche” — critical ammunition on the way forward to tackle the scourge.

What about negotiating becoming a “compromise” in journalism, say, in Todenhöfer’s case? “I don’t believe so,” he responded. “A good journalist, for instance, never reveals his (or her) sources … That is how a story is ‘negotiated’ — and there’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s the honorable thing to do.”

There was a time when you’d watch movies like The Negotiator — where Lt. Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey) is brought in specifically to engage with a high-level band of terrorists/kidnappers — with a goodly pinch of salt in your popcorn.

Listening to Professor Diamond, you’d think The Negotiator is just what you need today.



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