When and if Negotiation is Possible


President Obama is busy negotiating with the Republican leadership in the US Congress. The issue at hand is that the American debt ceiling is fixed by law, and if not raised by August 2 the United States will default on its debts. In other words, Uncle Sam needs to borrow more money now.

The Republican leaders recognize the problem, but in an election year, they want to get something for their votes. Having promised to put the American fiscal house in order, the Tea Party followers are not going to let this moment pass even if it means taking the country to the brink of going under, or even going under.

In return for their votes on raising the debt ceiling, the Republicans are asking for major cuts in the US budget, particularly in favorite Democratic social programs such as Social Security and Medicare. (Heaven forbid they consider drastic reductions in military spending!) If the President is to win on raising the debt ceiling and eventually closing tax loopholes if not raising taxes for the wealthy and corporations, then he will have to bite the bullet on reducing certain favorite Democratic programs. That's what negotiations are all about. No side wins 100%, as in favorite American sports such as basketball, baseball and football. Each side must give a little. There should be no winners and losers in a true negotiation.

While we watch the playing out of the negotiations and the different tactics by both sides, it is helpful to remember that the basis of negotiations involves the ability to compromise and work toward the general good. Negotiating should be done in good faith, with both sides willing to compromise in the interest of all. Whether it be in the Middle East, Bern or Geneva, the ability to empathize and reach consensus is at the heart of all diplomacy and politics. This is not at all evident if one follows closely "negotiations" between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Nagorno Kharabak, Russia-Georgia on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Algeria-Morocco on the Western Sahara, Turkey-Armenia on "genocide" or Moldova on Transnistria. A wise diplomat once told me that there are no frozen conflicts (the elegant term is protracted conflicts), there are only frozen solutions. Not to be negative, celebrations are taking place for the newly independent country of South Sudan after years of struggle and finally some form of compromise,

But still, I wonder how and if the members of the American government will compromise on the deficit and debt issues in the interests of all.


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  • Republicans are completely irresponsible. In their fight against the Obama administration, they choose to ignore the country's economic realities and current difficulties.

    They've made their point. Now is time for the GOP to get back on Earth and to start cooperate with the President in a non-partisan problem-solving way.

  • One thing which struck me during my stay in the U.S. - 1961 - 1964 - was the total lack of interest of the average citizen for politics and for the world. The people whom I met were very nice, helpful, hospitable. But one surefire method of boring, annoying or even antagonizing them would be to broach the subject of politics, either domestic or foreign. I have had conversations with Korea and Vietnam veterans, they'd describe their daily lives in the armed forces, sometimes the suffering of the population in those countries, but not one of them could have explained to me what they were there for in the first place. No criticism, no questioning.
    I would be pleased to see once one million American citizens manifesting in Washington for fair and decent Government and Democracy as we undersand it in this country. One million folks is quite a number, but after all, this is just one third of one percent of the general population. Is it possible just once to get some reaction ?
    In a Democracy, so the saying goes, the common folks have the Government which they deserve...

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