IDEAS & ACTION, FEATURING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF NEGOTIATIONS
By George P. Shultz
Free to Choose Press, $24.95, 152 pages
In this slender volume, George P. Shultz has distilled what he has learned over a remarkable career that has spanned nearly 70 years. He is nearing 90 and still active.
After serving in the Marines in World War II and earning his bachelor’s degree at Princeton and at MIT, he has been on the faculty of three major universities; served three presidents; been secretary of labor, the Treasury and state; been president of a global engineering company; received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom (and many other awards) and authored 10 books.
“Ideas and Action” is part memoir, part how-to book and part photo album - all of it is both interesting and informative. Many of the photos are taken from his years as secretary of state for President Reagan (1982-87), but some are from earlier days.
An economist by training, he became a specialist in industrial relations. The art of negotiation became one of his greatest attributes and was central to his dealings with the Soviets in the 1980s. He says everyone has occasions in life to negotiate. To make negotiations successful, whether it be with the next-door neighbor or the foreign minister of the Soviet Union, there are certain “rules of the road” to follow. He gives them in the form of his “Ten Commandments for Success in Negotiations” in the book. They are:
Be in control of your constituency. (“[T]he parties at the negotiating table are the tip of the iceberg; they represent various constituencies … be sure your constituency is solidly behind you.”)
Understand the needs of the other side.
Acknowledge personal factors. (“Personal relationships are an essential element in negotiations.”)
Build an educational process. (“Accept negotiating as an educational process. You must lead your constituency to learn how difficult, if not impossible, it is to achieve what some hard-line group may want.”)
Underscore the ongoing process. (There may be more negotiations in the future, so “… be sure the lessons people take away from the process are good ones.”
Establish credibility. (“To remain credible in the eyes of the world, a president must do what he says he’s going to do.”)
Stay tuned to timing. (“Knowing when to push negotiations is of critical importance.”)
Remember that strength and diplomacy go together.
Trust is the coin of the realm. (“Ronald Reagan’s reputation for keeping his promises was an essential factor in his successful negotiations.”)
Set realistic goals. (“Sometimes you aim for a major settlement, but there are other times when realism dictates a more modest set of arrangements.”)
Each of the commandments is illustrated with a real-life example, most drawn from Mr. Shultz’s years as the nation’s top diplomat. He includes anecdotes and personal asides that enliven the lessons he gives.
He sums up the process when he notes, “The test of successful diplomacy is whether objectives are accomplished. While diplomacy without pressure is idle talk, refusing to talk is no substitute for the pressure essential to elicit change.”
Another section of the book is dedicated to Mr. Shultz’s longtime interest in working toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Former Sen. Sam Nunn and Hoover Institution scholar Sid Drell contribute short essays to this section.
He moves then to a fascinating reminiscence of the 1986 Reykjavik, Iceland, summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He re-creates the growing sense of excitement as discussions moved ahead on the concept of the “Zero Option” - the elimination of nuclear weapons.
While the summit ended abruptly when Mr. Gorbachev insisted on signing the agreement only if Reagan would put the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) on the shelf, Mr. Shultz concluded that this was, in fact, the climax of the Cold War. Mr. Gorbachev could not match a U.S. missile-defense effort without bankrupting his country. Step by step, the Cold War began to wind down.
This section includes excerpts of interviews done with Mr. Shultz in the production of a PBS special, “Turmoil & Triumph,” the story of the end of the Cold War.
Peter Hannaford is a board member of the Committee on the Present Danger. He is the author of five books about the late President Reagan, including “Recollections of Reagan” (William Morrow & Company, 1997).