Saturday, June 6, 2009
Obama, the Mediator, In the Mid-East
President Obama's remarks in Cairo reflect his consensus-building orientation to resolving deeply divisive world problems. Mediators are trained to reframe conflicting opinions and reorient disputants toward the future and away from the contentious past. Mr. Obama stated: "So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared." The Obama administration also understands the importance of preparing the parties for negotiations in advance of the negotiating table: before finalizing his Cairo remarks he tested the waters with pro-Israeli advocates in the United States and with other constituent groups whose support will be needed to bridge differences; following his remarks and visit abroad, he will dispatch Special Envoy George Mitchell to the Middle East, who is already highly-regarded for his skills as an honest broker. All those interested in alternative dispute resolution should examine President Obama's words, demeanor and conduct for mediation role-modeling.