"We don't talk to terrorists": On the rhetoric and practice of secret negotiations

Julie Browne, Eric S. Dickson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Political actors sometimes make public commitments not to negotiate with adversaries whom they label as being beneath diplomacy. Such commitments are sometimes made even as they are being broken. Why do actors sometimes publicly denounce adversaries with whom they intend to negotiate? What effect does such prenegotiation rhetoric have on the prospects for successful negotiated settlements? In this paper, the authors present a novel game-theoretic model of conflict bargaining, in which actors can make public commitments not to negotiate before deciding whether to engage in secret negotiations with adversaries. The authors model such commitments as affecting actors' audience costs; a denunciation increases an actor's motivation to reach a negotiated settlement if negotiations are undertaken. Although such a decision weakens an actor's bargaining power, in equilibrium actors sometimes publicly denounce their counterparts. The authors present and interpret equilibrium behavior in their model and discuss the implications of their results for future research.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)379-407
    Number of pages29
    JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 2010


    • Audience costs
    • Conflict bargaining
    • Political rhetoric
    • Secret negotiations
    • Terrorism

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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