By Jay Politzer, MA candidate in Conflict Resolution
In October 6, 2006, the Conflict Resolution Institute (CRI) welcomed Jayne Seminare
Docherty, Ph.D. to the University of Denver for the first wine and cheese event of the new academic year. Docherty, an associate professor of conflict studies in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, was invited by CRI faculty to present her new study, The Global War on Terrorism: Learning Lessons from Waco, to a mixture of students, faculty, and local conflict resolution practitioners.
Jayne Seminare Docherty is an Associate professor of conflict studies in the Conflict Transformation Program at Eastern Mennonite University. She consults with organizations and communities about designing dispute resolution systems that promote social change and peacebuilding and she has studied and written about confrontations between state authorities and unconventional belief groups. She is the author of Learning Lessons from Waco: When the Parties Bring Their Gods to the Negotiation Table. Ms. Docherty holds a Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University.
Docherty's analysis of the 1993 standoff between federal law enforcement agents and the Branch Davidians in Waco offers some compelling insights into the United States-led War on Terror. Through examination of the efforts of the federal negotiators in the 1993 debacle, Docherty suggests that a number of their strategies parallel the approach that the United States has employed in fighting the War on Terror. She maintains that in order for the United States to effectively manage its role in the conflict, it must heed the mistakes and failed strategies of the federal agents in Waco.
In both cases, Docherty asserts that disaster transpired because apocalyptic and militantly religious beliefs, such as those held by the Branch Davidians and Islamo-Fascist militants, came into contact with the United States' unshakable perception of secular legitimacy. In order to prevent such a collapse of negotiations, Docherty stresses that the United States must recognize the inherent differences between its belief system and that of its opponents in the War on Terror. She posits that a need has arisen for "a symmetrical anthropology that treats the foundational narratives of religious and secular actors as functionally worldmaking stories." All opposing narratives, beliefs, and customs are valid in negotiations, and it would behoove the United States to adopt such a strategy that gives credence to the fundamental disparity between its traditional values and those of its opponents. Then, and only then, can the United States be prepared, when needed, to conduct effective and meaningful negotiations with those it perceives as extreme.