But the commander’s role is not just reviewing the negotiations after the framework of the deal is worked out. On the contrary. The commander has to set the goal for the negotiation before the negotiation begins. If I want to buy a new car, for example, I know before going into the showroom how much I’m willing to pay. The “boss” has already authorized intelligence gathering, processed the information, and set a reasonable goal before handing that goal over to the negotiator.
It works the same way in hostage negotiations. The commander often makes the important decisions in a negotiation beforehand. At a minimum, he or she lays out the parameters for the negotiations and a possible deal.
Let’s say I’m talking someone down from a bridge, for example. Well, the bosses make it pretty obvious what they want before I climb the million-foot ladder to the top to start working: Get the person down without him or her getting hurt. So when I’m about to close the deal with the jumper by getting him or her to step down, I’m not going to say “Hold it, let me climb back down the ladder and make sure it’s okay for you to give yourself up peacefully.”
We got after covered, we got before covered, that just leaves us the middle, right? So what’s the commander doing during negotiations?
He or she is making sure the other members of the team are functioning together. The negotiator has to keep receiving relevant intelligence as he negotiates. For example, if the earth has suddenly shifted so the jumper will only fall two feet if he lets go of the window, the negotiator has to know about it. And ditto if the manufacturer is now offering a $10,000 rebate on the chariot du jour.
Repeat after me: “The negotiator is not the decision maker. The negotiator is not the decision maker. The negotiator is not . . .”