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Uses of Force

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Political Science
POLI 244
Mahesh Shankar

WEDNESDAY, JULY 18, 2012: The Uses of Force  If survival and security is so important, it naturally follows that states place a lot of stock in military capability.  Coercive diplomacy covers how can states can use the threat of force without actually using the force  We tend to think of political and military power as being separate (diplomacy vs. force and war). War comes as a result of the failure of diplomacy. Military power is often if not always used to achieve political goals. Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) said that “war is politics by other means,” and we use violence to achieve political goals we couldn’t achieve with other method. There is always an element of violence in the practice of diplomacy, and the intention of war and military action are not always about military victory—their purposes can also be diplomatic influence and political power. The role of force is very expansive.  Military capability can also be threatened to impose pain, destroy values of the enemy, and cause suffering. As a result, the power of force is used as a bargaining tool. If you have the power to exert force on an opponent you can use that to get them to make concessions and do what you want. The basic threat of force is the essence of coercive diplomacy. If you want something, you don’t take it, you get the other to comply and give it to you by threatening pain and suffering. Force can be used and violence perpetrated, when no force is actually used. This means coercive diplomacy is more successful when one doesn’t have the need to use them. Sometimes, the use of force (attacking someone) can have the purpose of coercive diplomacy as well—using a limited amount of force is sending a message to the adversary that if they do not comply the force will escalate. In asymmetric diplomacy, even less force is needed because the stronger state can threaten immense pain and suffering, and this threat is often enough for the weak state to give in.  Coercive diplomacy has been made more likely due to the revolution of air and nuclear warfare—it allows you to wage war from a distance. Air warfare opened the possibility of delivering massive pain and suffering (ex. carpet bombing), and the idea was to scare the enemy so much about the costs that would follow going into war that they would succumb before it was a full scale war. The development of nuclear weapons brought this to a whole new level. They are the ultimate in pain in suffering, and they threaten extinguishing entire cities. This is why they have been termed “the great equalizers.” The only way nuclear weapons can be used are in a political and diplomatic sense--- they are a weapon of politics, not war—because it does not do any good to you to obliterate entire cities and kill that many people making it a useless area for generations. They are just threat.  Why do threats work sometimes and not other times? Making threats is a game of chicken. The credibility of threats becomes extremely important. For threats to be successful the one being threatened must believe that it is likely the threat will follow through. What makes a threat credible? There are 5 strategies:  At the most basic level, for your threats to be credible, you need to have (1) the capabilities to act on the threat.  (2) There must be clarity to the commitment, and you must have clearly stated the threat, made clear the behaviour the other state cannot do, made clear what they should do instead, and what the specific consequences will. The way you communicate it cannot be able to be misperceived. You need to find a way to demonstrate that the threats are serious and that you are willing to assume major costs. You need to convince them you aren’t bluffing. ex) during the Cold War the USA had to show that they were willing to sacrifice American soldiers to protect Central Europe from the USSR. The army made the decision to allow soldiers to being their families to Europe with them, which showed the USSR that the stakes were raised to not just the lives of soldiers, but their family.  (3) A voluntary surrender of flexibility shows the adversary that the only option for them is giving in, because you don’t have the option of giving in.  (4) States are more likely to believe a threat if the other state stakes their reputation on it. If the reputation costs are higher, it gives greater incentive for the state to not be the chicken. With the consequence of having staked your reputation, the adversary will believe the stakes more. When there are witnesses, it raises the costs of backing down. These reputational costs are also called audience costs. The larger your audience, the more credible your threats become. Ex) In a territorial dispute, State A says it will not back down and won’t give it up under any circumstances. If it does back down eventually, it only loses face with state B. But if State A also has disputes with State C, D, E, and F, they have more of an incentive to stay strong and not back down because they want to signal to the other states a reputation of being strong. This dynamic also points out democracies are more credible in making threats because democracies have more audience costs to pay by default. You can also lose face internally and domestically, because you are staking the country’s reputation. The likelihood is that in a democracy you will be punished for this kind of behaviour (loss in the next election). This doesn’t happen in authoritarian countries because there are no domestic costs—they can’t throw you out of office—so their threats are less credible.  (5) Incrementalism—threatening force in a bargaining situation works best if the threat is small, and if the threat of force is smaller. If the costs are smaller, the threat is more credible because it is more likely the state is willing to risk them. It is also useful in how you present the threat. ex) When the French wanted Eisenhower to threaten nuclear war against Vietnam, but Eisenhower refused because the threat wouldn’t have been credible. It was not credible because the stakes were n
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