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
(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