Diplomacy Backed by Force

Posted in Iraq | 03-Mar-03 | Author: Dieter Farwick

That is a new, modern term for what was “deterrence” or”dissuasion” during the “Cold war”.
Aims, objectives and means are the same.
It is the trial to convince a potential adversary not to pursue his own interests on the unbearable costs of others with aggressive means – for example by the military.
Deterrence has successfully worked during the “Cold war”. The West was able to show the former Sovietunion that she would have run an uncalculated risk or a calculated risk too high to wage a war against the West and NATO as the politico-military Alliance of the West. Even in the coldest days of the “Cold war” “force” was always more than just the military. Deterrence was a strategy to combine all political means for a common goal – peace, freedom and justice.
It worked. The West won the “Cold war” without a single shot being fired.
Now, we live in a different world, but there is still the need to convince heads of states or organisations to obey to common rules and generaly accepted political behaviour . The concept is now called “Diplomacy backed by force”.
This new concept did not work with Milosevic in Former Yugoslavia. Mislead by Western mixed and controversial signals Milosevic underestimated the Western – especially the US – resolve to fight against him and went for war, which he lost with great victims for his people..
The same fact was true ith Saddam Hussein before the first Gulf war.
“Deterrence” in the past and “Diplomacy backed by force” today can only work, when the resolve to employ “force” is visible and credible. The signals must not come from an “uncertain trumpet”.
In this respect Saddam Hussein should not be regarded as a fool but as a strategic thinker calculating his risks and knowing the weaknesses of western democracies.
In this context it is a fundamental mistake that Germany went public with its “No” against any military actions – even in spite of a UN-mandat.
It is for sure, that Saddam Hussein will continue to play his game with the UN and the inspectors to win time and to erode the UN-resolve to act. The demonstrations in Western capitals and the dissent between a US-led group of states and a group led by France might lead Saddam Hussein again to the misperception that the Western resolve to act if necessary will evaporate. He will pay a high price for that miscalculation.
If at the end of the day the UN would not be able to decide and act against Saddam Hussein with military means – even if the “material breach” has been certified - that would destroy the substance of the UN as a useful political organisation to promote peace, freedom and justice in the world.
Below the treshold of using military forces there are additional political means to press Saddam Hussein in economic or financial ways. Unfortunately sanctions do not have the best record. There are always states, organisations and individuals who make profit by by-passing those sanctions.
But if “Diplomacy backed by force” fails, then there must follow the stage of “Force backed by diplomacy” – otherwise the UN and the member states will loose even more of their credidibility in the eyes of potential wrong-doers.
.Unfortunately, “Diplomacy backed by force” does not work with and against Usama Bin Ladin. He follows a different rationale and a different risk-taking. It might work with and against supporting states and organisations, but again: decisive are the capabilities and the resolve to make use of political means – including the military.