The United States and Coercive Diplomacy.

Author:Choppin, Adam
Position:Book Review

The United States and Coercive Diplomacy, by Robert J. Art and Patrick M. Cronin Publisher: United States Institute of Peace (2003) Price: $19.95

Even a hyperpower such as the United States must choose carefully which diplomatic and military tools it employs to advance its national interests. Robert Art, Patrick Cronin, and their colleagues underscore this foreign policy reality in their newest book, The United States and Coercive Diplomacy. In this insightful new contribution to our understanding of U.S. foreign policy, Art and his colleagues examine eight cases since the end of the Cold War in which the U.S. used "coercive diplomacy" in an attempt to advance its foreign policy. The eight cases studied, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, North Korea, China/Taiwan in 1995-96, Iraq from 1990-98, and the U.S. campaign against terrorism from 1993-2001, are among the most complex episodes in U.S. foreign policy of the past few decades. Although the book is not without its faults, it remains a must-read for students and teachers of foreign policy, as well as foreign policy advisors.

Coercive diplomacy can be defined simply as the attempt to induce a target--usually a state, but possibly a group (e.g., a terrorist organization) or other non-state actor--to change its objectionable behavior. This attempt may take the form of either a threat to use force or the actual use of limited force with a threat of further military action. Short of all-out war, this diplomatic/political tactic is the most dangerous way to use a state's military power, as failure leaves that the coercing state with a stark choice: back down and lose face, or risk lives and a potentially costly military campaign.

In some of these cases, such as Bosnia, Haiti, and certain episodes with Iraq, the U.S. was moderately successful in persuading its adversary to change its course of action. In most cases, however, the difficulty of pursuing a strategy of coercive diplomacy, and its frequent failure, are clearly evident. In the groundbreaking conclusion to his book, Robert Art shows that in the period since 1990, a U.S. strategy of coercive diplomacy has failed more often than it has succeeded.

Structurally, the book's case studies vary from analyses of specific foreign policy episodes to collections of episodes or series of events. For instance, the chapter on Somalia discusses both the successful use of coercive diplomacy to compel the local warlords to permit the delivery of food aid...

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