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Deterrence Theory and Cold War Essay Sample

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After the end of Cold War, the conflict between states have move from conventional to internal conflict. The large scale of violence had occurred and difficult to gather political wills and resources need for effective resolution and peacemaking. The deterrence and coercive diplomacy strategies and preventive diplomacy strategies are irrelevant for dealing with most intrastate conflicts but difficult to implement effectively. Better use of a variety of techniques for conflict avoidance and conflict resolution techniques such as mediation, peacekeeping, peacemaking, confidence and trust building measures, and unofficial so-called “Track Two” diplomacy.

As distinguished from “Deterrence theory”, which is a strategy aimed at an adversary to dissuade him from undertaking an action not yet started, coercive diplomacy entails efforts to persuade an opponent to stop or reverse an action. Its central task is “to create in the opponent the expectation of costs of sufficient magnitude to erode his motivation to continue what he is doing. On the other hand, preventive diplomacy offers a set of tools to be used on a case-by-case basis by a wide range of actors to peacefully respond to threats and occurrences of mass atrocities by facilitating political solutions.


In the new geopolitical environment of the post-Cold War world a better understanding of coercive diplomacy, preventive diplomacy, and how to bridge the gap between the policy world and academics is crucial for effective statecraft. Coercive and Preventive diplomacy are conflict resolution that can help to accomplish the foreign policy of the state. In analyzing the successes and failures of past cases of coercive and preventive diplomacy through proper diagnoses we can better understand the many tools and instruments of conflict prevention and resolution and how policy-makers can make more effective use of them.


The focus of ‘strategy’ is the relationship between war and policy objectives. It can be described as the process that translates military power into policy effect. Strategy, then, is not a war. It is rather a process by which war functions as a political act. Thus, when a practitioner looks to war to solve his political problems or to pursue his political ambitions, he must concern himself with strategy. For, it is only through strategy that war can successfully functions a form of politics. Without the process of strategy, military power may become disconnected from the policy. However, for a military power to have a positive policy effect, it must be guided by strategy, Lonsdale (2012).

In ancient Greece strategos meant a general. The word strategy derives from strategia, which meant the art of business – literally the office – of a general whereby the focus at the start as firmly on the plan for battle, Booth (1994).

Clausewitz prefers a rather straightforward combat oriented approach: Strategy is the use of engagements for the object of war, Lonsdale (2012).
Basil Liddell Hart defines strategy as the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfil the end of policy, Booth (1994).  Andre Beaufre define strategy as – Strategy is….the art of the dialectic of force or, More precisely, the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills use force to resolve their dispute, Lonsdale (2012).

Gray defines strategy as the application of military power to achieve political objectives, or more specifically ‘the theory and practice of the use, and threat of use, of organized force for political purposes, Gray (2010).

It has been established that military power has a substantial and reasonably flexible role in politics. Thus strategy, with careful definition, translates military power into policy effect. In short, strategy relates military means and political ends, in both war and peace, Booth (1994).


Diplomacy is the conduct of foreign relations between and among states through formal practices and methods. Such practices include exchange of ambassadors, dissemination of communications among official representatives,
and participation in face-to-face negotiations. However, the concept of diplomacy in the recent past has been broadened to mean, the general process whereby states seek to communicate, to influence each other, and to resolve conflicts through bargaining, either formal or informal, short of the use of armed force. However, at the United Nations diplomacy is defined as the action undertaken to solve international disputes by peaceful means through the methods of negotiation and conciliation.

Diplomacy in this regard is purely an international activity at the United Nations and a basic activity to the purposes provided in the Charter. In an attempt to make the definition of diplomacy more comprehensive, diplomacy involves promotion and defence of the key interests of a nation, applying every honourable means in an attempt to resolve conflicts through negotiation, persuasion, and mutual understanding. In another sense, diplomacy has been regarded as the art of enabling the other party to have his own way. Diplomacy is also defined as the exercise of controlling the use of power.

However, diplomacy may need to include more than negotiations whereby the need to utilize other measures of statecraft, including positive incentives such as diplomatic recognition, foreign aid in return for desired actions, and the threat of negative consequences (reduction or elimination of foreign aid, severance of diplomatic ties, use of coercive force) if the target state continues to move in a specific directions.

Coercive diplomacy
Coercive diplomacy or “forceful persuasion” is the “attempt to get a target, a state, a group (or groups) within a state, or a nonstate actor-to change its objectionable behavior through either the threat to use force or the actual use of limited force. This term also refers to “diplomacy presupposing the use or threatened use of military force to achieve political objectives. Coercive diplomacy “is essentially a diplomatic strategy, one that relies on the threat of force rather than the use of force. If force must be used to strengthen diplomatic efforts at persuasion, it is employed in an exemplary manner, in the form of quite limited military action, to demonstrate resolution and willingness to escalate to high levels of military action if necessary. Background

The term ‘Coercive diplomacy’ falls under the theory of coercion as a foreign policy tool. Daniel Byman and Matthew Waxman define coercive diplomacy as “getting the adversary to act a certain way via anything short of brute force; the adversary must still have the capacity of organized violence but choose not to exercise it.” Coercion strategy “relies on the threat of future military force to influence an adversary’s decision making but may also include limited uses of actual force.

Joseph Nye emphasizes that coercive diplomacy depends upon the credibility and the cost of the threat. “If a threat is not credible, it may fail to produce acceptance and it may lead to costs to the reputation of the coercing state. In general, threats are costly when they fail, not only in encouraging resistance in the target, but also in negatively influencing third parties observing the outcome.”

Thomas Schelling puts forth a general concept of coercion theory as it emerges beyond deterrence. According to Schelling, deterrence is merely a passive threat aimed at keeping an adversary from acting. It is only a threat. “Initiative is placed on the opponent to take the first action triggering a response from the coercer.” Schelling believes that deterrence does not present “a comprehensive picture of coercion, leading Schelling to introduce the concept of compellence.

Alexander L. George, worked to create a diplomatic strategy of coercion; his was the theory of coercive diplomacy. Unlike Schelling, George’s theory of ‘coercive diplomacy’ is different than Schelling’s ‘coercive warfare’, in that he believed that coercive diplomacy was “a subset of coercion and compellence.” He viewed it as encompassing “defensive” compellent actions only: to force a target to stop or reverse action already taken, rather than an offensive goal of forcing them to do something…Coercive diplomacy essentially is the embodiment of a “carrot and stick” philosophy: motivation is used to induce a target to submit to your wishes, while appearing threatening at the same time.

‘Compellence’, in contrast to ‘deterrence’, shifts the initiative for the first action to the coercer. While deterrence means waiting passively in hope of not seeing a response, compellence is active, thereby, “inducing his withdrawal, or his acquiescence, or his collaboration by an action that threatens to hurt. When differentiating between deterrence and compellence, deterrence can be described as “drawing a line in the sand” and acting only if the adversary crosses it; in contrast, compellence “requires that the punishment be administered until the other acts rather than if he acts” as in deterrence. “Coercion composed of both compellence and deterrence is about action and inaction.

Framework for coercive diplomacy.
According to Alexander George, coercive diplomacy seeks to achieve three objectives. First, it attempts to persuade an adversary to turn away from its goal. Second, it seeks to convince an adversary to reverse an action already taken. Third, it may persuade an adversary to make “fundamental changes in its government.

Alexander George developed a framework in which a number of “variants” or methods of using five types of coercive diplomacy could be deployed to achieve these objectives. These variants include the following:

2.Tacit Ultimatum
3.Try-and-See approach
4.Gradual Turning of the Screw
5.Carrot and Stick approach

The first variant of the ‘coercive diplomacy’ strategy is the classic ‘ultimatum’. An ultimatum itself has three distinct components: “a demand on the opponent; a time limit or sense of urgency for compliance with the demand; and a threat of punishment for noncompliance that is both credible to the opponent and sufficiently potent to impress upon him that compliance is preferable. The second variant, ‘Tacit ultimatum’ is similar to ‘ultimatum’ except that it doesn’t set forth an explicit time limit. The third variant of coercive diplomacy, the ‘Try-and-See’, addresses strictly the first component of the ‘ultimatum’ variant, “a demand on the opponent.”

There is no time limit set, no sense of urgency conveyed, instead the coercer makes a single threat or takes a single action “to persuade the opponent before threatening or taking another step. The Fourth, the ‘Gradual Turning of the Screw’ approach is similar to the ‘Try-and-See’ method in that it makes a threat but then “relies the threat of a gradual, incremental increase of coercive pressure rather than threatening large escalation to strong, decisive military action if the opponent does not comply. Finally, The “carrot and stick” approach is an idiom that refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior. When using the coercive diplomacy strategy, it is important to understand that policymakers may shift from one variant option to another depending on the success of each step taken.

Requirements for success.

Among the numerous theories on coercive diplomacy, Peter Viggo Jakobsen’s (1998) ideal policy succinctly identifies the four key conditions the coercer must meet to maximize the chance of success to stop or undo acts of aggression:

1.A threat of force to defeat the opponent or deny him his objectives quickly with little cost.
2.A deadline for compliance.
3.An assurance to the adversary against future demands.
4.An offer of inducements for compliance.

The first requirement in Jakobsen’s ‘ideal policy’ is to make the threat so great that non-compliance will be too costly for the resisting actors. The second requirement demands that after maximizing the credibility of the threat, the coercer must set a specific deadline, as failure to set a deadline for compliance “is likely to be interpreted as evidence that the coercer lacks the will to implement the threat. Assurance against new demands must also be carried out for greater chance of success. Jakobsen points out that the incentive to comply with the coercer’s demands will be significantly downgraded if the resisting actor fears compliance will merely invite more demands. The last requirement for successful coercion is the effective use of inducements, which are important facilitators used to give
more credibility and assurance.

Coercive diplomacy case studies.

Success: President John F. Kennedy used coercive diplomacy successfully in 1962 when he was able to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Cuban missile crisis and avert possible warfare between the United States and the Soviet Union. When Kennedy learned of the Soviet Union’s attempt to deploy forty-two medium range and twenty-four intermediate range ballistic missiles into Cuba, he established a naval blockade and threatened an invasion of Cuba with force to remove the missiles already there. Instead of resorting to a strictly military strategy to forcibly remove the missiles, Kennedy decided to use coercive diplomacy. He initiated this strategy by first using the ‘Try-and-See’ approach. The giant naval blockade along with a massive build up of U.S. military forces, was a message to Khruschev to persuade him that the U.S was able and willing to use force if needed to remove this missile threat from Cuba. The blockade limited the showdown to Kennedy and Khruschev rather than develop into all-out war.

Because of Kennedy’s tough naval blockade, Khruschev “directed all Soviet vessels carrying missiles and other military equipment to Cuba to immediately turn back. To intensify the coercive diplomacy strategy, Kennedy shifted from the ‘Try-and-See’ approach to a hybrid of a virtual ‘ultimatum’ and a carrot-and-the stick approach. Kennedy addressed the sense of urgency about the growing hostile situation by standing firm and tightening the naval blockade as well as conveying to Khruschev the continued threat of a possible invasion of Cuba. As a result of Kennedy’s successful use of coercive diplomacy added to negotiated concessions, Khruschev agreed to remove missiles in place and to discontinue the deployment of new missiles into Cuba while the U.S. agreed to remove its Jupiter missiles stationed in Turkey and to call off any invasion of Cuba.

Failure: During the 1990-91 Gulf War, coercive diplomacy failed to persuade Saddam Hussein to exit Kuwait and move his military forces back to Iraq; though the use of deterrence effectively convinced the Iraqi president that he could not invade further south into Saudi Arabia, it did little to expel him from Kuwait. Initially, the Bush administration along with the United Nations issued sanctions to pressure Iraq to withdraw troops inside Kuwait. The UN Security Council placed economic sanctions by imposing an embargo on Iraq’s imports and exports. This initial stage of the crisis was the United States’ attempt to use the coercive diplomatic variant, ‘Gradual Turning of the Screw’ to apply pressure on Saddam Hussein to comply to the demands to leave Kuwait.

Then the Bush administration, along with the UN Security Council, used the variant ‘ultimatum’ by setting a deadline of January 15, 1991, for the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. When this deadline came and passed, without Saddam Hussein’s compliance, Operation Desert Storm commenced and military force was used to remove Iraq’s forces from Kuwait. Despite the massive build-up of U.S. forces along the Saudi Arabia/Kuwait border, economic sanctions, and a declared deadline for withdrawal, Saddam Hussein failed to remove his forces. In this instance, coercive diplomacy failed, leading to the Gulf War which the United States and coalition forces succeeded in removing Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait.

Preventive Diplomacy

“To conclude, preventive diplomacy today is delivering concrete results, with relatively modest resources, in many regions of the world, helping to save lives and to protect development gains. It is an approach that may not be effective in all situations and will continue to face the uncertainty, risks and evolving challenges which, in a sense, come with the terrain. Yet I firmly believe that better preventive diplomacy is not optional; it is necessary.“

UN – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

What is preventive diplomacy?

At the United Nations, former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskj.ld first articulated the concept of preventive diplomacy half a century ago. In plain language, preventive diplomacy refers to diplomatic action taken to prevent disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of conflicts when they occur. While it is conducted in different forms and fora, both public and private, the most common expression of preventive diplomacy is found in the work of diplomatic envoys dispatched to crisis areas to encourage dialogue, compromise and the peaceful resolution of tensions. Preventive diplomacy can also encompass the involvement of the Security Council, the Secretary-General and other actors to discourage the use of violence at critical moments.

Why is preventive diplomacy coming increasingly to the fore as an option?

First, because conflicts today are placing a heavy strain on war-torn societies and the international community, claiming countless lives and often requiring costly security and humanitarian engagements. According to the World Bank, the cost of civil war can be equivalent to more than 30 years of economic growth. By contrast, in the face of political tensions or escalating crisis, preventive diplomacy is often one of the few options available, short of coercive measures, to preserve peace. Successful engagements can stop crises before they spread, reducing the impacts and burdens of conflict. Secondly, because there is a greater openness today to preventive action and an increase in national, regional and international capacities for preventive diplomacy.

The past decade has seen a strengthening of preventive diplomacy both at the policy level and on the ground. Regional organizations such as the African Union (AU), among others, have updated their doctrines so as to support more proactive diplomacy to protect democratic institutions and to resolve political and security crises affecting member countries. At the United Nations, the 2005 World Summit expressed a renewed commitment to promoting a culture of prevention. As part of that broader undertaking, the General Assembly adopted in June 2011, a consensus resolution on strengthening mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Third, because these normative developments have paved the way for the creation of new preventive capacities around the world, including systems for crisis monitoring and early-warning as well as flexible funding mechanisms for rapid reaction. Within the United Nations, a key development has been the strengthening of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the establishment within this Department of a Mediation Support Unit that provides expertise to envoys engaging in negotiations. The increased deployment of political missions by the United Nations and other organizations also provides a stronger platform for preventive diplomacy.

How exactly does the United Nations practice preventive diplomacy?

Conflict prevention is a broad field, involving a wide range of UN entities focusing on political, development and human rights concerns, among others. UN country teams often support national dialogue processes and longer term programs that help to build national capacities to prevent conflict. The UN’s peace-building architecture works to prevent relapse into conflict in countries that have recently emerged from wars. Preventive diplomacy, however, represents a narrower set of activities specifically involving the timely use of diplomatic action to prevent the outbreak and spread of hostilities. The Secretary-General provides his “good offices” to parties in conflict both personally and through the diplomatic envoys he dispatches to areas of tension around the world.

The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) is the principal support structure for those efforts, providing conflict analysis, planning and supporting the work of peace envoys and overseeing more than a dozen field-based political missions that serve as key platforms for preventive diplomacy. Of these missions, regional offices covering Central Africa, West Africa and Central Asia have explicit mandates for preventive diplomacy and strengthening the capacity of states and regional actors to manage sources of tension peacefully. Preventive diplomacy is also carried out frequently within the context of peacekeeping missions.

The Security Council, as the UN organ with the primary responsibility for peace and security, also has a critical role to play in supporting preventive action. Recent years have seen increased Council engagement and flexibility in addressing emerging threats before they come on the Council’s formal agenda. Through its actions, the Council can send important signals that help discourage violence and open space for preventive action including by the Secretary-General.

What are some recent cases in which the United Nations used preventive diplomacy to ease tensions?

There are a number of cases noted in the report in which concerted preventive action by the United Nations and its partners helped to avert or contain conflict. For example: • In Sudan, preventive diplomacy was a major focus of international efforts –led for the United Nations by its peacekeeping mission –to ensure the successful holding of the January 2011 independence referendum for Southern Sudan. The Security Council was actively engaged, including through its statements and visits to the country.

The Secretary-General appointed a high-level panel that also encouraged actions and agreements to permit the smooth holding of the referendum. • In Guinea, from 2009-2010 the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) worked energetically to keep on track a political transition from a military coup to the country’s first democratic elections since independence.

• In Sierra Leone, the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIPSIL) helped prevent the potential escalation of violence following tensions between the governing and opposition parties in 2009. • In Iraq, the United Nations political mission (UNAMI) has facilitated peaceful dialogue over Kirkuk and other disputed internal territories, and assisted in smoothing the path to elections in 2009 and 2010. • In Kenya, following the outbreak of post-electoral violence in 2008, the United Nations quietly provided strong support to the African Union-led mediation efforts that succeeded in stopping the violence and resolving the political-electoral conflict through negotiations.

• In Kyrgyzstan, the United Nations Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) worked closely with key governments and regional organizations such as the OSCE to encourage an end to the 2010 inter-ethnic violence and a return to constitutional order. The office is also encouraging agreements on the peaceful sharing of water resources in the region. • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the timely dispatch of an envoy of the Secretary-General in autumn 2008 helped to quell unrest and ease tensions between Rwanda and the DRC that might have deteriorated into renewed regional war.

What are new areas of focus for preventive diplomacy?

In recent years, the United Nations has increasingly been called upon to respond to violent or potentially violent crises stemming from unconstitutional changes of government and electoral disputes. • Coup d’.tats and coup attempts frequently serve as a trigger to conflict. In the past three years, the UN deployed diplomats in the aftermath of military coups and revolts in Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and other places. These efforts, in close cooperation with regional organizations, have helped to pave the way to a return to constitutional order. • While elections can be an important step forward in fragile situations, they also have the potential to set off violence, as recently in Afghanistan, C.te d’Ivoire, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Consequently, the UN is working with its partners to develop a broader approach to tackling election-related violence that combines preventive diplomacy and electoral assistance expertise.

What are the keys to increasingly successful use of preventive diplomacy?

First, while early warning on emerging crises has improved, we need to better anticipate “threshold” moments when latent conflicts may erupt and reduce the time lapsed between warning and action. Even seemingly small actions and signals sent by the international community such as statements and the dispatch of a fact-finding mission to the field can have an important effect on the calculations of key actors in conflict. Second, by strengthening partnerships particularly with regional organizations, civil society and independent groups active in preventive diplomacy. Deepening these relationships will allow for greater coordination and rapid reaction as crisis breaks. Third, by ensuring sustainability. Timely diplomatic interventions may succeed in forestalling crises for the moment, but ensuring that political agreements last requires follow-through and the building of national mechanisms to sustain them.

Fourth, by better equipping and resourcing our mediation efforts. More progress is required in expanding and training our pool of skilled envoys and support staff, and in proving them with top-notch expertise such as that made available through the DPA-managed Standby Team of Mediation Experts. Modest financial investments are also required, particularly to allow for rapid deployments when crises break. Preventive diplomacy is a cost-effective option, but it still requires adequate and flexible funding.


Coercive diplomacy can be more clearly described as “a political-diplomatic strategy” that aims to influence an adversary’s will or incentive structure. It is a strategy that combines threats of force, and, if necessary, the limited and selective use of force in discrete and controlled increments, in a bargaining strategy that includes positive inducements. The aim is to induce an adversary to comply with one’s demands, or to negotiate the most favorable compromise possible, while simultaneously managing the crisis to prevent unwanted military escalation. However, Coercive diplomacy attempts to have force be a much more “flexible, refined psychological instrument of policy in contrast to the ‘quick, decisive’ military strategy, which uses forces as a blunt instrument.

Preventive diplomacy needed to acquire early warning of developing conflict and to response promptly and effectively. The use of preventive diplomacy to resolve tensions and crises before they escalate, the growing importance of this practice by the United Nations and its partners, underscoring its potential to save lives and protect development gains at a low cost to the international community. The UN’s report speaks to recent advances and accomplishments in the field and proposes a forward agenda for strengthening the use of preventive diplomacy as a means of diminishing conflicts and their devastating toll. Successful preventive diplomacy is not easy, however building up the world’s collective capacities in this area is “without doubt, one of the smartest investments we can make,” (the Secretary-General says in his report.)


Amitav Acharya, University of Toronto-York University Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies,1996. Preventive Diplomacy:A Concept Paper

George, Alexander and William Simons, Colorado: Westview Press, Inc. 1994. The Limits of Coercive Diplomacy

George, Alexander. Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington, DC.1991

Jakobsen, Jack S. Levy, Rutgers University Political Psychology Vol.29, No.4, 2008. Deterrence and Coercive Diplomacy: The contribute of Alexander Gorge.

Martinus Nijhoff Publishers security and human right24, 2013. The concept of preventive diplomacy and its application by the United Nations in Central Asia.

The Stanley Foundation, Policy Analysis Brief, December 2006. Coercive Diplomacy: Scope and Limits in the Contemporary World.

United Nations Department of Political Affairs, 9 September 2011, Fact Sheet on the UN Secretary-General’s Report.

United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington, DC 2003. The United States and Coercive Diplomacy: Past Present and Future.

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