Soldiers, Statecraft, and History: Coercive Diplomacy and International Order

By James A. Nathan | Go to book overview

Introduction

Professional students of military power often learn the great theorists of war and diplomacy only epigrammatically, without much context. 1 Most military studies concentrate on specific tactics, battles, and battlefield technologies. Similarly, diplomacy, if it is taught at all in universities, is rarely broached as the historical essence of statecraft. Rather, diplomacy has been identified either as a rather baroque, atavistic methodology—the stuff of calling cards, top hats, and morning coats—or, as a synonym for the intricacies of various alliances and configurations of power; or, in some cases, as the study of an American problem in administrative and bureaucratic theory.

This book is devoted to what I consider the essence of diplomacy and statecraft. It is informed by two propositions: first, that limited force has enduring utility; and second, that force, to be judged successful, needs to be informed by more than a narrow definition of the national purpose. The historical definition of the national purposes that follow are designed to illustrate how power can be used, mitigated, and tamed. The book is also meant as something of an admonition regarding the consequences of power-seeking that is unmindful of the benefits of international order. As some of the narratives in this book illustrate, power used for the purpose of burnishing national ego is filled with the potential for disaster.

This book is little concerned, directly, with abstract “schools” of thought, though it might be comfortably shelved with other works by “neorealist” authors. I should note, however, that this work is somewhat more concerned with “grand strategy” and domestic politics than is usual in the contemporary study of international relations.

The argument I advance would seem commonsensical: The successful

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