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

By James A. Nathan | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

On Coercive Diplomacy and the American Foreign Affairs Experience

INTRODUCTION

In the heady aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an exultant Robert McNamara exclaimed that henceforth the only serious strategy could be “crisis management.” 1 The analysis—that force could be supervised for discrete diplomatic ends—was exhilarating. National security defense intellectuals came to believe, in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, that they had found some kind of resolution to the vexatious dilemmas attendant to force. 2 For nearly 200 years, force had seemed to expand beyond any sensible purpose. Yet, while the volume of potential destruction in war exceeded any meaningful object save deterrence of war itself, diplomacy had withered as a meaningful mechanism in moderating the conduct of states.

But in the early 1960s, a new nexus between force and order seemed to appear: Henceforth, it was hoped, force could be remarried to diplomacy. Justice’s precursor—a stable, liberal, international regime—was the union’s much-hoped-for issue. With properly refined techniques of statecraft, there would be no need for deterrence to come to any kind of unlimited test. If intelligent crisis management could find a way to discretely proportion force, if force could be made a calculable instrument of bargaining, then, it followed, the inner dynamic of Soviet expansionism could be tamed, and at long last the sibylline promise of an American century could be realized.

New doctrines of limited force held out the prospect that the sterile kabuki of diplomacy could be replaced by the management center, the telex, and a flexible and responsive military establishment. The hopes pinned to limited war conjured a memory of less lethal times. For the most part, from

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