The Royal Navy and Maritime Power in the Twentieth Century

By Ian Speller | Go to book overview

9

NAVAL DIPLOMACY

Operation Vantage, 1961

Ian Speller

Contemporary British maritime doctrine defines naval diplomacy as 'The use of naval force in support of diplomacy to support, persuade, deter or compel'. It involves action designed to 'influence the will and decision-making apparatus of a state or group of states in peacetime and all sitations short of full hostilities'. 1 In essence, naval diplomacy is about the use of naval forces to provide power and influence in situations short of war. This does not imply an absence of force. The exercise of naval diplomacy may require navies to undertake active military operations. However, in such circumstances the use of force is deliberately restricted to the achievement of specific, limited objectives and has symbolic as much as physical effect. As with all forms of coercion, perception is critical and the key target is the opponent's mindset rather than their armed forces. The use of the term 'naval diplomacy' may be misleading. In reality, in many circumstances navies will be only one element in a much wider diplomatic effort. Even when navies play the lead role in an operation the force employed is liable to be maritime in nature rather than strictly naval. 2 In an influential study of such activity James Cable used the traditional phrase of 'gunboat diplomacy' as shorthand for the use of limited naval force in order to secure advantage or avert loss in the furtherance of an international dispute in situations short of war. 3 Those responsible for writing contemporary doctrine have avoided this rather provocative term. Nevertheless, in essence they are writing about the same thing.

Cable was keen to emphasise that 'gunboat diplomacy', far from being an outmoded tool belonging to a discredited imperialist past, was a constant and enduring feature of international relations. He believed that navies provided a particularly useful and flexible tool for supporting government policy in a wide range of circumstances. 4 These ideas have been shared by numerous other authors and are reflected in the official pronouncements of many modern navies. 5 One distinguished commentator, Robert E. Osgood, went as far as to describe sea power as '… the most versatile and extensive instrument of foreign policy'. 6 Different authors have identified different means by which naval or maritime forces have achieved this. Edward Luttwak identified the inherent mobility, tactical flexibility, and wide geographic reach of naval forces as particularly valuable. In common with most of his contemporaries, he contrasted this

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The Royal Navy and Maritime Power in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Transition to War 13
  • 2 - Sea Control in Narrow Waters 33
  • 3 - Sea Denial, Interdiction and Diplomacy 50
  • 4 - Air Power and Evacuations 67
  • 5 - Amphibious Operations 88
  • 6 - Maritime Power and Complex Crises 108
  • 7 - Quarantine Operations 129
  • 8 - Maritime Jurisdiction and the Law of the Sea 148
  • 9 - Naval Diplomacy 164
  • 10 - Operations in a War Zone 181
  • 11 - From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement 197
  • Select Bibliography 209
  • Index 215
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