Force and Statescraft

Force and Statescraft

Diplomatic Problems of our Time

by Gordon A. Craig and Alexander L. George

Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1995

ISBN 0-19-509244-9

Review Copyright © 1998 Garret Wilson

October 10, 1998; 11:00am


If you were to describe Force and Statescraft by Gordon A. Craig and Alexander L. George in terms of food, you might resort to the analogy of homemade chocolate fudge: rich and full of flavor yet at times thick and hard to wade through. Force and Statescraft uses conversational prose to provides not only an analysis of major historical occurrences since the seventeenth century but also insight into many subjects useful for diplomats.

Force and Statescraft is divided into two sections which are useful to two separate types of people. The first, "The International System from the Seventeenth Century to the Present," is appropriate for courses on International Relations. Its approach is similar the historical analytical approaches found in, for example, Nye’s Understanding International Conflicts. Its approach, however, is less theoretical; the chapters tend to resemble long conversations which recite the historical events in a chronological order, all the while inserting analytical thoughts and adding perspective.

The discussion is probably on a lower-intermediate level. It is a good idea to have a basic understanding of world history before you begin. This is not primarily because of the book’s assumptions on its readers’ knowledge, although this occurs in a few places. (For example, when Prussia suddenly disappears and a unified Germany is suddenly a player (32), it is assumed that the reader already knows that one came from the other.) Rather, the prose is quite comprehensive and evaluates many facts at one time – hence the description of "thick."

The sentences seem to flow reasonably well, meaning that they convey their message well; it is expedient merely to take them slowly and absorb all their "flavor," as it were. The only real criticism in this regard is that at times the thick, flavor-filled sentences seem to be a bit long and complex, congealing into a taffy-like substance that one must read several times to determine its exact meaning. Perhaps the addition of a few more commas would help.

Its analysis greatly facilitates understanding of historical interstate interaction. Although you won’t be subjected to theoretical methods of analyzation (such as the various definitions of "balance of power" found in Understanding International Conflicts), the level of analysis is more extensive, especially in the context of World Wars I and II.

Craig and George do a particularly excellent job of explaining the structure at the international system level before World War I. Weaving historical descriptions with quotes from various 19th and 20th century players, the reader is presented with a vivid description of how a system of multipoint alliances centered around Berlin eventually evolved into a bipolar situation in which Paris, London, and St. Petersburg became aligned against Berlin, Rome, and Vienna. How this inflexible arrangement disintegrated into World War I is clearly illustrated by various diagrams (37-38).

In describing the pre-WWI situation, an interesting feature of the system comes to light. The flexible system of powerful states in that era were able to balance each other by a division of less powerful states. All of the powerful states were expanding, but their competition did not inevitably lead to a large conflict because of the idea of an "expanding pie." As expansion occurred, "it was conducted in good part at the expense of third parties – that is, weaker European states, declining major powers,... and non-European territories... (40). The arrival of World War I was ushered in, in part, by a reduction in areas to divide among the great European powers.

The discussion of World War II is just as interesting. Particularly intriguing is the description (through simplification) of the four phases of Hitler’s diplomacy (83). Understanding how Hitler would brilliantly press forward in certain areas when world attention was diverted to other areas; how he would use conjured excuses and sleight-of-hand to attempt to invalidate earlier agreements; and how he would enter into appeasing treaties with no intentions of following through with them illustrate the reasons Nye suggests that, "Appeasement of Germany might have helped forestall World War I and deterrence of Germany might have prevented World War II, but the policies were reversed" (Understanding International Conflicts, 94).

The development of the Cold War situation is, as expected, described as being the fault of the Soviet Union, the United States, and no one in particular, all at the same time. Again, though, the analysis is extensive, with quotes from various leaders giving insight into policy at the time. This gives us a bit more understanding of why one could attempt to place the blame on one power or another. Particularly abhorring, personally, is the policy of Dean Acheson, Truman’s secretary of state:

"Acheson... admits that he consciously denigrated Soviet intentions and portrayed Russia as aiming at world domination in order to gain approval for the president’s policies.... Acheson argues that this is sometimes necessary in order to conduct foreign policy effectively in a democracy. ‘The task of a public officer seeking to explain and gain support for a major policy is not that of a writer of a doctoral thesis.... If we made our points clearer than truth, we did not differ from most other educators and could hardly to otherwise’" (104).

The second section of the book, "Maintaining the System: Problems of Force and Diplomacy," is less an analysis of history as a subject-by-subject presentation of different tools of diplomacy and how specific historical events relate to them. These chapters, covering such subjects as "Negotiation," "Deterrence," "Coercive Diplomacy," "Crisis Management," "War Termination," and "Détente" should prove useful to diplomats.

In these chapters, a more theoretical approach is taken. In "Crisis Management," for example, a list of important "principles" are presented which should be adhered to during a crisis (215). This chapter deals primarily with the Cuban Missile Crisis of the Kennedy presidency. Like most of these chapters, the historical events are dealt with very thoroughly.

In getting to the root of the "force" concept of Force and Statescraft, the "Role of Force in Diplomacy" chapter examines the situations when force should be used, and explains the different opinions which exist on the subject. I believe that it would be insightful to contrast Eisenhower’s "row of dominoes" phrase, an attempt to explain that "the loss of any country, however geographically remote, to communism would trigger further setbacks in adjacent countries," (262) with the realist idea that states naturally fall into a balance of power by forming a "checkerboard" pattern of alternating alliances.

Craig and George have created a flowing, thorough analysis of the history of statescraft and modern diplomacy. It is possibly for this reason that they feel the need to end each chapter with a flowery, yet oftentimes utterly useless summary sentence, e.g., "Policy makers can expect to be confronted repeatedly with challenging crises and difficult choices" (273)" This does not take away from the corpus of the book, which is well written and insightful. In the risk of repeating the same "flowery ending" trend, I must add that Force and Statescraft will both deepen the knowledge of state interaction of the student of international relations and also provide a helpful tool to those studying diplomacy in contemporary society.

November 20, 1998 I wrote an overview of Chapter 15 for a group of classmates in the International Relations class at SOAS.

Chapter 15, "Coercive Diplomacy" Overview Copyright © 1998 Garret Wilson
November 20, 1998

Craig and George introduce the concept of coercive diplomacy, which is basically a way to use the threat of force to make another party change their course of action. This is in contrast to deterrence, which is used to make another party do something they have not already done - coercive diplomacy then assumes an action has already taken place.

Coercive diplomacy is basically the same thing as an ultimatum, of which they list three components (197)

There are several types of coercive diplomacy. One is the "try-and-see" approach, which doesn't have a time limit - a clear threat is given and the party waits and sees if there is any response. The "turning the screw" method slowly keeps adding threats, sanctions, or whatever.

The authors illustrate coercive diplomacy by taking three situations as examples: the US policy toward Japan from 1938 to 1941, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Persian Gulf Crisis. In the Japanese policy example, they find that pressure was put on the Japanese to reverse previous Japanese advances by certain embargoes and other economic means, but communication was unclear and US policy was ambiguous (200). The US kept sending conflicting signals, and they didn't really give the Japan a "carrot," (of "carrot-and-stick" fame), that is, an incentive to reverse their previous advances, except maybe most-favored-nation status and a mutual non-agression treaty (202). Therefore, it gave Japan the impression that it really had nothing to lose by attacking Pearl Harbor.

The Cuban Missile Crisis on the other hand shows a much better handling of coercive diplomacy. Because of the fear of nuclear war, Kennedy gave his threats slowly, giving Khrushchev time to respond to them. Kennedy slowly tightened the screw with his actions. In the end, however, Kennedy offered Khrushchev the carrot of removing US missiles from Turkey (204). Concessions were then made on both sides.

In the Persian Gulf Crisis, coercive diplomacy failed, but the Craig and George make the case that it was meant to fail from the beginning (206). Bush and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, didn't want a lingering Saddam problem by leaving him in power with his military force and programs intact, so they set about to use coercive diplomacy that wouldn't work. While they provided a specific, clear demand, along with a time limit, they didn't offer any "carrots" for Saddam. They stated that there would be "no negotiations, no weakening of UN demands, and no 'rewards for aggression'" (207). There was no "out" for Saddam. Furthermore, they didn't give any time for sanctions to work. The coercive diplomacy had a high chance of failure.

Perhaps the most enlightening part of the chapter which draws all this together is the "Six Variables that Help Explain Success or Failure of Coercive Diplomacy" as they relate to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Persian Gulf Crisis (210). In the table they list the "Variables that Favor Success of Coercive Diplomacy," which are:

The authors find that every one of these variables were found in the successful use of coercive diplomacy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but none were found in the Persian Gulf Crisis.