Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Return to Coercion

 

With Iraq collapsing, Russia attacking, and China rising, the Obama administration is only now taking the first steps toward forceful action. It will have at its disposal a broad spectrum of options, thanks to new military technologies such as cyber-weapons, unmanned drones, precision munitions, and robotics. But it has yet to free itself from outmoded ways of thinking of war.

In an article just posted, co-written with Jeremy Rabkin of George Mason University, I argue that the United States should use these new weapons in the way it has used economic sanctions and blockades (as means to coerce other nations to pressure their leaders to change policies, rather than consider them kinetic weapons like artillery or armor.

Here’s a link and an abstract:

In recent years, the U.S. has threatened air strikes against Syria and insisted on the possibility of air strikes against Iran, in both cases to deter development of weapons of mass destruction. Such threats represent a return to the idea that international law allows states to impose punitive measures by force. Most academic specialists claim that the UN Charter only authorizes force in immediate self-defense. Many commentators embrace the related doctrine that lawful force can only be exercised against the opposing military force. But there remains more logic in the older view, that international law authorizes force for a wider variety of challenges and against a wider range of legitimate targets. Since there is no global protective service, nations must use force more broadly in self-defense and greater powers must sometimes use force to resist the spread of weapons of mass destruction, to disrupt terror networks, to stop aggressive designs before they provoke all out war. There are good reasons to insist on restraints that limit loss of life among civilians, but civilian property does not have the same claims. But with today’s technologies, cyber attacks or drone strikes can focus on carefully chosen civilian targets. That approach can help resolve disputes between nations with less overall destruction — the ultimate purpose of the laws of war.

What are your thoughts about “a return to coercion?”

There are 15 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Profile Photo Member

    It reminds of LBJ me and his carefully nuanced focus on carefully chosen targets in North Vietnam.

    That strategy failed miserably then, and it will fail miserably in the future. Trying to create a kinder, gentler form of warfare simply doesn’t work. Nor does burying the military under mountains of legal paperwork.

    I suggest we stop playing patty-cake with the people who want to kill us, at least going forward. Playing nice has given us ISIS in Iraq and an Iranian regime that is still plotting genocide against us and Israel, too.

     We should notice our failure, and react accordingly.

    (Sorry, but you asked for opinions.)

    • #1
    • August 9, 2014, at 1:39 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    So what you are proposing is that we launch cyber attacks against civilian targets in nations like Russia? That might work, but once we open the flood gates of cyber war how do we defend against it ourselves. China already skirts the line on this. IF we engage fully on this front we may soon see an all out cyber war. I fear that might destroy the Internet as nations remove themselves from the “web” to minimize their exposure to attacks. Do you recall when Egypt cut off the internet? I think we might even see that here if we make cyber space the new battle ground.

    • #2
    • August 9, 2014, at 6:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Man With the Axe Member

    If the goal is to prevent major war then the powers of good must be extremely capable of fighting on all fronts (conventional, nuclear, special ops, cyber, etc.) and also show that they are willing to fight when the need arises by, e.g., destroying ISIS right now, putting a division or two on the Ukraine-Russia border, and counter-attacking Chinese cyber entities. 

    The current administration wants to draw down the army by 20%, reduce the navy, degrade our nuclear arsenal, and announce that no matter what happens, we won’t actually fight anyone.

    Coming soon: WWIII.

    • #3
    • August 9, 2014, at 9:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    I know this is anathema to liberals, but being willing and able to fight makes for fewer fights. it does not eliminate all fights, but it prevents most of them.

    By actively declaring that you can fight but choose not to, you encourage others to fight you. This is true in a bar on friday night and its true in geopolitics. Wishing it were not true does not make it so. Ever. In the history of mankind.

    • #4
    • August 9, 2014, at 9:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. KC Mulville Inactive

    There are many ways to intimidate other than killing. You can take away his property or make it impossible to use. You can drive up his costs. You can harass his operations. 

    War is politics by other means. In turn, politics is just persuasion. It can be voluntary or involuntary, peaceful or violent. How the persuasion is achieved doesn’t matter, If messianic adulation works, use it. If intimidation works, use it.

    Obama is a “persuader” from Chicago. The Chicago reputation is the strong-arm, persuading people by threats and intimidation. They get away with it because they’ve paid off the cops and judges; they own the referees. Domestically, Obama can intimidate his adversaries because he owns the referees (the media, the Justice Department, and the Senate). 

    Obama stinks at foreign policy because there aren’t any referees to own. His adversaries don’t care about his harassment. To intimidate a foreign adversary, you can’t rely on harassment, you have to threaten with military (i.e., deadly) force.

    But when Obama backed off that red line in Syria, they called his bluff. And it showed that he was just a loud-talking thug.

    • #5
    • August 9, 2014, at 10:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. KC Mulville Inactive

    Obama is no Humphrey Bogart. From The Maltese Falcon

    CASPAR GUTMAN: Sir, there are other means of persuasion besides killing and threatening to kill.

    SAM SPADE: Yes, that’s… That’s true. But none of them are any good unless the threat of death is behind them. You see what I mean? If you start something, I’ll make it a matter of your having to kill me or call it off.

    CASPAR GUTMAN: That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides. Because, as you know, in the heat of action…men are likely to forget where their best interests lie…and let their emotions carry them away.

    SAM SPADE: And the trick from my angle is to make my play strong enough to tie you up, not make you mad enough to bump me off…against your better judgment.

    CASPAR GUTMAN: By gad, sir, you are a character.

    • #6
    • August 9, 2014, at 11:10 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Man With the Axe Member

    KC Mulville: Obama stinks at foreign policy because there aren’t any referees to own.

     This is a profound and, now that you’ve said it, obviously true statement. Putin, Khamenei, Assad, Kim, etc. don’t care that the lickspittle press think Obama is “the one.” 

    • #7
    • August 9, 2014, at 11:23 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. jonb60173 Member

    coercion could only succeed if there were actual fear of calling its bluff, ergo coercion with the current POTUS could/would not bring the desired effect

    • #8
    • August 9, 2014, at 12:02 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I believe:

    The United States should take pains to avoid permanent military alliances, however, once entered they must either be honoured (to the letter, no more and no less) or formally rebuked.

    Where the United States has no permanent military alliance, it should take pains to remain militarily neutral, however, once military action has been taken the United States has a responsibility to mitigate the negative effects of those actions on innocent civilians.

    The trick is being able to know when a negative effect is the result of US action (i.e. causation vs. correlation), and also to be able to distinguish innocent civilians from combatants.

    Is there currently a genocide of innocent civilians in Iraq? I do not know, but I believe the answer is yes.

    Would the current genocide in Iraq have happened if the US had not deposed Saddam Hussein? I do not know, but I believe the answer is “no”.

    Therefore, I believe that the US has a military responsibility to protect the lives of innocent people in Iraq today.

    • #9
    • August 9, 2014, at 12:38 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. KC Mulville Inactive

    Misthiocracy:

    The United States should take pains to avoid permanent military alliances, however, once entered they must either be honoured (to the letter, no more and no less) or formally rebuked.

     Agreed. As with Obamacare, Obama doesn’t seem to appreciate how he creates uncertainty, and how it screws up everyone else’s strategy. He’s not committed to anything except the latest headlines.

    I hate to say it, but if I’m ISIS, I’ll let Obama bomb a few places, stop my advance long enough for the news media to report that “Obama has stopped ISIS” (which is all it’ll take to get Obama to stop) – wait for him to brag and swagger before the media … and then go back to business as usual.

    • #10
    • August 9, 2014, at 1:35 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    We need to deploy President Obama. The man that was elected because he was the great mediator with intellectual power far surpassing any other statesman in modern times and possibly ever before. Why would we need to resort to anything as crass as coercion or force?

    • #11
    • August 9, 2014, at 2:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Obama is getting exactly what he wants. He wants America taken down a few pegs, and that is exactly what is happening. He does not CARE about anything else, including the poor unfortunates (Christians, Jews, Nigerian girls…) being murdered by Islamist extremists. He sympathizes with Islamists, and makes no efforts to stop them until he is forced to. He sympathizes with Hamas, and has indicated very definitely that Israel is not high on his list. And you are not high on his list either.

    • #12
    • August 9, 2014, at 10:09 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Profile Photo Member

    According to Thomas Friedman in yesterday’s NYT from his interview with President Obama:

    Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket. Hello, hello: reality calling Obama.

    • #13
    • August 10, 2014, at 5:33 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Derek Simmons:

    According to Thomas Friedman in yesterday’s NYT from his interview with President Obama:

    Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket. Hello, hello: reality calling Obama.

     Insane greenwashing.

    • #14
    • August 10, 2014, at 8:37 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    Derek Simmons:

    According to Thomas Friedman in yesterday’s NYT from his interview with President Obama:

    Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket. Hello, hello: reality calling Obama.

     In other words, no involvement at all. Except yes, he’ll bomb under certain circumstances, and might deploy ground troops if people behave irresponsibly.

    We have a smug idiot for President. You could pluck a professor from just about any college in the land, straight out of the faculty lounge, and plunk him into Barry’s current chair, and he or she would probably be saying the same kind of mind-blowingly stupid things.

    • #15
    • August 11, 2014, at 3:23 AM PDT
    • Like

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.