Monthly Archives: May 2010

Visit Indonesia : Tours and Travel Info – Maps – Hotels – History – Places Interesting and more

Visit Indonesia : Tours and Travel Info – Maps – Hotels – History – Places Interesting and more.

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DOING UNILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL? Ambivalent Foreign Policy of States

Two mainstreams of the study in international relations, realism and liberalism, have proven their stance in major events and international relations of the world. Realism’s standpoint is leaning on the conflict between states, whereas liberalism’s tries to mitigate or lessen the tendency of conflict between states with cooperation (Walt, 1998). States are trying to implement these by foreign policies -unilaterally or multilaterally- in order to fulfill their priorities. We have seen, over the last few decades, how states engaged their foreign policies ambivalently between doing unilateral or multilateral actions. Should states choose the former rather than the latter? Or could they just engage both of them?

In today’s world politics, states have come to recognize that the global concerns such as human rights, international security, spread of infectious diseases, instability of global economy and environmental issues among others are too vast and complicated for any nations, regardless of their power, to effectively manage on their own. Multilateralism as one of the means of foreign policy is therefore has been widely accepted as one of the approach to world politics and international relations. However, in the past few years, multilateralism has been undermined by sovereign states by disregarding any international cooperatives norm i.e. military force on sovereign states, ignoring international consensus, rejecting major international treaties and agreements. These actions are also known as unilateralism. Nevertheless, Nye (2002) explained that a state has the right to act unilaterally in case of self-defense as stated in Article 51 of the UN Charter. Nye (2002) also discussed that even when survival of a state is not at stake, unilateral actions sometimes contribute to compromises that advance multilateral interests.

Nye (2002) discussed how to choose between multilateralism and unilateralism in the context of US foreign policy. Nye (2002) argued that in choosing between them, US government should consider the effects of the decision on U.S. soft power, which can be ruined by excessive unilateralism and arrogance. Nye (2002) added that if US could consult others and try a multilateral approach, its occasional unilateral actions are more likely to be tolerated, but if it gives to the unilateralist temptation too easily, it will invite the criticisms. Will these approaches considerably compatible with other nations? Nye (2002) concluded that even a sole superpower should follow the rule of thumb “Try multilateralism first.”

Nye, J. (2002, June 13). Unilateralism vs Multilateralism. Published in International Herald Tribune. Retrieved May 03, 2010, from

Walt, Stephen M. (1998, Spring). International relations: one world, many theories.

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MILITARY AND ECONOMIC POWER OR DIPLOMACY? The Choice of Foreign Policy Tools to Prevent Hostile Intentions (War)

Clausewitz’s idea on war (Howard and Paret, 1984) is intriguing, he expressed that war is not simply the act of policy but somewhat a true political instrument, the extension of political interaction, carried on with other means. If two civilized nations engaging war, then must be it is the continuation of their foreign political intercourse to some extent. Concerning tools of foreign policy, with military force and economic power as hard power and diplomacy as soft power, it is quite interesting to see whether these could be the policy instruments to avoid or at least to holdup hostile intentions of the adversaries that might raise the war as a serious means to a serious political end.

It has never crossed my mind that military force could actually achieve cooperative objectives rather than somewhat hostile’s. The former, in any way it is conducted, in my opinion, has less trigger effect to result in a war than the latter. As mentioned in the lecture, the cooperative objectives such as promoting economic development, democracy, human rights, preventing proliferation of WMD sounds very friendly compare to the hostile’s such as occupying land and disarming enemy, eliminating hostile groups etc. Nevertheless, since the nature of military force is somewhat hostile, we need to be very careful in engaging military force as foreign policy tools as it may sparks hostile feelings and intentions of other nations.

Economic power and diplomacy are closely related. Diplomacy has broad issues, and economy is just one part of the issues. Using economic diplomacy, in my opinion is effective enough to prevent hostile intentions. Take the Japan’s ODA for example, however, the implementation must not deviate from its original intentions otherwise it will hurt the domestic public and other nations feelings as in the case of Japan’s chequebook diplomacy in the 1991’s Gulf War.

Diplomacy itself, as a softpower, can penetrate deep into the heart of the people as in the conduct of cultural diplomacy, however at the same time it can be tough in compelling head of states or military power of adversaries to do our will as in coercive diplomacy where compellent and deterrent policies are implemented ( Sperandei, 2006).

In the end, it is hard to make a choice of which foreign policy tools to be engaged or what comes first between military force, economic power and diplomacy in avoiding any hostile intentions or war since war itself, as Clausewitz argued, not solely relied on political end but carried on with other means.


Howard, M and Paret, P, (1984), Carl Von Clausewitz: on war, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Sperandei, M, (2006), Bridging deterrence and compellence: an alternative approach to the study of coercive diplomacy, International Studies Review 8, 253-280. Retrieved on April, 23, 2010 from

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ATTITUDE TOWARD THE USE OF FORCE: Who is the initiator, military officers or civilian leaders?

It is interesting to know that there is a challenge in the wisdom among international relations or strategic studies scholars that military officers have a tendency to be more conservative or cautious than their civilian counterparts on the initiation of the use of force. Seeing the world’s wars especially in the modern time, and as a civilian, I have been assuming all this time that the use of force in war time had been initiated by the military and the civilian leader had nothing to do with it. However, the basic assumption, according to Sechser (2004), the initiation of the use of force is more frequently appear in states lacking of strong civilian control over military than states whose militaries are under tight civilian control.
In my opinion, it is understandable for military to be conservative in the context of using force. As the logic goes, going to wars means risking soldiers life, so that the military officers are reluctant to engage force and send the soldiers into war field. In contrast, civilian leaders, without knowing and experiencing war time, will likely engage in military adventures. On the other hand, according to militarism theory, military can engage the use of force to war based on organizational interests, high defense spending, incentives in the context of battlefield experience and doctrine (Sechser, 2004).
In relation to the public support of the use of force, the study of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS) (as cited by Feaver, Hikotani and Narine, 2005) challenge the conventional wisdom on one crucial point, which is “the American public was far more willing to tolerate casualties than popularly believed”. This is provided that the public had an expectation that the mission or the use of force would be successful. Nevertheless, the study of Sechser (2004) using quantitative, cross national evidence supports the argument that military officers are more likely to favor the use of force than their civilian counterparts; and when they have the authority to initiate the use of force, they tend to do so at full scale or at rates substantially higher than civilians.
Eventually, in identifying the initiator on the use of force in states between military officers and civil leaders depends on the level of civilian control of a state, whether it is weak or strong. Moreover, public would also contribute to encourage the use of force as they expect the mission would be successful.

Feaver, Peter D., Hikotani, Takako and Narine, Shaun, 2005, Civilian control and civil-military gaps in the United States, Japan, and China, Asian Perspective, Vol.29, No., pp. 233-271.
Sechser, Todd S., 2004, Are soldiers less war-prone than statesmen?, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol.48, No.5, pp. 746-774. Retrieved April 14, 2010 from

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