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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