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The Role of Foreign Service Officers as Human Intelligence (HUMINT)

Of all the methods in intelligence, I have been interested in the HUMINT method, known also as espionage or spying involving clandestine activities and considered as the oldest method for collecting information about foreign power. It was discussed in the class that compares to TECHINT which has limited capabilities in accessing the target, HUMINT can offer deep infiltration access to the target, although it has also weaknesses, it can simply be misleading and unreliable. For that reasons, many literature say that before the technological revolution of the twentieth century, HUMINT serves as the primary source of intelligence for government and I think for most nations, it remains as the basis of their intelligence collection activities.

The Intelligence Threat Handbook (1996) discussed that most HUMINT collection is performed by overt or open collectors such as diplomatic personnel, military attaches, members of official delegations. Diplomatic reporting, according to Lowenthal (2006), is a type of HUMINT even though it is considered as not have enough credibility because its overt nature. This is the case when the host country government official knows that when he speaks to a diplomat, his remarks are going to be informed to that diplomat’s capital, resulting non credible information. That makes some people prefer more traditional HUMINT (clandestine) even when the source’s reliability remains uncertain, more willingly than the diplomatic reporting (Lowenthal, 2006).

Apart from of their limitation, in my opinion, diplomats and other foreign service officers as a HUMINT cover and complement the traditional HUMINT activities.  For instance, as an official cover or “spy”, diplomat tend to have more access to maintain contact with the superior and would produce fast warning, he or she also has the access to the host country’s high ranking officials in order to get classified information through networking, utilizing embassy facilities and the most important thing that HUMINT diplomat can contribute to policy making in foreign affairs.

In addition to giving warning, according to Hilsman (1952), intelligence must also supply the information, analyzed and arranged in a pattern on which policy can be based. In this part, diplomats have advantage compare to traditional HUMINT, their gathered information are already policy compatible to my opinion, although there are some arguments that intelligence discussed by Hilsman (1952) should not be defined as evaluated information, because it is no longer objective since the intelligence were already two steps  up from the policy makers.


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Iran’s Nuclear Strategic Decision Making, Is It Predictable?

Stable democracy countries which have long track record of nuclear possessions such as U.K., France and U.S usually are reliably predictable when it is relates to nuclear strategic decision making, on the contrary, countries without stable democracy such as North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, or Pakistan are more difficult to predict reliably on their act in the future (Walton and Gray, 2002). However, Iran makes a different, according to Chubin and Litwak (2003), public opinion in Iran supports an active international role for the country that allows it to be taken seriously and does not undermine its neighboring states’ reasonable search for security. In other words, Iran’s dynamic domestic politics present a possibility for influencing the country’s decision making about its nuclear strategic program.

Does it make Iran’s nuclear strategic decision making in the future predictable? As we know, Iran continues to insist on the peaceful character of its nuclear program which is developing nuclear energy program. However, along with achieving progress in enriching uranium, Iran has developed long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel as well as parts of eastern and southeastern Europe. These developments have increased the international concern over its nuclear program.

The concern about Iran’s right to nuclear technology program has often considered as a strategic way for its right to nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, according to Chubin and Liwak (2003) some observers have sympathized with Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Supposedly because today’s Iran is located around the nuclearized neighbor countries – Israel and Pakistan – and U.S military power extended to Iraq and Afghanistan, causes a threat to Iran’s security.

In my opinion, Iran’s nuclear program has to be objectively study, especially its determination to pursue ambitious nuclear program for energy or power generation. The energy justification is frequently cited as Iran’s response to population growth and increased domestic energy consumption.  If so, to facilitate the energy rationale for the program, U.S or other international community concerned by the program should consider the technology alternatives in providing, selling or financing to nuclear energy for Iran.

Iran’s nuclear programs above mentioned, have two rationales, its security and energy purposes. With those rationales, certainly we can predict Iran’s nuclear strategic decision making and take measures for each rationales.


Chubin, S and Litwak, R,S. (2003), Debating Iran’s nuclear aspirations, The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Washington Quarterly • 26:4 pp. 99–114. Retrieved on 22 May 2010, from http://…/iran%20nuclear/Debating%20Iran’s%20Nuclear%20Aspirations.pdf

Walton, C.D and Gray C.S. (2002), The second nuclear age: nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century, in Strategy in the contemporary world: an introduction to strategic studies, ed. John Baylis, Eliot A.Cohen, James J. Wirtz. Oxford University Press, USA. 

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The Rise and Fall of U.S Coercive Diplomacy

Two major exercises of coercive diplomacy, deterrence and compellence were discussed in the class. These was said to be the regular tools of U.S foreign policy. Schelling (1966), as cited by Sperandei (2006) distinguished compellence as a threat intended to make an adversary do something (action) and deterrence as a threat intended to keep an adversary from starting something (inaction). Both of compellence and deterrence use threats, not to harm the adversary physically, but to affect his motivation.

We can see the U.S practice of deterrence and compellence in the history of international relations, Freedman (2004), as cited by Sperandei (2006), observed that U.S during Cold War conveyed two warnings to the Soviet Union: one aimed at stopping Soviet missile installation in Cuba (compellent) and the other aimed at stopping any additional missiles from passing through the U.S line of defense. Nevertheless there exists also confusion in the U.S practice of deterrence and compellence according to Byman and Waxman (2000) as cited by Sperandei (2006) in the US-Iraq confrontation during the first Persian Gulf Crisis, U.S threats that can be classified as deterrence and reactive compellence, such as “don’t invade Kuwait” or “withdraw from Kuwait”, overlapped considerably in practice.

Hence, can we measure the success of U.S coercive diplomacy with its deterrence and compellence policies? or it is falling down as U.S engaging more preemptive and preventive military action? Such as in Iraq and Afghanistan? Certainly the issuance of threats can never be a total strategy by itself. According to Freedman (2003), the conduct of strategic coercion may well reflect a preference for threatening rather than applying force, but should force be necessary, even for exemplary purposes, it might still have to be deployed in substantial amounts.

Generally, according to Sperandei (2006), deterrence considered successful when no force is used and a course of action is stopped before its pursuit is attempted. Compellence, instead, succeeds when a compellent threat is made and the attacker stops using his force. In the context of U.S, it was failed to succeeding both strategies in the First Gulf Crisis. Does it make the U.S coercive diplomacy failing? Not necessarily, as concluded by Sperandei (2006, 258), “coercive policies of deterrence as well as of compellence rely on the threat of future military force to influence adversarial decision makers and that the limited use of force may be required for compellence to work”.


Freedman, L, (2003), Strategic Coercion, in Strategic coercion: concepts and cases, edited by Lawrence Freedman, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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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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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