Tuesday 01 November 2016
Protecting the national interests of any nation requires the development of capabilities to meet a wide variety of challenges. Although using the instruments of national power effectively can be quite complex, the desired effects sought by states are usually quite simple: states either use force (normally in war) or the threat of force to get other states to do their will (Coercion), or they compromise with other states to achieve mutually agreeable goals (Compromise), or states use incentives to persuade other states to do willingly what they want them to do (Persuasion).
When seeking to use Coercion, states either attempt to Deter opponents from harming them, or they Compel opponents to act the way they want them to act, using force or threats of force. In Deterrence the goal is to maintain the status quo and convince the opposing state to continue its current behavior. When seeking to Deter, states first threaten the opponent with possible punishment should the opponent alter its peaceful behavior; if the opposing state does not change and maintains a peaceful attitude, then deterrence has been successful and no punishment is inflicted.
If however the opposing state becomes more aggressive, then the threatened punishment is carried out (through military force, economic sanctions or other punitive measures.) When a state seeks to Compel another state, the goal is to change the status quo, to convince the opponent to alter aggressive behavior.
Typically, one state threatens the opposing state with possible punishment should the target maintain its aggressive behavior. If the opposing state does become less aggressive, then no punishment is required; if however the other state does not change its behavior, the threat is carried out. Compellance can be bought about economically, or diplomatically, or states can even be shamed by world opinion.
Compromise is not always as easy as it might seem when national security is at risk. Certain conditions are normally required for any stable compromise. Foremost among these are: general observance of international law, and a regime or balance of power which prevents one nation from ignoring or violating international law with impunity. The Concert of Europe in the nineteenth century provides an excellent example of such a regime, as does the UN Security Council today. Most states will seek compromise to maintain the peace when the issues are relatively insignificant. Compromise can be described as a win-lose argument in which both parties get some but not all of what they want; thus Compromise is not always an optimal solution.
Persuasion is now more commonly known as Soft Power, a term coined by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe a state’s ability to attract and co-opt other states rather than use force. So Soft Power refers to the capability to shape the preferences of other states through appeal and attraction. The most common tools of Soft Power include: culture, values, public opinion, and lobbying through multinational organizations. Some states Persuade indirectly and some directly, but all states Persuade to some degree, based upon their resources and international image.
For any of these efforts to succeed, communications among states must be attributable and clear. The credibility of a state’s signals must demonstrate that it has the will and the capability to implement the actions it promises. The state must effectively signal its threat to the target state, and it must also make clear that it will not implement the threat if the target state complies. The target must also clearly signal that it will comply (or resist). National messaging is thus a crucially important art for securing all national security effects.
Although the UAE has demonstrated its ability to use force quite clearly, our national culture places a premium on compromise and incentivized persuasion; thus the humanitarian and cultural influence of the UAE is very well recognized around the world. As we face the challenges in the future, the UAE’s skilled wielding of its influence to achieve Coercion, Compromise and Persuasion will not only continue to serve its people well, but will also help ensure the stability of the region.