The uses of force -- and nonforce -- in Mideast strategy

Perhaps the most nagging decision facing the Carter administration in the composite Mideast crisis is the selection of an appropriate strategy. There is a strong case for stressing strategies of nonforce rather than force.

Within the current historical context, it would seem that strategies of force are best used to determ or preventm someone from doing something. On the other hand, nonforce, such as an economic strategy, seems more effective in compelling someone to dom or to undom something.

The distinction can be applied to both domestic and international problems. The police prevent or deter crime; taxes and fines, on the other hand, are the common means of enforcing compliance.

At the international level, the doctrines of deterrence and detente argue the preventivem value of sufficientm military forces. Nonforce measures, such as boycotts and blockades, have been imposed to compel the withdrawal of missiles from Cuba. They are now being employed to induce the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the termination of racial discrimination in South Africa.

It would seem that the use and even threat of force to prevent the initiation or continuation of some form of unacceptable target behavior invite in-kind reactions. The arms race spiral is a historical manifestation of an opponent's determination to develop an incremental improvement in defensive or offensive capability for every corresponding change on the other side; "sufficiency" remains an elusive goal and "parity" or superiority an ever-present temptation.

Strategies of force or threatened force to compel the withdrawal, undoing, or retraction of something already done seem to invite force in return. The focus of the targeted party is shifted to resisting force, which is an in-kind, and probably instinctive, reaction to the threatener's strategy, thus militarizing a situation or enhancing the potential for violence.

This is not to say that strategies of nonforce are always the answer. In fact, as preventivem measures they may have a negligible, if any, effect.

The motives and incentives for force development and force use depend on perceived or actual threats or attacks on some critical element of what is ambiguously referred to as the "national interest," as generally conceived and detailed by whatever political regime happens to be in power. Few wars in history have been initiated with a rational awareness of their consequences. Yet all have been justified on the basis of some emotional claim of rightness. This allows military planners to develop an "objective" force which is seldom affected by resource availabilities or shortages until the war drags hopelessly on.

While nonforce strategies do notm necessarily preventm violent actions, regardless of the differences of economic, social, and military scale of the adversaries, they can be more compelling to undom even a militaristic initiative. Among the advantages of such strategies are that (1) they allow for more bargaining; (2) they allow for time and "saving of face;" (3) they turn the target's attention and energies to offsetting in-kind strategies, such as securing new economic or marketing relationships; (4) although, by way of caveat , they may lead to new aggression, the economic consequences of such an act become clearer; (5) they may carry for both parties fewer political as well as economic "costs" than did Vietnam, for example; and (6) they are more easily terminated and with fewer permanent scars on either side.

In conclusion, the selection of a strategy of force or nonforce must be judged according to the objective. But this ought not to prevent even a propagandistic effort to convert a goal to preventm something into a goal to undom something. For example, it may be more advantageous to focus on Soviet withdrawalm from Afghanistan than on Soviet expansionm into, say, Pakistan or Iran. Ideally, both goals and their appropriate strategies should be addressed.

Domestically, the increased use of nonforce options will also enhance a greater sense of equity, partnership, and cooperativeness between the two coordinate political branches of the US Government: executive and legislative. In the use of strategies of force, the congressional role is reactive, occasionally consultative, and supportive or nonsupportive -- either vocally or materially. But such nonforce strategies as economic measures demand legislated resources and authorities that the president needs to induce, encourage, cajole, negotiate, and bargain. Of equal significance, both branches would share the benefits of success as well as the political liabilities.

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