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The Politics of International Military Force

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The Secretary General of the United Nations recently proposed the creation of a readily available United Nations armed force, arguing that a military option is essential to the credibility of the United Nations as guarantor of international security. His proposal stemmed from the sharp increase in post-Cold War peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations, the ominous threat to international peace and security from a plethora of emerging and imploding states, and the growing awareness that national forces for intervention may not always be readily available or reliable. Nations are increasingly interdependent, and, consequently, in search of supranational answers to the problems generated by that interdependency. While military force is a partial solution to the problems of international interdependency and national conflict, that force must be linked with international political will to be effective. Carl yon Clausewitz established a timeless and lucid relationship between war and its political master which has survived the centuries and applies to international as well as national use of force. He defined war as an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will. It is also a political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means. War is an act of force, and subject to political dynamics whether it is wielded by a nation-state or an international body. Clausewitz reinforces this political-military relationship by describing war, or the act of force, as a paradoxical trinity comprised of the people, the commander and his army, and the political primacy of the government. A theory that ignores any one of them or seeks to fix an arbitrary relationship between them would conflict with reality to such an extent that for this reason alone it would be totally useless. The challenge for the 21st Century strategist is to expand his or her understanding of warfare theory into an international context.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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