By James Cable (auth.)
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Extra resources for Diplomacy at Sea
It would be extravagant to suggest that these deficiencies would be greatly alleviated, let alone eliminated, by providing practitioners with a better and more relevant theoretical grounding. Some slight improvement might, however, be attempted. ' 15 COERCIVE DIPLOMACY IV: THE DARK SIDE Ideally coercive diplomacy should only be attempted by those governments which, perceiving the consequences to themselves of a particular dispute as intolerable, are reasonably sure that a satisfactory terminal situation can be achieved either by action to remove the cause of dispute or else by action calculated to persuade another government or governments to adopt, refrain from or desist from some specific course of action.
It may be a very rough rule of thumb to regard national governments as seeking the interest of the nations they lead, but it is not obvious that any other working assumption would be of much practical assistance to anyone but partisans and historians. The latter can always rely on the unerring sentence of time, but this is a verdict for which decision-makers can seldom afford to wait. 34 Diplomacy At Sea Nor can students of international relations, who are not primarily historians, though they are foolish if they neglect the lessons of history.
Time suggests an hourglass pattern: the committed bulging out the bottom and the Super Powers the top, those in the middle squeezed between their preoccupations and their capacity. The low-level Icelandic confrontation or the entirely non-violent Beira Patrol imposed a greater strain on the Royal Navy than would have been felt either by a coastal state operating in its own waters or by a Super Power. The equaliser is the fallible and unpredictable instrument of political judgment. IDENTITY AND MOTIVATION The identity of the contestants is obviously crucial for each of the five factors under consideration, but is not in itself decisive.