Achievements of the Military V Diplomats Term Paper

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¶ … Achievements of the Military v Diplomats

The Achievements of the Military are More Decisive than the Achievements of the Diplomats (With Reference to the U.S. Foreign Policy between 1930 and 1956)

The question whether "the achievements of the military are more decisive than those of the diplomats" often boils down to a comparison between the pros and cons of war and diplomacy. There may be compelling arguments on either side but to my mind, "to jaw, jaw is better than to war, war" even if we discuss the topic in the context of U.S. foreign policy of a period (1930-1956) that saw the country win the Second World War.

The period between 1930 and 1956 was probably the most turbulent era in recent human history. It saw the start and end of the Great Depression that destroyed the economies of most of the industrial world at one time; witnessed the rise of expansionist fascist powers in Europe and the Far-East resulting in probably the bloodiest conflict in human history; the gradual change of the U.S. foreign policy from isolationism to intervention in the Second World War; the victory of the Allies over the Axis powers; the emergence of the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. As the two major world powers and the start of almost half a century of a Cold War between them, besides the American involvement in the eventually stalemated Korean War.

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Out of all the major events that took place during this time, the Allied victory over the Axis powers in the Second World War is often cited as the most pertinent example of a decisive and positive achievement of war. This may seem a valid argument at first sight, but let us not forget at the enormous cost at which the victory was achieved. The casualty figures of the War are indeed staggering with a total of approximately 62 million people killed on either side, including 37 million civilians ("World War II: Casualties"). This does not include an even greater number of people who were wounded, maimed or rendered homeless; and the damage to property and infrastructure in the affected countries was colossal. Surely, so much death and destruction cannot possibly be worth any cause, however noble.

Term Paper on Achievements of the Military V Diplomats the Assignment

Leaving aside the involvement of other countries in World War II, there is considerable evidence available to suggest that United States' entry in the War, which was precipitated by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, could have been easily avoided if diplomacy had been given a chance to succeed. Apart from the several conspiracy theorists and revisionist historians who have suggested that President Roosevelt deliberately provoked Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor, a much more credible source, i.e., the American Ambassador to Japan at the time, Joseph Grew, who prided himself on being close to Emperor Hirohito, believed that negotiations with Japan could avert war (Thomas). This view is given further credence by former U.S. diplomat and one-time private secretary to Ambassador Grew, Robert Feary, who has written that Grew was convinced to his dying day in 1965 that the Pacific war could have been avoided if President Roosevelt had agreed to meet personally with the Japanese Prime Minister in August 1941 to settle the outstanding issues between the two countries (Ibid.) Such a meeting almost took place with the Japanese having proposed Honolulu as the venue while the Americans suggested Juneau, Alaska, because it was closer to Washington. Unfortunately, the meeting never happened as the U.S. State Department officials persuaded the president to reject the idea.

Proponents of the effectiveness of war may well argue that military action is more decisive than diplomacy: after all, the U.S. forces did defeat Japan and the Allied troops similarly triumphed unambiguously over the Germans in World War II -- a result that could not have been achieved through diplomacy. The point, however, is that defeat of an opponent ought not to be the ultimate aim in a conflict. Achieving long-term goals in international relations are more important and these can be achieved in a far better manner through diplomacy rather than by violent means such as military action. In fact, military action, which is a form of violence, gives rise to a vicious cycle that breeds further bloodshed. On the other hand, an agreement reached with the consent of both parties in a win-win situation is more likely to last permanently.

Consider the example of the objectives of the United States and the Allies during the Second World War. Most people would agree that the overall objective was to prevent totalitarian powers from dominating Europe and the Far East. However, the United States in particular was so focused on the military aspect of the war, i.e., achieving total victory over Germany and Japan that it acquiesced to the domination of half of Europe by the equally totalitarian Soviet Empire in a post-World War II world and accepted the emergence of Communist China in the Far East. Hence, although the U.S. won the war, it arguably lost the peace. The post-War global situation could have been different if more attention had been paid to diplomacy rather than the purely military aspects of the conflict.

The reason why diplomacy is invariably the better option in almost any adversarial situation is because it is part of the higher functions of human beings in which weaker individuals or groups can get a fairer deal by utilizing their powers of persuasion; war or military action, on the other hand, is based on the jungle rule of "might is right." It is due to this inherent superiority of diplomacy over warfare that most long-term U.S. foreign policy successes between 1930 and 1956 were achieved through skillful diplomacy rather than brilliant military action. The U.S. foreign policy of "containment," the basic U.S. strategy for fighting the Cold War with the Soviet Union, for instance, was successful in keeping Communism in check without the outbreak of open warfare between the two world powers at a critical period in world history. Such a strategy could only have been devised by a diplomat rather than a military mind, and indeed it was. The containment theory was first suggested in 1947 by George F. Kennan -- a U.S. career diplomat who called for a "long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies" and accurately predicted that such a policy would "promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power." (Kennan's "X-Article" quoted in "Kennan and Containment")

Compared to such a glittering achievement of diplomacy, the most notable military involvement of the U.S. In the post-World War II period until 1956 was in the Korean War. The result of the war was predictably disastrous and as many as 4 million Koreans died during the war, two-thirds of them being civilians. This was in addition to casualties of up to 1 million Chinese soldiers, 36,934 U.S. casualties and 103,284 wounded, while other UN nations suffered another 3322 dead and 11,949 wounded. Economic and social damage to the Korea Peninsula was horrendous, especially in the North, where three years of bombing left hardly a modern building standing. (Cumings, para on "Aftermath") Despite the suffering, what was the result of the Korean War? A stalemate, during which the U.S. came close to using nuclear weapons against the Chinese and the unnatural division of the Korean Peninsula, remains in place till today.

As is evident from this essay, I wholeheartedly disagree with the statement "the achievements of the military are more decisive than the achievements of the diplomats." While diplomacy seeks to sustain order where it exists and helps to create it where it does not, war, out of all human activity, is the most wasteful, destructive, the most destabilizing and the least predictable… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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