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Military Force vs. Diplomacy: Can You Have One Without the Other?

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
January 31, 2014
Defense One


At Tuesday's State of the Union President Barack Obama promised the American people that the era of large-scale military interventions is over. Diplomacy is now the order of the day.

"I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone," the president said. "In a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership depends on all elements of our power, including strong and principled diplomacy."

"I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts."

Yet some top American diplomats question whether the two – military force vs. diplomacy – can be so easily divorced from one another.

"Diplomacy is not an alternative to military force; it is the use of all elements of U.S. force in a coordinated, cumulative way to achieve our results in other countries," said former U.S.ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, a diplomat who spent much of the last decade focused on the Middle East. "I'm not sure the administration has the tradecraft right."

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