In international politics, the term gunboat diplomacy refers to the pursuit of foreign policy
objectives with the aid of conspicuous displays of naval power, implying or constituting a direct threat of war
fare should terms not be agreeable to the superior force.
Origin of the term
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The term comes from the nineteenth-century period of imperialism
, when Western powersin Europe and the United Stateswould intimidate other, less powerful states into granting concessions through a demonstration of their superior military capabilities, usually depicted by their naval assets. A country negotiating with a Western power would notice that a warship or fleet of ships had appeared off its coast. The mere sight of such power almost always had a considerable effect, and it was rarely necessary for such boats to use other measures, such as demonstrations of firepower.
A notable example of gunboat diplomacy was the Don Pacifico Incident
in 1850, in which the British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston
dispatched a squadron of the Royal Navy
port of Piraeus
in retaliation for the assault of a British subject, David Pacifico
, in Athens
, and the subsequent failure of the government
of King Otto
to compensate the Gibraltar
-born (and therefore British) Pacifico.
The effectiveness of such simple demonstrations of a nation's projection of force
capabilities meant that nations with naval power and command of the sea
could establish military bases (for example, Diego Garcia
) and arrange economically advantageous relationships around the world. Aside from military conquest, gunboat diplomacy was the dominant way to establish new trade partners, colonial outposts
, and expansion of empire
Those lacking the resources and technological advancements of Western empires found that their own peaceable relationships were readily dismantled in the face of such pressures, and they therefore came to depend on the imperialist nations for access to raw material
s and overseas market
Diplomat and naval thinker James Cable
spelled out the nature of gunboat diplomacy in a series of works published between 1971 and 1993. In these, he defined the phenomenon as "the use or threat of limited naval force, otherwise than as an act of war, in order to secure advantage or to avert loss, either in the furtherance of an international dispute or else against foreign nationals within the territory or the jurisdiction of their own state." He further broke down the concept into four key areas:
* Definitive Force: the use of gunboat diplomacy to create or remove a fait accompli
* Purposeful Force: application of naval force to change the policy or character of the target government or group.
* Catalytic Force: a mechanism designed to buy a breathing space or present policy makers with an increased range of options.
* Expressive Force: use of navies to send a political message. This aspect of gunboat diplomacy is undervalued and almost dismissed by Cable.
Gunboat diplomacy comes in contrast to the views held prior to the 18th century influenced by Hugo Grotius
, ''De Jure Belli ac Pacis
'', in which he circumscribed the right to resort to force with what he described as "temperamenta".
Gunboat diplomacy is distinct from "defence diplomacy
", which is understood to be the peaceful application of resources from across the spectrum of defence, to achieve positive outcomes in the development of bilateral
relationships. "Military diplomacy" is a sub-set of this, tending to refer only to the role of military attachés and their associated activity. Defence diplomacy does not include military operations, but subsumes such other defence activity as international personnel exchanges, ship and aircraft visits, high-level engagement (e.g., ministers and senior defence personnel), training and exercises, security-sector reform, and bilateral military talks.
, surveillance and radar aircraft often used in a modern-day form of gunboat diplomacy
Gunboat diplomacy is considered a form of hegemony
. As the United States became a military power in the first decade of the 20th century, the Rooseveltian
version of gunboat diplomacy, Big Stick Diplomacy
, was partially superseded by dollar diplomacy
: replacing the big stick with the "juicy carrot" of American private investment. However, during Woodrow Wilson
's presidency, conventional gunboat diplomacy did occur, most notably in the case of the U.S. Army's occupation of Veracruz
in 1914, during the Mexican Revolution
Gunboat diplomacy in the post-Cold War
world is still largely based on naval forces, owing to the U.S. Navy
's overwhelming sea power. U.S. administrations have frequently changed the disposition of their major naval fleet
s to influence opinion in foreign capitals. More urgent diplomatic points were made by the Clinton administration
in the Yugoslav wars
of the 1990s (in alliance with the Blair
administration) and elsewhere, using sea-launched Tomahawk
missiles, and E-3 AWACS airborne surveillance aircraft in a more passive display of military presence. Henry Kissinger
, during his tenure as United States Secretary of State
, summed up the concept as thus: "An aircraft carrier is 100,000 tons of diplomacy."
's visit to Canton
* Second Barbary War
* Opium Wars
* Don Pacifico Incident
* Second Anglo-Burmese War
* Opening of Japan
by United States Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry
and his Black Ships
* Paraguay expedition
* Shimonoseki Campaign
* Christie Affair
in Korea (1871)
* Tonkin Flotilla
* Môle Saint-Nicolas affair
* Baltimore crisis
* Franco-Siamese War of 1893
* Anglo-Zanzibar War
* Luders Affair
* Yangtze River Patrol
* Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii
* Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903
* Panama separation from Colombia
* Great White Fleet
* Agadir Crisis
* Occupation of Veracruz
* Danzig crisis (1932)
* First Taiwan Strait Crisis
* Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
* Operation Vantage
* Third Taiwan Strait Crisis
* Spratly Islands dispute
* Fleet in being
* Deterrence theory
* Peace through strength
* Cable, James: ''Gunboat diplomacy. Political Applications of Limited Naval Forces'', London 1971 (re-edited 1981 and 1994)
* Wiechmann, Gerhard: ''Die preußisch-deutsche Marine in Lateinamerika 1866–1914. Eine Studie deutscher Kanonenbootpolitik'' (''The Prussian-German Navy in Latin America 1866–1914. A study of German Gunboat diplomacy''), Bremen 2002.
* Wiechmann, Gerhard: ''Die Königlich Preußische Marine in Lateinamerika 1851 bis 1867. Ein Versuch deutscher Kanonenbootpolitik'' (''The royal Prussian navy in Latin America 1851 to 1867. An attempt of German gunboat diplomacy''), in: Sandra Carreras/Günther Maihold (ed.): ''Preußen und Lateinamerika. Im Spannungsfeld von Kommerz, Macht und Kultur'', p. 105–144, Münster 2004.
* Eberspächer, Cord: ''Die deutsche Yangtse-Patrouille. Deutsche Kanonenbootpolitik in China im Zeitalter des Imperialismus'' (''The German Yangtse patrol. German Gunboat diplomacy in China in the age of imperialism''), Bochum 2004.
* Healy, D.: ''Gunboat Diplomacy in the Wilson Era. The U.S. Navy in Haiti 1915–1916'', Madison WIS 1976.
* Hagan, K. J.: ''American Gunboat Diplomacy and the Old Navy 1877–1889'', Westport/London 1973.
* Preston, A./Major, J.: ''Send a Gunboat! A study of the Gunboat and its role in British policy, 1854–1904'', London 1967.
* Krüger, Henning: ''Zwischen Küstenverteidigung und Weltpolitik. Die politische Geschichte der preußischen Marine 1848 bis 1867'' (''Between coastal defence and world policy. The political history of the prussian navy 1848 to 1867''), Bochum 2008.
* Long, D. F.: ''"Martial Thunder": The First Official American Armed Intervention in Asia'', in: ''Pacific Historical Review'', Vol. 42, 1973, pp. 143–162.
* Willock, R.: ''Gunboat Diplomacy: Operations of the (British) North America and West Indies Squadron, 1875–1915'', Part 2, in: ''American Neptune
'', Vol. XXVIII, 1968, pp. 85–112.
* Bauer, K. J.: ''The "Sancala" Affair: Captain Voorhees Seizes an Argentine Squadron'', in: ''American Neptune'', Vol. XXIV, 1969, pp. 174–186
* N.N.: ''Die Vernichtung des haitianischen Rebellenkreuzers "Crete à Pierrot" durch S.M.Kbt. "Panther"'' (''The destruction of the Haitian rebel cruiser "Crete à Pierrot" through His Majesty´s gunboat "Panther"''), in: ''Marine-Rundschau'', 13. Jahrgang, 1902, pp. 1189–1197.
* Rheder: ''Die militärische Unternehmung S.M.S.S. "Charlotte" und "Stein" gegen Haiti im Dezember 1897'' (''The military enterprise of His Majesty´s schoolships "Charlotte" and "Stein" against Haiti in December 1897''), in: ''Marine-Rundschau'', 41. Jahrgang, 1937, pp. 761–765.
Category:Types of diplomacy