MARITIME DIPLOMACY IN THE 21ST CENTURY - DRIVERS AND CHALLENGES
|Author(s)||Christian Le Miere|
Gunboat diplomacy is a term that seems most suited to a bygone era. The phrase conjures up images of European warships, sitting askance off the coast of a developing country, occasionally bombarding coastal forts in order to exact recompense. It seems to be a quasi-oxymoronic term used by powerful states to veil their bullying, imperial tactics, in an era when military inequality and insufficient international law allowed brazen acts of intimidation. This seems increasingly irrelevant as the unipolarity of the 1990s and early 2000s is ceding ground to a progressively more multipolar world, meaning that the former victims of imperialism, particularly in Asia, are now able to deal with then erstwhile colonial rulers. Yet, gunboat diplomacy is not an activity or an idea confined to history. Gunboat diplomacy has been used by both developed and developing countries in recent years. It maintains its relevance through its utility: gunboat diplomacy is a pursuit that allows actors to coerce others while avoiding large-scale conflict and its attendant costs. Recent examples abound. In December 2011 and January 2012. ban held the Velayat 90 naval exercises, which showcased a variety of naval capabilities. from anti-ship missiles to submarines. The stated intent of the exercises was to demonstrate (and therefore implicitly threaten) an ability to close the Strait of Honnuz. the world's most important maritime chokepoint. Just days later, the USS Abraham Lincoln, one of the world's largest warships, sailed through the strait flanked by American cruisers and destroyers, while a British and a French frigate also accompanied her. The transit was part of a routine rotation of a US aircraft earner in the Persian Gulf, but the international flavour of the flotilla was a strong message of unity among the Western allies in the face of overt Iranian threats...
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