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The Logic of a Soft Intervention Strategy: The United States and Conflict Conciliation in Africa

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What forms of U.S. intervention are likely to prove realizable and to be appropriate for facilitating the implementation of peace agreements and protecting human rights in Africa? The choices for action are certainly wider than the polar opposites of disengagement and large-scale military intervention. Because the United States can afford neither prolonged military hegemony nor the indulgence of neo-isolationism, it must find some form of creative engagement that fulfills its obligations to facilitate and protect in ways that are acceptable to both American and overseas opinion. Limited interests in Africa and the nature of public pressures leave little alternative to utilizing soft intervention approaches in most cases. Within the category of soft intervention, there appears to be a continuum of means leading to possible movement into muscular intervention. At one end, there is coercive diplomacy, which is associated with threats of military and economic sanctions; if these sanctions are actually used, the intervening state becomes involved in muscular intervention. At the other end is diplomacy associated not with threats, but with the promise of rewards. Between the two poles lies diplomacy that involves neither threats nor rewards (i.e., conciliation and mediation without the use of pressures and incentives). In real world contexts, third parties tend to apply mixed packages of non-coercive and coercive incentives, with coercive incentives becoming increasingly dominant as the costs of altering preferences and the intensity of conflict rise.


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