Coercive prevention, normative, Political and policy dilemmas

Coercive prevention, normative,

Political and policy dilemmas

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            In today’s aging world where societies confront the challenges of fragility, we may often find ourselves wandering in an unsecured and uncommon place to live. Today, dogmas of war, greed, and political corruption bring us fear and insecurity. So how could we hope for a brighter world when the prevention of hostility is continuously approached with coercion? Does coercion prevent and normalize adversities?  What good does it bring when war is responded with another war? Thus, we wonder why the world we belong to has a dilemma.

           In this regard, allow me to express and put into perspective the treatise of Bruce W. Jentleson in his work, Coercive Prevention, Normative, Political and Policy Dilemmas “. Like most of us, Jentleson is a wanderer who is in search of a civil order or polity. Based on his work, he wanders “to whatever may have been achieved was achieved only after mass killings, only after scores of villages were ravaged, only after hundreds of thousands were left as refugees .Yes, these conflicts were stopped from getting worse — but they already were human tragedies” (Jentleson, 2000).

            The ongoing hostility in almost half of the world is like a pandemic to the thousands of innocent people. The worst to suffer are women, children, and the elderly. The torments of the civil strife in Kosovo, Bosnia, and East Timor (Jentleson, 2000) have given rise to a substantial death toll and the waging war on terrorism in the Middle East and South East Asia has resulted in seemingly countless numbers of human casualties.

            We know that democratization is the popular credo of our policymakers. We also know that the parliament upholds the pillars of our human rights. Yet, why do several state policies still curtail human rights? Maybe because in some degrees our human rights are enveloped in the dilemma of adventurism of state policies that employs coercive prevention in the name of achieving peace—where militarism clamors peace in strife-torn communities.

Coercive prevention

            The treatise of Jentleson in his work on coercive prevention was found in the post-cold war experience wherein the non-coercive prevention strategies through diplomacy failed. Based on Jentleson’s (2000) findings, there are three types of evidences in coercive prevention: (1) strategic logic, (2) coercive prevention success, and (3) preventive failures and the inadequacy of coercive measures.

            In strategic logic, it explains the application of analysis to the conflict situation. Meaning to say, an empirical study on the scope of conflict is being calculated. However, a more coercive approach often results in miscalculations. This application of strategic logic to prevent a domestic war was found to even worsen the conflict situation because it intensifies the conflict, wherein the only aspect being assessed, studied, and calculated is only the troop movement and deployment and not the underlying socio-political-economic causes. As a result, what is then imposed in strategic logic is the military pursuit of the state to its so-called domestic enemies.

            Accordingly, the success rate of applying strategic logic in domestic (intrastate) conflict represents only 29% compared to the 55% in foreign inflicted aggression (interstate)—wherein negotiations meddle out the intensity of conflict (Pillar, P., 1983; in Jentleson 2000). This finding apparently occurs in countries having civil wars. It may be observed that civil war, being a domestic sovereign affair, is more enduring and is becoming more protracted—like in Asia where the political turmoil is being assessed by military analyst according to the firepower, operational scope, and the number of troops of the so-called state’s enemies— which results in the miscalculation of the root causes of conflict.

            The application pf strategic logic may be accurate in some degrees of preventing domestic conflict of non-socio-political-economic nature wherein domestic violence is attributed by social crimes or related incidence of street crimes and wherein the judicial process may utilize the military force to empower the police enforcement.

            On the other hand, Jetleson pointed out that the coercive prevention has found successful in peacekeeping during the conflict in Croatia and Bosnia. Based on his work, the United Nations’ Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was earlier deployed prior to the intensification of conflict. It has been called as coercive prevention as a show of force by the Canadian and US troops and was perceived as “a signal to all those who want to destabilize the region” (Macedonia President Kiro Gligorov; in Jentleson 2000).

            Moreover, citing Jetleson’s work, the preventive failure and the inadequacy of coercive measure in Rwanda’s Hutu-Tutsi conflict has caused a genocidal scale on April 6th 1994. The magnitude of the killings brought about by the Hutu extremists could have been prevented by the troops of United Nations’ Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR). However, the exchange of information was hampered in the military organization resulting in a withdrawal of troops at the occurrence of mass killings (UNAMIR, 1994; in Jetleson 2000).

Normative, Political and Policy Dilemmas

            Furthermore, based on Jetleson’s arguments, the under-estimation of norms happens in international affairs—wherein norm predisposes action and provides recognition of international standards on policy measures (Finnem, M., 1996; in Jetleson 2000). This argument may support the definition of “norm” itself as a pattern of knowledge, in layman’s interpretation, or a parameter or base that benchmark the situation for a typical action. In which case, the action to a situation must be defined by the nonjudgmental reaction. Like in any conflict situation, the norm must be employed in recognition of the assumed excesses of conflict which is to understand its root causes, its nature, and its effects.

            As explained by Jetleson (2000), sovereignty is a responsibility and a right, which refers to the mandate and condition of the state or of a particular government. From his arguments, two perceptions may be drawn. One is sovereignty as responsibility of the state to protect its interest and safeguarding the people in times of civil strife, and the second is sovereignty as right of the state to discretionary action being independent in its domestic affairs and is not affected by external mediation.  These norms in the history of governments around the world are indefinite in the circumstance of civil strife.  Both norms, although recognized by the UN Security Council, pose relevance to the condition and conduct of war. First, in determining the effects of a domestic (intrastate) conflict to the populace’s human rights, and second, the effects to international communities. It is then a normative dilemma of the state to justify a civil strife—“the state is a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (Max Weber; in Jetleson 2000). Basically, this refers to the norm of oneness in a state as a community that has its physical force that may be used as a unified defense in terms of external aggression, which is the so-called interstate conduct and condition of conflict.

            On the other hand, the political and policy dilemma, as discussed by Jetleson, may find significance in the present international alliances of governments in counter-terrorism. Together with the normative dilemma on the sovereign right and responsibility, the indulgence to foreign policy on sharing the burdens of conflict is characterized by enactment of domestic security policies that affects strategic peace negotiations with domestic dissidents and inflicts that are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks—as the enemies make its own alliances.

            Like any other poor governments around the world, the powerful governments confront the dilemma of political will and a way of transforming into present and future challenges of internal and external conflicts specifically in resolving domestic dissidents and wars on terrorism. It may be said that political will is always with the government but the dilemma is the application of the political power that is fully beneficial to the sovereign interest of the people. From this point of view, the political and policy dilemma is caught within the inability of a will power to overcome the strain of conflict in a post-war scenario. The US-Iraq post-war conflict has brought about a cobweb of hostility in other Middle Eastern countries, specifically in Afghanistan. A new level of coercive prevention is on the rise against international terrorism. In this case, the earlier study of Jetleson proves the militancy of the state to always resort to military action as a coercive prevention measure. Needless to say, normative, political, and policy dilemmas still remain unresolved.


            As we see in Jetleson’s study, it may be perceived that coercive prevention could have been deviated by a normative approach to diffuse the intensity of conflict. Although there are measures as a matter of polity, the political and policy dilemmas of every government remain the same as a status quo.

            The status quo clamors the sovereign rights and responsibility but negates the realist perspective to prevent conflict, which is the sovereign interest of people and legitimate call for change is confronted with coercion, and disproves the political will of the government to preventing conflict.

            In closing, Jetleson’s analysis and conclusion may not emphasize too much on many technicalities, but briefly seek to express the understanding of normative disciplines that must be the underlying principles in preventing conflict situation which could subsequently stop the plague of war.


Jentleson, B.W. (2000). “Coercive Prevention, Normative, Political and Policy

           Dilemmas”. United States Institute of Peace, Peaceworks No. 35, Washington D.C.

           20036-3011. Retrieved 29 February 2008 from


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