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Why Is Diplomacy Often Preferred Over Use of the Military to Settle Foreign Policy Disagreements?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

why is diplomacy often preferred over use of the military to settle foreign policy disagreements

Why is diplomacy often preferred over the use of the military to settle foreign policy disagreements? The short answer is that diplomacy is not as likely as the use of the military to lead to war. But keep reading for more details on the topic! There is a lot more to uncover!

What is Diplomacy?


Diplomacy refers to the process of exchanging spoken or writing acts to resolve a disagreement. It usually involves countries negotiating and working out agreements.

Specifically, diplomacy is done by representatives of states, such as leaders and diplomats.

Diplomacy is considered a key tool of foreign policy.

  • Note: Foreign policy can be defined as a wide range of activities a country pursues to acquire its interests abroad.

Diplomacy vs war? It is used in times of conflict because it is the most peaceful approach to addressing a problem.

Diplomacy is considered the best approach to resolving conflicts because:

  • It can build trust between countries
  • It can create a positive relationship between countries
  • It can enable cooperation and communication between countries
  • It can develop a mutual understanding for the countries involved

Typical outcomes of diplomacy include:

  • A truce
  • One side ceasing fire
  • A win-win solution for the countries involved
  • Note: These are typically referred to as treaties or agreements. And they all represent a new relationship between the countries involved.

Essentially, diplomacy allows countries to work together to achieve common goals and ensure everyone is able to benefit.

That being said, diplomacy is meant to:

  • Maintain peace, security, and stability on a global (international) scale
  • Facilitate the blossoming of friendly relations between states
  • Encourage the economic and social development of countries

In a way, diplomacy can be understood as the practice of managing relationships with other countries. So, it is essential in international relations, as a whole.

What Does Diplomacy Involve?


It can include negotiations, proposals, letters, and other forms of communication exchanges. In addition, there can be political, economic, and military means utilized.

Diplomacy to resolve disagreements comes in three forms – arbitration and mediation, conferences, and negotiations.

1. Arbitration and Mediation

This would involve a commission of diplomats convening to hear the different sides of an issue. Then, they would come to a consensus (a sort of ruling) based on the general protocols and principles of international law and justice.

An example is:

  • The Hay Herbert Treaty: The U.S and Britain disputed the Canada and U.S border. So, they submitted a dispute to the International mediation.

2. Conferences

This refers to international conferences convening. Although there are few official ground rules or formal international law applications, all the parties involved are expected to abide by protocols and principles of international logic and fairness.

Two examples are the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after Napoleon was defeated and the Congress of Berlin in 1878 between June 13 and July 13.

3. Negotiations

Countries can also convene official negotiation procedures to resolve a specific dispute and/or issue. Just like with conferences, there are no established rules, only general precedents and principles that help set the overall course.

Two examples are the Camp David Accords in 1987 by President Jimmy Carter that led to the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and the Treaty of Portsmouth by President Theodore Roosevelt that resolved the war between Russia and Japan.

  • Fun Fact: President Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize for his personal intervention.

Other Types of Diplomacy

1. Appeasement

This refers to making concessions to an aggressor to avoid confrontation. However, this was only a past tool. It has been “disqualified” as a diplomacy tool since it failed to prevent World War 2.

2. Counterinsurgency (Or Expeditionary Diplomacy)

This refers to diplomats being employed at tactical and/or operational levels to advise local commanders, interact with local leaders, and help governance efforts, functions, and reach of a government. Normally, diplomats are outside traditional embassy environments and accompanied by military or peacekeeping forces.

This is when a strong lending country seeks to saddle a borrowing country with huge debt, allowing the lending country to gain leverage over the borrowing country. By nature, this type of diplomacy is carried out in bilateral relations.

3. Economic Diplomacy

This is when aid or other types of economic policy is used to achieve a diplomatic agenda.

4. Gunboat Diplomacy

This is when a country implies or constitutes a direct threat of warfare to achieve an agreeable resolution. It can be deemed a form of hegemony.

5. Humanitarian Diplomacy

This is when a set of activities is taken to intervene when humanity is threatened. Examples of activities are negotiating the presence of humanitarian organizations to negotiating access to civilian populations that require protection.

6. Military Diplomacy (Or Defense Diplomacy)

This is when military relationships are used as the basis for further connections between countries. It is usually carried out by representatives of a country’s Defense Department and is well-recognized along with the buzzwords “military foreign policy.”

7. Migration Diplomacy

This is when the migration flow between countries is used as the foundation for resolution. There are two types: coercive and cooperative.

8. Public Diplomacy

This refers to exercising influence via communication with the general public in another country. Here, communication can be in the form of propaganda, citizen diplomacy, or digital diplomacy.

  • Citizen Diplomacy: The interactions of average citizens of two or more countries
  • Digital Diplomacy (Diplomacy/ eDiplomacy): The use of the Internet and IT to help accomplish diplomatic objectives

9. Quiet Diplomacy

This refers to influencing through secret negotiations or by refraining from taking a certain action. This is usually used when an intervening country has no alternative means to influence or wants to avoid specific outcomes.

10. Science Diplomacy

This is when scientific (including other research-based, technical, engineering and academic) collaborations to address common problems and build constructive international partnerships are used.

11. Soft Power Diplomacy

This refers to gaining influence through cultivating respect, admiration, and/or relationships. It utilizes non-state, culturally attractive factors, like a country’s entertainment and music industry, that may rally sympathies.


As you have read, diplomacy allows countries to negotiate and communicate to resolve an issue. In doing so, they can sustain good relations with each other. On the whole, this ensures peace, security, and stability. Thus, diplomacy is the best approach in times of conflict, such as war, and now, you know the answer to, “Why is diplomacy often preferred over the use of the military to settle foreign policy disagreements?”

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