By David Dogo
The term Gunboat or Big stick Ideology came to being during the imperial period in the Nineteenth (19th) century by Western and European powers only as a means to intimidate less powerful countries into granting concession via demonstration of superior military capabilities. Its first known usage occurred in a private mail from Roosevelt, the then Governor of New York in 1900 after forcing New York to pull out support from a corrupt Financial adviser. It was a dominant way to establish new trade partners, colonial outposts and expansion of empire.
A British Diplomat and Naval philosopher, James Cable, clearly elucidated the nature of Gunboat Diplomacy in a series of his publication as “the use of threat or 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.
One of the notable examples of such diplomacy was the Don Pacifico incident in 1850 where a squadron of Royal Navy were dispatched to blockade the Greek port of Piraeus by the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmertson in retaliation for the harming of a British subject, David Pacifico, in Athens and the failure of the government of King Otto to make compensation. The impact of that was intimidation and domination of Athens at that time.
War might breakout any moment from now in the Peninsula if the tension continues to escalate. It is strictly between a hegemon whose pride and ego is being bruised by a less powerful but potentially dangerous state. A hegemon seeks to exercise authority over other states since it is most powerful militarily, economically and technologically independent. America being a global and not just regional hegemon feels it has the absolute right to dictate events and trends in the world and MUST achieve that by any means possible. Since it is most revered amongst comity of nations, it also seeks to indirectly impose its philosophy and culture on other states not minding who shares similar values with it. Those who do, are considered allies and those who do not are indirectly treated as aggressors.
In the 21st century however, brute force does not work anymore. Particularly, brute force again a potentially independent and developed state will not work anymore. Nations have evolved with their preferred values, cultures and philosophies hence possible isolation and detachment from the claws of hegemonic influences. While America feels every nation should succumb to its leadership, many others want to be independent and according to the United Nations charter, they do have the right to self determination and survival.
The question now is: Will military option against Pyongyang be the best option? What are the possible ways of resolving the palpable tension without plunging humanity into another senseless war?
Recent developments show that war does not solve political and economic issues anymore in the 21st century. Classical examples are Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and many more countries. Those countries have experienced unprecedented insecurity, restiveness, agitations and continuous carnage. They have gone so many years backwards. The world today particularly the Europe is battling with refugees as a result of the unbearable conditions of those countries who either fought war recently or are still fighting. The consequences of modern day war can only be best imagined given the arsenals of war. The modern day weapons have the capability of taking back the whole world to the Stone Age and must be avoided at WHATEVER expense!
It was intensive diplomatic negotiations that halted the dreaded nuclear war that would have taken place between the United States of America and Cuba in 1962. Negotiation still remains the best way of resolving issues at State, regional or on global level. Like it’s often said, an eye for an eye makes the world go blind. Threats of destruction are old fashioned and less effective. What could work are sanctions and negotiations but not war!
Therefore Mr. President Donald Trump Sir, kindly calm down, your pride is at stake but like a Nigerian revered literary icon Chinue Achibe said “people will usually stand in the house of a coward and point to the house of a brave man who once lived”. Gunboat diplomacy can’t be effective for a nation who is also potentially dangerous. For any action, there’s also a proportional reaction. Millions of people would die in a twinkle of an eye, the world could be in terror and chaos, properties of unimaginable scale would be destroyed. Now we have the opportunity to avoid all those and continue to live as humans.
Dogo, an M.Phil/PhD Candidate wrote in from ABU Zaria.