USC study investigates ‘coercive diplomacy’ against terror groups - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Accessibility links

USC News

USC study investigates ‘coercive diplomacy’ against terror groups

23 May 2016

Military action shouldn’t be considered the only solution to halting terrorist groups like ISIS, a University of the Sunshine Coast researcher says.

PhD candidate Ben Harris is investigating the benefits and challenges of engaging with violent non-state actors (VNSAs) using coercive diplomacy, a technique that blends aspects of diplomatic and military strategy.

Over the course of his three-year project, Mr Harris plans to develop a framework that sets out the circumstances in which coercive diplomacy is most likely to be effective in forcing VNSAs to abandon violence.

He said traditional engagement methods such as armed force, imprisonment and torture have often proved unsuccessful in countering the violence caused by organisations like ISIS, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda.

“While some people might find it appealing to try to completely eradicate these groups, what is more realistically achievable is forcing them to moderate their use of violence and, by extension, vastly reduce the number of deaths caused by the conflict,” he said.

“That’s where coercive diplomacy comes in. The idea is to use threats and escalating pressure, whether military, economic or diplomatic, to influence the target’s decisions, without crossing the threshold of demonstrative force.

“There will be times that military conflict is the only viable option against VSNAs, but I’m hoping this research will open people’s eyes to the possibility of a more peaceful solution to some of these problems.”

In previous research, Mr Harris has investigated the Western coalition’s use of coercive diplomacy during the Iranian nuclear crisis, which resulted in the signing of the Geneva interim agreement to freeze the country’s nuclear program.

However, Mr Harris said, using the strategy against decentralized VNSAs like ISIS was likely to be markedly more complicated than using it against governments.

“In state conflicts, the motivation for the actions of the parties involved is generally about state survival and power balances,” he said. “But non-state terrorist groups can be motivated by a combination of complex factors like religion, politics, or ethno-nationalism.

“There are other logistical challenges in engaging with VSNAs as well, such as who do you issue the threats to and how will they be communicating? Do they actually have any assets that we can threaten against?

“Coercive diplomacy is unlikely to work in every situation, however, I think it is an appealing alternative to armed force and therefore one tool to add to the armory.”

Mr Harris’s research is being supervised by Lecturer in Politics and International Relations Dr John Janzekovic and Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences Dr Peter Innes.

— Gen Kennedy

USC PhD candidate Ben Harris.

Related articles

Benefits for reef water quality and grazing in joint project
2 Jun

Research by a USC PhD graduate that used the latest drone-based remote sensing techniques to investigate sediment sources to the Great Barrier Reef is the catalyst for a joint project by the University and Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO.

USC leads Australian study into exercise during pandemic
7 May

Health science experts from USC have been chosen to lead the Australian arm of a study into how physical activity levels have been affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

USC leads research on pandemic panic buying
21 Apr

USC psychology lecturers have launched a national research project investigating the behaviours that have led people to panic buy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact the USC media team

Name Position Email Phone
Terry Walsh Manager, Media and Messaging twalsh@usc.edu.au +61 7 5430 1160
Janelle Kirkland Media Relations Coordinator jkirklan@usc.edu.au +61 7 5459 4553
Clare McKay Media Relations Officer (Regional) cmckay@usc.edu.au +61 7 5456 5669

Search results for

Recent news