Diplomacy and the Balance of Forces

In relation to the notion that all war converges on a “decisive moment” in time and a “decisive point” in the overall theatre of war, Sun Tzu said: “Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day.” As a result, all of our strategies, tactics, and operations converge upon a decisive moment in time and a decisive point in our global theatre of war which have yet to fully manifest. 

However, and as mentioned before, once global war does break out as it did about a year ago in Ukraine, one cannot fully restore the status quo, especially once a global war of this kind of nature breaks out. When a global war like ours breaks out, one must then change the status quo to a certain extent in order to bring the war to an end. Arguably, without some sort of change or adjustment to the status quo, America could lose its position as one major power within what is essentially a “triangular relationship” between the world’s three major powers which also includes Russia and China. 

And as mentioned before, the balance of power and globalization are the two major structural or systemic forces which are driving this global hybrid war. Population growth, the growing demand for all kinds of goods, products, and services, the rise of China, the Ukraine war, climate change, and inflation as a result of mismanagement of the global economy from the top are some of the most notable conditions and symptoms of the changing balance of power and globalization which overarch international affairs today. 

Three other conditions which undermine our position in the West to a certain extent are the “nuclear stalemate” between the three major powers, the distribution of power which has now changed as a result of the balance of power and globalization, and the decline of Western empires in a postmodern age. All of these aforementioned conditions, problems, and situations, as Henry Kissinger wrote some time ago, are “manipulated by the Sino-Soviet bloc, which is determined to prevent the establishment of an equilibrium and which is organized to exploit all hopes and dissatisfactions for its own ends.” 

It follows that: “Diplomacy is asked to overcome schisms unparalleled in scope and to do so at a moment when the willingness to utilize the traditional pressures available to it – even during periods of harmony – is constantly diminishing.” Hence, Washington faces two parallel tracks and their proper balance and management as it pertains to the challenge being posed to the status quo on the part of Russia and China. For one, there is a diplomatic track, the aim of which is to bring an end to the war in Ukraine. And second, there is a military track with the aim of shifting the “balance of forces” in Ukraine in order to impact the diplomatic track in a manner by which an equilibrium is brought about between the West and what is now the Russia-China alliance or bloc. Failure to manage and balance these two tracks properly can lead to outright victory for the other side at a decisive moment in time down the road. 

As I learned from my time assisting the Afghan Ambassador to Washington who soon after became Afghanistan’s national security adviser during the Trump “South Asia Strategy” which began in early 2018, I made the same point at that time about a dual track which I am making now. The failure to manage the two tracks and to balance them properly in the case of Afghanistan stemmed from the fact that the leaders in Kabul wanted to perpetuate the war and were reluctant to make concessions to the other side through the diplomatic track because of their personal and material gain. Hence, in its dual track with Moscow or even Beijing, Washington should avoid the temptation of choosing personal and material gain over concessions and gains on the diplomatic track, given that the ultimate outcome of such a choice will be a disastrous one and one which most likely can never be reversed or changed once it is rendered. 

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