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Rationality and the Use of Force WB Gallie

Rationality and the Use of Force WB Gallie

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Published by James Dwyer
Brilliant argument as to whether or not it can be rational to use force, by the author of Essentially Contested Concepts WB Gallie 1970.
Brilliant argument as to whether or not it can be rational to use force, by the author of Essentially Contested Concepts WB Gallie 1970.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: James Dwyer on Nov 28, 2009
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I* The Presidential Address


by W. B. Gallie


Vocabulary. By £o~ce. in what £OIlo"WS:. iSlD.eant any physiCal Dl:eans -by - which, d:i:riectlyor indirectly" ooe party (mdividual~ group..- -political unit.) A trieSlo impose his (its)- will upon a second PartyBT by eitber ina.king B stop doing som,'ething w-bic.h .A finds obj,ectionable t.Jr m:aking B do SOUllCthin.g which Aco:nsiders- necessary or desir~ble .. ADd by will in this conneJcion I n:teansiInply a pe~ou~s (o-:rigroup~s) general disposition to do, or proceed as he wimes in. spite of" na,tur.a1 -or social ohstacl-cs;;

-sotbat imposing ODe"S wilt upon another" orovcrcorning' another"s will, can be co-nsidered. pact or Or a Dl.eans to ha"Ying one~s O'W'D will (or- ~y) in situations where o,ne ,has' reason to expect opposition ..... i.ne assu.rnption, "tha1: acis -of force employ~, _--OT -presuppose the possibility ot; ceream physical -operation.s~

seems ro rn.e true of most'"-Certainly· of all "the most socially si:gnifi~-uscs of force: it does,,, however" en'taiJ. the negleci of" certain border_;_linc c:a5r::s whose otIJD:pUboriness seems to be purely- Dl:cntal or synIbotic in (;ha:racter~ vi.z~ .. certa.in acCOnlplish:m.ents of hypnotists;. wit:ch-doctors.. 'blackn:tailers and, advertiser.;~

. _ -I use the phraBe "4"a use of force'"' to cover both (i) acts of force ,considered as. operations virtually irrespective of the ends For w'hich :1:.h:ey _ are Ifpdertakep and (ii) .ad5 of" force considered

.: _'pMInariIyas .expr.esSf!)ns of'tliie policy decisions which launch th'enl~ The nced£~this dZstinctiCilD is clear fron-J. the very different; kinds· of. c.f.iticis:rn oue might level a t, e~g.!J a junior ~

• Meet:iJJg of tbe A:ri!:'totclia.n Society ,3 csrr TavistockPlace.. LondoD. _·WCz 'OIl Mo:nday Huh (Jctobcr·iIQ.?O,. a.t. 7.30P.,tn.




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officer's or police constable's attempt to implement an order, and at the order itself or at the senior officer who gave it. But why then use the same phrase to blanket the distinction I have just drawn? Chiefly because, in a great many cases, the two senses or stages of force-using are telescoped or inextricably interlocked. (This is most obvious when he who decides and he who implements is one and the same person. But it is also found whenever there is a continuity of command and responsibility between those whose job is ostensibly only to command and those whose job is ostensibly only to obey.) And most of the points and arguments of this paper apply to Iorce-usings whether considered as operations or considered as forcechoosings or expressions of policy decisions.

By rationality in connexion with any use of force I mean the sort of rationale, or ground of merited success, that it would be natural to look for in view of the known ends or predominant interests of the force-user. This presupposes that there exist. or could be agreed, certain criteria by which acts of force can be judged, criticized or commended from a purely prudential, egoistic standpoint, entirely irrespective of moral considerations. Here choice of vocabulary points to a general procedural position which I will try to justify very briefly. I am convinced that the question of the moral justification of force-using cannot be settled by expanding to the limit the idea of its prudential justification-as with Hobbes, Spinosa, Hegel, and others. But I am equally convinced that the moral justification of force-using cannot be profitably discussed, until there is much more explicit agreement as to the nature and scope of its prudential justifications, whereas discussion of the latter can be carried a long way without discussion of the former. Hence the present attempt to elucidate the concept of forceusing from a purely prudential point of view, and to prescribe certain general principles of force-using which may help us to agree about the kinds of thing that force can, and the kinds of thing it cannot. be rationally expected to achieve.

ConUxt. But this endeavour might well evoke objections on at least the. following grounds: (i) that there can be no prudential justification of force because force-using as such is utterly irrational; (ii) that while force-using admits of some familiar patterns of justification there is nothing peculiar about

these-the logic of force-using is basically no different from that of any other practical art or technique; (iii) that while one can discuss therationales~of force-using in different fields, e.g., education;" punishment,' law-enforcement, war, terrorist campaigns etc., questions about force-using as such or in general are pretentious nonsense and simply do not arise in the thought of intelligent and well-tutored people.

My answer to these objections will come out, if only by implication, as I proceed. I mention them here because they suggest certain very widely accepted assumptions--some philosophical, some lay-which the arguments of this paper will show to be unwarranted. At the same time, however, it must be confessed that my arguments lack, and may well suffer from, explicit and established opposition. For, with hardly an exception, political and social and legal philosophers have ignored or side-stepped the questions about the nature, scope, and efficacy of acts of force that I wish to raise. But does this mean that I claim to be disclosing, or to be on the track of, entirely new features or aspects of force, or entirely new principles of force-using? Of course not. In particular the principles that I suggest have always been followed in practice, although without explicit articulation, by sagacious men of action. Which does not, however, lessen the importance of

trying to articulate them. "

Metlwd. In Section II I offer a partial elucidation of the concept of force-using. Its primary aim is to bring out the many-sidedness of this concept, and to bring home the fact that force is essentially a marty-purpose instrument. A number of essential. or at least very important, features of the concept of force-using are nO$ discussed at all: for instance its pervasiveness and indeed Indispensability in all organized human life; its famous ambiguities both for those who use it and those who receive it;ll: the question of its possible continuity with the whole

1 Here as elsewhere irll this paper.J use "education" in a very wide sense, to cover the protection and restriction as well as the instruction of the young.

I From the side of the force-user it is ambiguous chiefly with respect to its effects: will the receiver re-act to it by resisting or by complying? From the side of the receiver. it is ambiguous chiefly with respect to the user's intentions: is he mustering his strength for limited, perhaps only for defensive purposes, or is 'he planning aggression and destruction?







gamut of concepts that are popularly contrasted with itinfluence, bribery, cajolery, bargaining, even persuasion on many issues; the question of its discontinuity with certain concepts with which it is commonly associated-ruse, fraud and guile; and finally the question whether force-using may not, at any rate when at all organized. require certain moral aptitudes in those who implement it. My elucidation avoids difficult border-line cases and concentrates on the central idea offeree-using, i.e., on those of its instances whose compulsoriness is unmistakable. And it is one-sided also in as much as its bias is practicalist: it is concerned with uses offorce simply in so far as these can be justified or criticized in practical, prudential terms. In sum, the purpose of my elucidation is to raise the questions the answers to which supply, or at least indicate the need for. the principles of force-using which are suggested in Section III. And again, in presenting these principles. I make no claims to completeness or system. I shall be satisfied if they point to aspects of rationality in force-using which our generalized thinking commonly neglects. Nor do I attempt to decide into what logical pigeon-holes my principles could be fitted. None of them, and perhaps no combination of them, expresses a necessary, still less a sufficient, condition of the rationality of any act of force; yet their relevance to such rationality is of a curiously intimate kind. Rationality seems to require that in every situation that involves or might involve force-using. we should attend to them as being inherently likely to affect the wisdom of our choice, even though in any particular case they may be overridden or proved to have but slight practical relevance.

using is complete-there is no "open-ended commitment" for A to use further force, e.g., to hold what he has achieved; (iv) that its result is certain, or as near-certain as practical life allows-we assume that A has all the means that he requires, that his strength is immeasurably superior to B's, that he has planned time and place to give him every advantage, and so on. To offer a somewhat lurid example. Gangsters quietly enter my house, easily overpower me, bind, gag and blindfold me, then frogmarch me out into the open street and the waiting car. and drive me to a hide-out where (let us hope) they unbind me, but keep me under lock and key with no means of communicating with the outside world. If we concentrate upon the frog-marching, car-driving, and Incarcerating parts-in brief the impellenl parts-of this nightmare, we would naturally say that; the gangsters positively enforced their will upon me by making me do what they wanted. If we concentrate on the", gagging: and binding and ultimate imprisoning-in brief .the restrictive parts-it would be natural to describe the act of force-using in negative terms: the gangsters were forcibly stopping me, from their own point of view. from doing something specific, but from my point of view from doing virtually anything I might normally wish to do. The significance of this two-sided-ness in the ideally simplest acts of force is the first topic that I want to discuss. Thereafter I shall use our ideally simplest case or type of force-using as a kind of base-line from which we can trace out at least four different lines of possible increasing complication for any act of force, viz., in respect of mediation by symbols, of variety of immediate effects, commitment to continued force-using, and finally in respect of different sources of uncertainty.

Positive and negaurJe senses of foroe-using, For the general logic of statements positi\·e and negative are equipollent notions; not simply beeauselevery true positive statement implies at least one negative s$:atement and conversely, but because all controllable speech J.nd thought involve, for the establishment or acceptance of any statement, the capacity to reject any number of (roughly} contrary statements. Hence to assert or accept that x is the case, responsibly and knowing what one is doing, involves that one understands, however vaguely, what it would mean to deny that j". is the case. Similarly, when one


An idealfy simple case. I begin from a type of force-using by one party A against another B, which can be regarded as conceptually basic and simple on the grounds (i) that its means and mode of operation are entirely physical-the act of force-using obtains its effect by a sequence of physical operations unmediated by threats or other symbols; (ii) that its immediate intended effect is a specific physical result-an enforced bodily action or enforced state of non-action on B's part; (iii) that, its objective gained) the operation of force-







is asked-or persuaded or ordered-to do something: one must understand, however vaguely, that some things are therefore wt to be done. But does this position hold when one is forced to do something or is forcibly stopped or prevented from doing something? In a great many cases it certainly does. If I am forced to run, I am thereby forcibly prevented from standing or walking, and very quickly realize that this is the case; and similarly if I am forcibly prevented from walking or standing or what have you. But in a certain number of cases of enforcement there is a two-fold difference. In the first place in so far as understanding of WMt is being enforced now figures in the situation, its positive and negative aspects seem to admit of complete dissociation. And secondly, irrespective of whether or how such understanding figures in the situation, there may no longer be an equipollence of positive and negative aspects of the act or fact of force. It may be simply that something is stopped or prevented and that no positive counterpart is being enforced at all.

To take up these two claims in turn. (I) Should I find myself attacked, frog-marched and driven into the wilds by gangsters, I will no doubt be confusedly aware of what I am being forced to do: but this sense of being forced need not necessarily suggest any recognition or appreciation of what I am thereby being prevented from doing. This dissociation is still more evident in cases where the negative aspect of forceusing predominates; e.g., if, emerging from shock and terror, I should find myself bound, gagged and without light, in a small locked cell. The intensity of my restrictedness--of what I am being forcibly prevented from doing-would be irresistibly evident; but it is unlikely that I should feel myself being positively compelled to do anything at all. For what could I be doing? Just remaining where I am isn't doing anything, I am of course, ex 4Jpotlusi and D. V., still breathing and thinking. But ex Irypothesi again, these minimal activities have been left voluntary, i.e., have remained outside the aim of the act of force to which I have been subjected.

In both the examples above I have spoken of finding myself subjected to certain forms of force. This points to the fact that even the most rudimentary understanding of what one is being forced to do is not a necessary feature of being subjected to

force. And this is true even in the kind of case in which, for the act of force to have its full 'intended effect, I must eventually be got to recognize 'what I am being, or have already been, forced to do. The immediate efficacy of an act of force need not be matched by any answering or appreciative change of my state of consciousness: the act of force works when and in SO far as it effects a required alteration in my will or capacity for further resistance. And this alteration, in many cases, is accompanied not by any understanding of what is happening to me but by a confused break or hiatus in my appreciation of the situation. The supreme instance of this is, of course, when an act of force by A against B takes the form of A's killing B. For in this instance B may well have no idea of what is happening to him, and if he has, it is likely that panic or despair will blot out from his mind all thought of the things he is thereby being stopped from doing.

(II) With this instance we also reach the sort of situation in which the usual equipollence of the positive and negative sides of action no longer holds. When A kills B there is an obvious sense in which he thereby stops him from doing anything further, and therefore cannot be forcing him to do anything positive. We have also noticed that it is in cases of predominantly negative enforcement, e.g., when I find myself incarcerated, that the one-sided (here negatively-signed) character of the situation extends beyond the consciousness of the person enforced to the ultimate facts of the situation. (Being incarcerated, I am stopped from doing anything that I would normally want to do, yet I am not forced to do anything in particular.) This raises the question whether the predominance of the negative aspect of force-using in these instances is of more general significance, especially from the point of view of practical prudence.

An initially plausible argument to this effect can be urged on grounds of efficiency and economy. A man can be made to walk in a certain direction by main force or by the pressure of a gun in his back; and in certain circumstances these could be regarded as efficient and even economic uses of force. But if we saw a column of a thousand prisoners each of whom was being forced along in one of these ways, we would think the situation ludicrous. We would ask why the column of unarmed men





could not be kept from escaping, straggling or stopping (except when ordered) by a handful of armed and well-positioned guards. Consider another contrast. A handful of well-placed and suitably armed guards can, by the visible threat of their fire-power, stop a thousand prisoners from even trying to escape from a compound. But suppose the same threat were employed, in a thousand-fold greater strength, to ensure that each of the prisoners worked constantly at his assigned duties: the resulting picture would again be utterly ludicrous--unless it were a hypocritical excuse for massacre. These instances do seem to suggest a general, and not purely contingent, truth, vi;;::., that force is on the whole much more effective and economic as a stopper of human actions than as a starter or director of them. And even when force is used to start or direct some process in a positive manner, e.g., to get a column of prisoners to march, it seems to succeed in doing this reliably and economically only within a situation in which it has already been used to ensure an essentially negative result. E.g., in the case of our prisoners, force has already stopped them from offering resistance, and disarmed and disorganized them so that resistance cannot easily be resumed.

A second argument in the same general direction. Suppose we see two parties A and B engaged in deadly conflict, but do not as yet know the objectives of either party. A appears to have the upper hand, but B is clearly determined to fight to the last, throwing in all possible reserves, so that we naturally wonder what is at stake for B. Suppose we learn that B is pledged or determined to fight to the last gasp to force certain positively prescribed steps upon A. Our natural reaction will be to suspect that B (or its government) is a band of fanatics. Had we learnt that B's objective was to stop A from some action which B found intolerable-leaving it open what A thereafter chose or could be persuaded or bribed to do-our immediate reaction would be much more sympathetic. To be sure, we might come to learn that, by stopping A. from doing x, B was in fact facing A with only one alternative y, which is known to be intolerable to him. In which case our initial sympathy with B would be mistaken. But in an enormous number of cases, an increase and intensification of the use of force is justifiable when the objective is negative in character, which

would be wicked and lunatical when the objective is positive. Certain forms of action must be stopped, and can be stopped only, by force. Admittedly, at a certain point increase in the force required may become suicidal or may cause even greater harm than that which it is intended to remove. But that point would have been reached very much sooner if force were being used to ensure some positive aim, and a fortiori the more specific and complex that aim should be.

A third argument, in the same (admittedly as yet very vague) direction, is provided by the seeming paradox of anyone's wanting to do or trying to do what he is being forced to do. For, apart from making the simplest bodily movements, e.g., standing, walking etc. under actual duress or the threat of force, compliance with positively directed force seems always to involve some degree of positive co-operation on the part of its victim. How is this co-operative achieved? In some cases the answer is simple: the victim never intended to resist, and the use of force was unnecessary. In other cases the answer is horrifying: the victim's personal will-s-or his capacity to resist or evade anything that the force-user may demand of him-has been destroyed, but in a manner that leaves his intelligence as a kind of tool in the power of his destroyer. But these cases, despite the development of brain-washing techniques, remain (as yet, mercifully) exceptional. Over a much greater range of cases there is a puzzle about how a man, still in a normal condition, can be got to co-operate, as ifvoluntarily, to realise the will of an opponent, especially when (for reasons already suggested) force is 60 clumsy and uneconomic an instrument from the point of viliw of extracting and ensuring any complex: positive response from its victims.

In fact, when we find an enforced party B carrying out the positive demands of any complexity issued by an enforcer A, we usually look for the influence of some threat=-of further and even less acceptable acts of force from A-if B should fail to comply. And this natural' expectation becomes a certainty when the actions demanded of B are of a notably intelligent kind. For example, a kidnapped man B is forced to write a very skilfully worded letter which will bring in the money that the kidnapper A requires from B's family or government. (In this case we should note that A has to relY upon B's skill and






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further and more specific deployment of force, which mayor may not be needed] and which, as we have seen, is in many situations, both uneconomic and inefficient. By contrast, simply stopping our :opponent, or preventing him from getting what he wants, leaves it open to us how we shall proceed thereafter: as circumstances allow or require, we may proceed to negotiate with rum, or to compensate him, or to let time and the resumption of day-to-day co-operation heal the breach=-or to resort to force again, if necessary, and this time with more positive aims. As thus presented, the primary and general preferability of negatively-aimed force could not be more strongly grounded. At the same time, this account does not preclude the possibility that positively-directed force may figure, to at least some degree, in the great majority of actual uses of force. An~£ :r this reason the translation of our present claim into a princip .of actio:p involves considerable difficulties.

Mediation by 'Is and sjmbolic acts. Many at first sight

"sheer" uses of forci: are in ,!some degree mediated, since the action itself, by its ~atent e£!.icacy and by the terror and hurt and destruction which it infJolves, works also as a threat of more and worse to' come. B,eginning from such supplementations of force by symbolic acts (here threats) we can advance along a line of incrbasing complication and sophistication for a very long wai'. Notable points passed in this advance would be: (a) the. case where the received threat becomes the main .Iever of~ the action, and where a brief unleashing of actual force has the role of supplement-in the form of highly efficacious evidence of the threatened force to come; (b) the case where an-actually spoken or written threat can be expected to work Without any unleashing ef actual force; (c) the case where the use of force is not even threatened) but where knowledge of one's capacity to use force effectively is itself effectively conveyed by some non-provocative display or reminder of its existence; and (d) the case where forcepresumably already having been effectively displayed-is temporarily withheld despite provocation which would normally warrant its actual use, on the principle either of reculer pour mieux sauter or that force-withholding is here a sign of the strength that can afford to wait, that need not get in first with the blow etc.: a case whose interest lies in its suggestion

judgment as well as his co-operation: he himself is most unlikely to know what style and form of words are best calculated to do the trick.) But B could hardly be expected to write such a letter, i.e.; actively to exert his intelligence to obtain A's ends, except on the assumption of an irresistible threat from A, viz., that he, B, will otherwise be killed or tortured er that his wife and children will also be kidnapped. and so on.1I And these threats produce their peculiarly positive results-the peculiar co-incidence of the wills of threatener and threatened -only because force is already successfully preventing B from doing any of the things he normally would do to secure his own freedom or the safety of his family. In general, the typical blackmailer's threat which evokes positive and intelligent co-operation from its victims works only within a framework of successfully deployed negative force. which has already narrowed down to one the positive alternatives that are ostensibly open to its victim.

What these arguments add up to is perhaps best brought out by returning to the point that the target of every act of force is the actual or presumed will of an opponent: remembering that by his will we mean simply his general disposition to proceed with a certain line of action despite obstacles and opposition. There are a number of radically different ways in which a man's will, thus understood, can be bent or broken; but our concern here is simply with the cases in which another person forcibly obstructs his intentions, perhaps by positively impelling him to act in ways that he emphatically wishes to' resist. This way of putting the matter makes the apparent primariness and preferability ofnegative1yaimed force a simple matter of logic. Negatively-aimed force is presented as the more general term of which positive1y-directed force is one particular specification. Therefore, whenever we use force against a man's will, as here understood. we must evidently stop him having his will, or proceeding aIonghis own sweet way. Using positively impellent force against him is a

II This expectation is, however, compatible with the suspicion that B's co-operation is less complete than he pretends. E.g., B might write the letter which would produce the money. but by means of an arrangement that would aJlow him to deceive. escape from and ultimatdy "do down" A. But again this complication rests on the assumption that negatively directed force bas already had the effect of driving B to this complicated expedient.




that a non-use of force can sometimes be, for purely prudential reasons, the best possible use of it.

These cases raise two crucial questions: (i) How far can mediation of acts of force be carried without destroying their right to be regarded as acts of force? And, naturally arising from this, (ii) By what right have we so far assumed that symbolic acts-threats, and shows, and reminders of the existence of force-can be regarded as themselves forms of the use offorce? In the first case (a) mentioned above-where a credible threat of more force to come clearly augments the effects of force already in use-there is evident reason for this assumption. But does the partial analogy between this case and those that follow afford any justification for considering bare threats, mere displays, known capabilities, and afortissimo strategic withholdings of force, as acts of force or as so many different forms of the use of force? For the purpose of this elucidation the same broad answer is offered to both the questions above. Any act will be considered a use of force, or an essential contribution to a use afforce, SO long as its objective is to impose one's will upon (and presumably against the opposition of) another party-in contrast to winning some fonn of spontaneous and co-operative assent-and so long as this objective directly involves or ultimately presupposes the availability of physical means to achieve it. Therefore case (d) above counts as an instance of force-using only because it subserves a general policy of force-using aimed at breaking or sapping an opponent's will, even if under the semblance of offering him a breathing-space. And similarly with any number of ways in which force-using can be mediated, e.g., by facesaving formulae or empty promises embodied in a truce or peace treaty which a virtually defeated party has to accept. recognizing full well that it is simply a disguised stage in a process of enforcement which is by no means yet complete .... And of course the main question raised by all these central (no matter how complicated) instances of force-using is whether their degree of mediation is, in any clear and direct way, an index of their rationality.

Range of commitment. Certain uses of force are clearly limited in direction, extent and purpose. Our gangsters' work was complete once they had me, safe and incommunicado,

behind locked doors, A successful smash and grab robbery is an even clearer instance, or, at a politically serious level, the severe repulse of a foreign invader, who thereupon learns his lesson and stops at home. On the other hand many decisions to resort to force ought to carry with them a recognition that, even ifSUCCessful;J' y involve a long-term commitment to the use of force in . ", or clospy connected ways. For instance, the establishment oif a mountain frontier may involve holding it against the tribe4who have been dispossessed, while "constabulary solutions" of stubborn political problems, whether

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intra-state or inter-state, mean an open-ended commitment

almost by definition, since no one expects the job of policing an area to be completed wit!fJin a specified time.

These latter cases point ~ the fact that most acts of force occur within a context of Jcontinual if unacknowledged or disguised force-using, And of course this fact has important bearings upon the permaneat organization and preparation of the forces of every political unit. Other things being equal, uses of force that are strictly limited in aim are obviously to be preferred, on grounds of efficiency and economy, since the task and composition of one's forces can then be specified with some precision, and since, as we have seen, force-using is a most unhappy method of getting an opponent to do what you want him to do' over any length of time. But other things are seldom equal in the case of force-using: which is itself commonly forced upon us, either as a defensive re-action or as our range of choices is suddenly narrowed down to the one last resort. Hence the need, when considering the complication of greater or lesser commitment to further uses of force, for more careful principles of force-choosing and of the preparation of force than have usually been recognized.

Variery and irrunediate dfects. In our ideally simple case, force was directed to obtaining a-limited physical result, e.g., my incarceration, to be effected in the speediest, most secure, least generally disturbing ways, and with no positive motive for hurting or damaging its object in transit.! In such instances

'In this respect our ideally sititple case would be well illustrated by uses of force required for humanitarian reasons-the fireman forcing the hysterical child or adult",to jump, u:.e doctor holding down the patient in an

emergency operation, etc. !

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1lA'I1ClNluTY ~ THE tJlIB or l'01lCE 15

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implies a converse ~ure ofi' 'tee; and given serious opposition, every rational or deservedl "successful use of force involves

serious co~de:atio~1 of the! ~k of failure that it itself fae.es. Before considering how, whe and to what extent the peculiar risks involved in for¢e-usmgt-.an be lessened, I want to make a few suggestions on the la~,er, vaguer question, of how the concept of risk enters into the concept of force-using.

For this purposes: I shaUL-concentrate upon the different sources of uncertainty; and, I use this phrase, in the first instance, in the most general possible way, to indicate the basic divide between those 'uncertainties which are logically inherent in any act of force-using and those uncertainties which are logically .contingent, i.e., theoretically removable. Under the latter category I bracket all uncertainties that arise from partial or total ignorance of relevant facts and generalizations as to, e.g., an opponent's strength, organization and location, as well as ignorance of all manner of relevant, physical and psychological,:? environing factors. Under the former category we would$' presumfftbly bracket uncertainties, first, as to some of our o1~lponent'd intentions, not only because he probably wishes tosurpriseor deceive us, but because of the ambiguity of the situation that faces him, the different interpretations that it ispossiblefor him to put upon it-and in particular to put upon certain of OUT deeds, words, apparent intentions; secondly, uncertainties due to the logical (and physical) impossibility of securing complete up-to-the-minute information of our opponent's moves, of whatever kind; and thirdly, uncertainties due to :'~e logical impossibility of determining, or of knowing ho,"/:' to select significantly from, all the conceivably relevant social effects of any act of forceusing-including not only the commitments in which it may involve us, but the long-term changes in attitude in our opponents and in ourselves which it may produce, and those of its side-effects which may prove far more lastingly important than our actual intentions.

The logically contingent uncertainties that invest any act of force-using may well be inexpugnable in practice, but by themselves raise no difficulties of principle; we know the kinds of theoretical result that can be expected from their progressive removal. Difficulties of principle arise, however, as soon as

force-using comes as near as can be imagined to a purely physical transaction, a sequence of displacements, for all that its point and peculiar effect is always to overcome its victim's natural (or presumed) will to resist being impelled or restrained in certain ways. But in fact few uses offorce, whether primarily positive or negative in aim, are likely to achieve their aims without inflicting some degree of hurt or damage or destruction upon the persons against whom they are directed, or upon their property or environment.

Such hurt, damage and destruction can often constitute an effective threat of more, and more severe, force to follow. And of course casualties, more than any other effect of force-using, also act directly to sap the will of surviving opponents; amounting as they do to a visible demonstration of a group's life-blood running away, as more and more essential jobs or sectors are left unmanned. True, neither the actuality nor the prospect of hurt or damage or killings can completely guarantee the breaking of an opponent's will: it is always conceivable that they will produce a contrary-fanatical-determination to fight on, however hopelessly, to the last. But in general, the many-sidedness of force-using, and the different types of immediate effect to which it can separately or conjointly give rise, re-enforce its efficacy, whatever the particular purpose for which it is unleashed; just as they have traditionally caused men to have faith in force as a many-purpose instrument, indispensable in any serious political emergency.

There are, however, other situations in which our interest is not in the possibility of such mutual re-enforcement of different immediate effects. but in the need to keep such effects separate, or to confine the effects of a use of force to one selected direction. (E.g., orders are given to minimize casualties and destruction of civilian areas; or orders are given to take as many prisoners as possible, or none.) It seems plausible to suggest that, the more complicated the use of force becomes. the more complex the societies within and between which force is used, the greater the need of control, and of agreed principles of control, to achieve the latter result.

Different sources of umertaintJ and risk. So far we have been considering uses of force whose success was taken for granted. But given opposition of any kind, every successful use of force





are the price of unavfirldable i~~orance. But considerations such as these do not begin to approximate to anything that could be called a scientific treatment of the risks inherent in forceusing. And---even ifit should l)eem like labouring the obviousI now want to make it quite plain why the different main sources of types of uncertainty, that are logically inherent in acts of force-using against ,UI opponent, are of peculiarly elusive and unassessable kinds,

(1) "\tVhen we resort to force against an opponent, we are sometimes said to be taking our life in our hands. It would be equally true, and much mort; illuminating, to say that we are putting our life in our opponent's hands. We are staking some important interest, perhaps our all, upon our own strength: but how differently from other situations, as for instance when we match our strength against natural forces, or when we apply our strength competitively against a rival, to achieve an independently assigned advantage with some third party. In both the latter situations we commonly set ourselves to achieve a certain optimum performance which, by objective and independently assigned standards, should probably give us the success we seek. But when we use force against an opponent, there is no certainty that any level of performance will ensure comparable success; because there is no assignable probability that he will allow us to set about achieving it in the way we propose. To some extent, however slight, we will find ourselves forced to perform not as we would wish, but as he wishes us to do: we will find ourselves doing some things that we had never foreseen. ourselves doing or would never have consciously chosen to do. And this inherent bondage to uncertainty and consequent risk is part of the method and test to which we have committed our interests. Hence the spice of excitement, and/or the anguish and the foreboding that accompany so man}" resorts tb force.

(2) The fact that evidence on any particular issue=-social or physicaI-can never be logically complete, or complete up to and including the time taken in assessing it, can be regarded as a particular instance of the fact that all reasoning is. inter alia, reasoning from samples. Farone cause or another we have at some time to bring the chopper down and say; this much will do. The necessity of cutting off information, so that there is a

we go on to consider the bearing of logically inherent upon logically contingent uncertainties. Here the great lesson of the physical sciences might be expected to offer us at least broad guidance.' But such an expectation would, I believe, be a profound mistake. To risk speaking very roughly and briefly: the logically inherent uncertainties which account for the great divide between classical and post-classical physics stem from one main source, and are of one main type. The physical conditions of experiment and the logical requirements of theory sometimes combine to insure the impossibility of mathematically determinate results within certain limited ranges of variables that are otherwise mutually determining. In this situation, when in place of a determinate solution either a probable solution or two or more alternative solutions are supplied, it can be demonstrated that these latter are exactly what the relevant evidence compels us to acknowledge. Moreover, failure to answer the problem as initially posed can not only therefore be treated as marginal, it is also precisely docketed in the theoretical margin, for the attention (if necessary) of further fundamental research. But nothing remotely like this happy result can be expected when, as in the case of force-using against an opponent, the inherent uncertainties stem from a number of quite heterogeneous sources. It is difficult to see how uncertainties arising from anyone of the sources mentioned above could possibly be graded numerically against uncertainties arising from either of the others. or how, if such diverse types of inherent uncertainty could be summed, their over-all effects upon relevant contingent uncertainties could be assessed in any particular case. Good sense may assure us that in one situation, the risks that arise from inherent uncertainties are negligible. whereas in others they ought to prohibit the gamble of force-using, Customary discipline (military, constabulary or whatever) may remind us of various steps that we can take, in the way of security measures ete., to lessen the shocks and surprises that

~ It may be urged that some of the theorems of games theory teach us how to deal with the logic.ally inherent uncertainties noted above. But competent analysts, e.g., Meade, Schelling, Aron, have shown that the conditions postulated in games theory analyses are rarely even approximated to in real-life conflicts involving the use of force.


W. B.. GALt.m



gap, however negligible, between evidence and assessment, premiss and conclusion, is just one particular example of the more general predicament. Now for the purely theoretical sciences of nature-and indeed for the applied sciences and technologies-this logical gap is usually unimportant, because of the well-justified presumption that nature, or the experimental or industrial apparatus we are employing, will proceed after the information has been cut off in a manner that has been foreshadowed in the sample thus far, and that accords with the relevant general laws. But when we use force against an opponent, such a presumption cannot be safely made. It is precisely our opponent's last supreme effort-or last-minute re-arrangement of his forces-that may well decide whether or not our project of meeting him with force was well or ill-conceived and adequately or inadequately implemented. It would be a very poor commander who complained, as excuse for his own defeat, that his opponent had failed to carry through the struggle on the lines that his earlier moves had suggested.

(3) Some uses of force are no doubt models of economy: brief, limited, well-timed interventions are so effective that they are scarcely noticed or remembered. But much more commonly, uses of force are clumsy, costly and unnecessarily destructive: much more is done, especially in the way of destruction, than was planned, calculated and ordered: one type of immediate effect offorce gives rise to and is engulfed in another quite inappropriate type of effect. Here is the most obvious reason for the impossibility of foreseeing all the significant results of any given act of force. But this reason can be supplemented in a number of ways. Force is liable to destroy or turn upside down everything in the immediate environment of its object, be that environment a room or a street or a country or a system of international trade. The effects of such unintended bouleuersements can vary surprisingly: initially distressing, they may quickly prove fortunate, or they may be the first step in a long, irreversible decline. For these reasons the use of force commonly involves a question over and above the obvious issue of success or failure. May it not, even if a success by generally accepted standards, have been nevertheless a complete mistake? Were we not, because of our

readiness to resort to force, risking something more than failure, viz., an inexcusable inappositeness in the choice of means? Nor is this risk confined to acts offoree considered as wholes, or total projects. The possibility of a fundamental mistake in the choice of means is inherent in all uses of force: and of all the risks that force-using inherently involves, this, most obviously, precludes even approximate numerical assessment or correction.

•. III

Principle of negatively-directed force. What principle of forceusing can we derive from our claim for the primacy and general preferability of negatively-directed force? That claim rested ultimately on the logical priority of negatively-directed force, but also drew support from the evidently uneconomic character of positively-directed force when used over a long period or for any at all complicated purpose, Nevertheless our claim allowed that there is an enormous number of cases in which positivelydirected force is necessary and indeed in which acts of force show equipollent positive and negative aspects. If we admit this, can we still devise a principle which could help to bring our practice, in the lie1d of force-using, into greater conformity with the logical priority and economic preferability of negatively-directed force? I think we tan; but it will be helpful to present our principle in two stages.

First, the main objective of any use of force should always be negative in character. It should be to deny our opponent certain positions, or opportunities; it should be to stop him gaining certain advantages: ideally, it should be to stop him from offering any further- resistance. Thus far our principle is to be regarded as an essential part of knowing what the instrument of forcecan do, or can do (by a very long way) best. And, as thus :'presented, our principle will allow that, with a view to achieving our main objective, we can employ subordinate acts of force whose positive and negative aspects are equipollent or indeed ill which the positive aspect predominates. In sum, the aim of the principle, as thus far stated, is to ensure that force is not misdirected towards ends of a primarily positive character-e-which force is not well-suited to accomplish. But there is a second and hardly less important





cause for urging our principle. While admitting that positivelydirected acts of force may be necessary as elements in any complex act of force-using, we must add that positively-directed acts of force call for constant vigilance, in case they get out of hand. Soldiers, policemen-not to mention nursery-school attendants-are always liable, in the pursuit of their proper negative ends, to come to rely upon certain positively directed ploys--e.g., particular ways of dividing the enemy, cornering the gun-man, or getting young Tom down from the school roof. No matter how clever a ploy may be, it is always possible that the enemy, the gun-man or Tom will see his way to defeat or evade it, with disastrous results for someone. Hence, a second formulation of our principle would be that, in general, positivelydirected uses of force, no matter how clever, should always be kept under critical check, should always be carefully appraised before they are trusted, and should never be trusted for long.

Principles oj decision: (I) Immediacy, mediation and postponement.

Considerations of economy would appear to demand that issues of force are always better settled by threats, shows or reminders of the existence of force, than by actual unleashings of force. Certainly it is always rational to supplement actual unleashings of force by effective threats of worse to followunless for some grim reason one wishes to make an opponent feel the full reality of one's superior strength. And it may therefore seem plausible to extrapolate from this instance, and to set up, as the ideal of force-using, the situation where a superior power, A, simply by a reminder of its unquestionable superiority, obtains its opponent B's submission with minimum moral and physical cost. But this extrapolation ignores the basic ways in which force works, viz., the immediate effects which impulsion, restriction, damage, hurt, killing or the threat of killing can produce upon an opponent's will to continue with a line of action that the force-user finds intolerable. Between the certain knowledge of A's superiority to B and A's effective deployment of his superior strength there can be many a slip, upon the chance of which B may in certain circumstances be justified in risking his independence or his life. Or consider the very different situation in which A and B, bitter rivals on some issue, appear to be fairly closely matched in strength. Suppose that in this situation, instead of

fighting, they proceed to threaten, parade and prepare and augment their respective strengths against each other: (if they are states, they mobilize their men and economic resources, pile up armaments, allies etc.) It is not at all obvious that this classic arms-race situation is to be commended, on grounds of economy, as against an immediate unleashing of forces to settle the original quarrel.

I suggest therefore that the use of threats, shows, reminders etc. of force is to be $mmendt<i only within limited conditions: viz., when one party has unquestionably effective superiority over the other or when a postponement of force-using allows certain independent faetors, the chance to work towards possible compromise and settlement. Where there is no such chance or hope, pos~ponement of actual force-using may easily augment the ultimate costs. 6

Principles of decision: (2) ad-hoc-ness, system and .functionality.

The fact that force has traditionally been prized as a manypurpose instrument well-suited to deal with successive unforeseeable crises, each with its own peculiarities, amounts to a strong prima facie case for keeping the organization of force as flexible as possible and for not tying up resources in long-term commitments. Yet if this ideal of flexibility were pressed too far we should reach the _absurd position of commending e.g., certain military arrangemelts for ~qeir sheer ad-hoc-ness and certain military policies b~:tause tl~ey require us to organize and prepare each actu~-use of ij>rce de novo. On the other hand, if all uses of force are prepared to a pattern that is devised and controlled from at>ermane:lt centre, there is the opposite danger that they will be given forms that are unsuited to their occasions, e.g., militarist methods will be used to settle civil unrest or the methods of th~ last war will be perfected to


e It is important to keep this poi~t in mind because, for civifued people, the actual resort to force, when tf,ere is still the alternative of talking or shadow-bcxing, must always see10 a terrible thing. It is particularly important to emphasize it in our ~ of sophisticated military technologies and incessant politico-diplomatic igambitry. By ringing the changes in theforms of the posH945 war of ideologies, threats, bluffs, and technical rivalries, the great powers have produced the illusion that alternative methods to (anyhow major) war are being experimentally developed. But there is sadly little evidence that - behind these spectacular changes any independent factors that could make for basic compromises or settlements have been gaining strength,



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ensure our defeat in the next war. As thus presented, ad-hoe-ness and system might seem to be dangers in the preparation of force which common sense can avoid without the aid of general principles. Yet history provides plenty of examples of great nations whose military practices were not so different from the absurdities just mentioned."

If, then, our first principle must be to avoid excessive ad-hoc-ness and system, can we suggest a principle which will :fix our attention on the proper claims of each, and if possible bring them into a coherent relationship? The obvious suggestion would be "functionality", i.e., a policy which seeks always to subject particular uses of force. particular developments ofmethods offeree-using and all long-term commitments to force. to what are agreed-even if in the vaguest terms-to be the permanent and central functions for which our forces are required. Such a principle would be practically vacuous in a world where there is universal ignorance of what goes on across the channel or beyond the mountains. It could and should become more substantial with the growth of mutual knowledge of men and nations. The general feasibility of such an ideal is suggested by the practices of some empires, e.g.; the Roman and the British in their very different hey-days. But its feasibility for any particular state or group of states depends upon combinations of particular political factors and interests which we cannot here even begin to discuss.

l'rindples of control: discrimination, ambiguitY, mass effects. To say that force is a many-purpose instrument is to say, inter alia, that it can be used either to impel or to restrict (with or without hurt, damage, death), or to damage or hurt (or both) so as to pave the way for effective impulsion or restriction, or simply to kill (which, however. necessarily implies to. restrict and, if only indirectly, to hurt and to damage). From within this web of alternatives one can try to select those special effects, or combinations and orderings of effects, that one

particularly wishes to bring about, although in practice one can seldom be certain of achieving only those results that one intended. And this fact reminds us of yet another aspect of the many-sidedness of force, vi{.,that it can be used ambiguously, with its immediate effects as yet undetermined in the forceuser's intention and. in fact, and that this ambiguity can, in certain circumstances, add to its efficacy by increasing the anxiety which it inspires. All acts of force, however, call for some kind of control, since the violent emotions that they engender and that help to energize them, can easily distract them from their assigned objectives. Equally, and for the same reason, acts of force are notoriously difficult to control.

Two principles of (or about) the control of force call for special formulation. First, when an act of force is capable of producing two or more distinct types of immediate effect, it is essential that these shall be planned and prepared in rational order. For example, against an impertinent aggressor, threats, warnings and reminders of our potential power to punish him may be in place. but only in conjunction with a sharp and effective, if locally limited): unleashing of military force. Contrariwise if military force: has to be called in because civil discontent seems likely to turn into riot or civil war, rationality requires that reminders of the state's ultimate strength, or threats and warnings of its immediately available strength, shall precede any actual unleashings of force. This principle of order rests of course upon the very different long-term aims and expectations of the parties in the cases cited. But the point to be emphasized is that those who command the forces involved must be in a position-thanks to adequate organization, training and equipment-to implement such very differently toned and directed uses of force.

This last point suggests a second principle, which amounts to an under-scoring of the impossibility of perfection in this area. To confine the, discussion again to military forces: these are commonly expected now to give entirely innocuous displays of their nat~,on's general strength, now to provide a visible but carefullY:it:ontrollei.i threat of its immediately available strength. now ito go i~' action-but to achieve some carefully discriminated and mited result, and now with the "massive ambiguity'[ of full-scale military action. This variety

1 Sparta in the ancient worJd and Prussia in eighteenth century Europe exemplify the dangers of a too fixed central military organhari~ largdy determining the uses of force abroad and at bome. England in the eigbteellth. and the United States during the nineteenth cent'Ul'io exemplify the opposite dauger: central and systematic organization of foxce reduced to a minimum, with the consequent necessity of creating de ruwo, or of hiring at great cost, the forces needed for successive emergencies.

24 and overlap of the different forms of (here military) force-using helps us to appreciate, in general, both the necessity for the rational control of force and the absurdity of expecting such control to be perfect in any particular situation.

Principles of care.freeness and <if caution in risk-l4king. The risks which are particularly relevant to rationality in force-using are those that are logically inherent in acts of force exercised against active opposition. Such risks, because of their heterogeneity, cannot be accurately summed; and therefore, in cases where the quantifiable strengths and advantages of two parties are fairly closely balanced, these risks can be of pivotal importance in determining the rationality of a resort to force as wen as deciding its outcome. Are we not faced here with a residue of uncertainty in force-using which no rational principle can help us to dispel?

This question rests upon the characteristic "intellectualist" fallacy which equates rationality with certainty or with the closest approximation to certainty which the evidence relevant to a given problem allows. The problems of the risks inherent in force-using provide a perfect context for exposing the fallacy, since here rationality is patently not a matter of "seeing" anything, but of recognizing what can be done in situations where vision (in certain directions) is totally blocked. And what can be done in such cases depends largely, as I shall now try to show, on the general state of knowledge and ignorance of the parties concerned. As a first step to a defence of this claim, I put forward the following two-fold principle:

(a) Suppose conditions of maximum (or at least unusually great) ignorance on the part of two opponents. limited only by the fact that each recognizes the other as a suitable or necessary target for attack. In such conditions the logically inherent uncertainties involved in any act of force need cause no anxiety to either party: since each is already accepting the enormous risks involved in unleashing force upon an opponent whose theoretically assessable strength, advantages, etc. are ex hypothesi unknown. We may say. therefore, that in this extreme situation the logically inherent uncertainties can in no way intensify the shortage of firm evidence that might support a rational decision to use force, in such and such quantities and manners. But, as I shall suggest in a moment, there is



something more to be said about the relative innocuousness of the logically inherent risks pf acts of force launched under conditions of ma.xnnum ignorance,

(b) Suppose now conditions of optimum (or at least of quite unusually great) mutual knowledge between two opponents. Each has virtually complete knowledge of the other's strength, dispositions, resources, information etc., so that he knows virtually as much about his opponent's preparations (except so far as these can be feints or can be subject to last-minute alterations) as about his own. Given such conditions, let us consider those cases in which their common knowledge reveals that the two opponents are fairly closely matched, with the result that the inherent uncertainties involved in any resort to force between them may playa crucial role in deciding the outcome. The logic of this . situation is plain ~ the inherent uncertainties involved in any resort to force would have the effect of annulli::J.g or at least confusing the evidential value of the unusually grt,:'lt knowledge shared by both parties. But again there is somet~g mor;e to be said about the bedevilling role here played b~ logicaljy _ inherent uncertainties, under conditions of optimum knowlfdge.

What is this something mpre? It arises from the fact that our contrasted general conditions (of optimum knowledge and maximum ignorance) do noJ affect the issue of rational judgment and decision simply by "queering" the character of the factual evidence we have to 'work on, by making it optimally strong or minimally slight; In a conflict-situation under conditions of optimum know-edge, it is not simply that either party has ideally full and dear evidence on all issues of fact that could affect the rationality of his decisions-evidence whose value, however, might be profoundly affected and confused by the inherent uncertainties attending a resort to force: it is even more pertinent that, given ideal factual knowledge of his opponent's situation, either party would be unusually well-placed to do ,a. great many other things, to try out any of a number of alternative approaches to his opponent which might not involve the inherent and incalculable uncertainties that attend a resort to force. And again, given a conflict-situation in conditions of maximum ignorance, it is not simply that the logically inherent risks of force-using can




add little or nothing to the risks in which an agent's general ignorance of his opponent already involves him: it is that, anyhow in many typical cases, an agent will have no practical alternative but to carry through a general policy of force-using, taking in his stride all the risks-logically inherent or logically contingent-that that policy involves. Or to condense these last two claims in one, differences or changes in general conditions of knowledge and ignorance that have any bearing upon a conflict-situation, serve to determine the range of things that one can rationally do or try to do in that situation, quite as much as, and in many cases independently of the way that, they affect the strength of the evidence for any particular outcome of that situation.

To offer two examples of the extreme conditions-first of ignorance and then of knowledge-which the argument above supposes. (I) Imagine an island community struggling to survive in a dark age, in which not only have most foreigners proved savagely hostile, but in which there is now no general information as to the movements, plights or relative strengths of the neighbouring communities. Our islanders, in their conditions of terrible ignorance, and guided by the belief that the only good foreigner is a dead one, decide on a policy of force-using against all comers, irrespective of the uncertainties, logically inherent or logically contingent, which such a policy involves. It might be argued that there is no other course that our islanders could rationally follow. But it is sufficient here to urge that their policy is thus far rational in that it enables them to live hopefully, as long as it works: it is a policy of risk-taking that cannot be shown, until the day when it eventually fails, to have been hopelessly irrational. For our islanders have no reason to believe that there must come a day which will bring an invincible and implacable invader to their shores. In this respect their ignorance ensures their bliss or at least their ability to meet each new day-or invader-unburdened by the sense of an inevitable doomsday awaiting them.

(2) Now a very different picture. The global military bi-polarity assumed by so many strategic theorists has been achieved: the world is dominated militarily by two powers of roughly equal strength, each of which enjoys conditions of optimal knowledge of the military. political, economic,

ideological and intelligence, organizations and preparations of the other. Each ,?ower is 'thus ideally well placed to know what approaches, inducements, bargaining-platforms etc. are likely to appeal to the other. Yet certain unsettled issues, political or economic, continue to focus the rivalry of the two powers; and habit and inheritance incline them to try to settle these issues by a variety of means that include or could easily lead to the use of force--quick diplomatic tricks, bluffs, threats. and a continuous "qualitative" arms race for example .••• The general argument sketched above suggests that such politicomilitary gambling-in contradistinction from the all-risks against all-comers policy of our dark age islanders-is irrational. The irrationality of both the powers has two facets: first, their failure to use their hypothesized optimum knowledge of each other's capacities, doings, resources etc., to propose-or at least to consider or set about devising-methods other than force for settling t\)eir disputes; and second, their carefree readiness (in acceptrng even ta very small risk of being caught up in war) to risk~at once i,a specified quantity of material destruction and a wholly unfPecifiable loss of control of their respective futures. And, for rhis indictment to hold, we need not assume that the armaments of our two imaginary powers are on a genocidal scale. It i;l enough to assume that, on both sides, they could cause very great damage of a sort that, in the ideal conditions of knowledge supposed, each side could foresee with horrifying accuracy, although neither side could see through the logically 'inherent uncertainties of their situation to know which of them would be the victor.

This argument from ideally simplified situations is far removed from the world in which we must try to live; and of course there are countless questions and difficulties about applying it to any real-life issues offeree-using. But the principle of prudence which it suggests-that caution should replace carefreeness in risk-taking between roughly equal opponents as their knowledge of each others capacity increases-is at least simple, and perhaps admits 'of simple refutation. I only wish I could have expounded it more simply,

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