Foreign Policy Blogs

Cease-fires and the Diplomatic Long Game

Cease-fires and the Diplomatic Long GameCurrently an attempt to maintain a cease-fire between Israel and the Gaza Strip is taking shape, with conditions based on the halt of rocket fire and artillery from both sides. An obvious conclusion to create a cease-fire is to stop shooting, but the roots of a cease-fire comes from a balance of diplomacy and the needs of each party to the agreement. Saving face for either side maintains the balance, as no party to a conflict wants to come out of it as the loser to the conflict, no matter what the actual physical losses have been. In the Gaza conflict, each side is able to claim a victory in the process, mostly due to the expectations by their population to what the conclusion to the conflict may yield. Ending a conflict where both sides can save face and is seen to have won in their own home base may be one of the most effective ways to achieve a long lasting cease-fire, and eventual peace. In the same region, the war between Israel and Egypt in 1973 is seen as a victory for both sides in their respective countries, but in reality the victory came from the diplomatic achievements and long term peace agreement between both sides. This is a clear benefit to all, even if they still disagree with who won the war.

There has also been a cease-fire attempt in Colombia recently with talks in Havana between the Colombian government and the FARC leadership seeking a permanent state of cold peace. The FARC over the last few years have taken many hits, losing top leadership, members, cash and reputation in fighting with Colombia’s government. In the past, a demilitarisation lead to aggressive moves by the FARC, even kidnapping political candidate Ingrid Betancourt in 2002 and creating a permanent mistrust of the FARC by Colombia’s government. The FARC announcement of a two month unilateral cease-fire a few days ago was not reciprocated by the Colombian government, partly due to mistrust, but partly because the government sees itself as not dealing with a partner that has much leverage after years of assaults by the government against the FARC. Balance in diplomacy may be more difficult in the Colombian example because if the government sees itself in a stronger position and able to eliminate the FARC militarily, it would not save face for Colombia’s government to bargain with a side it could feasibly eliminate. While this would not be so simple, it places the FARC in the position to bargain to save face or lose more assets and control in the regions where they are based.

Cease-fires are necessary to build peace between two opposing sides, but for a long term cessation of firing there must be face saving measures where both sides may lose, but must look as if they gained a victory in some form. Humiliating one side may lead to their elimination, but may also backfire as the issue may not disappear and a Treaty of Versailles situation may result where you leave the weaker opponent with no option but to attempt to regain their pride and control in the long run. Right now, former opponent of Israel, Egypt, is the one negotiating peace in a region where they used to have a war every ten years. Even with the new government in Egypt, there could not be a better result of an end to a conflict in and eventual peace agreement between two conflicting sides.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration


Great Decisions Discussion group