The Velvet Gauntlet: A Theory of Defense Diplomacy

JVF Conference Papers

Defense diplomacy, also known as military diplomacy, is the nonviolent use of military forces through activities like officer exchanges and ship visits to further a country's international agenda.

Despite existing in various forms for centuries, strikingly little scholarly attention has been paid to this practice or its use as a tool of statecraft. My essay seeks to resolve this oversight by critically examining the concept of defense diplomacy itself. In particular, I endeavor to resolve the conceptual ambiguity that has plagued the term "defense diplomacy" since it was first used by the British government in the 1990s. Breaking with the existing approaches to defense diplomacy, I identify the concept as a variant of soft power which is used to co-opt the strategic thinking of another state.

By linking defense diplomacy to the concept of soft power, my work not only encapsulates the practices as it is currently used by governments today, but also illustrates the underlying mechanism that makes defense diplomacy an effective geopolitical tool.

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