“War is always the last resort,” we hear this a lot; it is a constant refrain. Instinctively we all agree; no one wants a war. But what does it really mean, “War is always the last resort.” The emotional appeal of this statement often masks its almost nonsensical obviousness. What makes going to war the last thing you do is that it is almost always definitive. If what you are looking for is a definitive answer, war should be the first resort; not that we are advocating this policy. It is like the statement, “Whatever you are looking for, it is always found in the last place you look.” Well of course, Duh, you stop looking when you find it. It is the definitive nature of finding the object which makes the place you found it the last place you looked. Once you have found the object, why would you continue looking for it?
So it is with war. The victor will determine the resolution of the dispute. Those who say, “War is always the last resort” are usually willing to cede their point in order to avoid going to war to make their point. People who say, “All options are on the table,” we must assume “war” is included in all, are taken far more seriously because they have stated their willingness to do whatever it takes.
In a negotiation, a person who says, “War is always the last resort,” has weakened his own position because, no matter what has already been done, you can always think of something, however improbable, that has not been done. The list of things which can be tried is infinite and war is at the end of this list. War has effectively been taken off the table. In a negotiation, you will be lucky to get your negotiating partner to even listen to you because you have given up all your leverage.
In a negotiation, a person who says, “All options are on the table,” has strengthened his position. He has brought a sense of urgency to the negotiations. You will get your negotiating partners attention and perhaps even his respect for taking this position. In this scenario, negotiations are far more likely to yield a definitive, measurable result.
War is the last resort; but not because you are going to try everything on the infinite list first. War is the last resort because when you do resort to it, it will be definitive. Metaphorically, we are told, “War is just another arrow in your quiver.” But to remove it is to remove all the arrows. The only thing you will be left with is the quiver. ~ Terrell AronSpeer