In an oped published by The Hill, ASP Adjunct Senior Fellow Seyom Brown, wrote about this issues surrounding red lines in foreign policy, and if these actually help or hinder the U.S. in achieving its goals.
Like the “vital interests” which the red lines are supposed to secure, their credibility will be diluted if too many are declared. Such interest inflation is tempting these days, as U.S. allies and partners want reassurance that their importance to Washington is not being downgraded due to post-Iraq and Afghanistan war weariness and the economic recession. Neither friends nor adversaries are likely to be impressed by the red-line rhetoric unless it is buttressed by all the necessary resource commitments. But these commitments are vulnerable to the other pitfalls.
He concluded by saying:
Refrain as much as possible from defining one’s objections to an adversary’s moves as a red line. When additional toughness is required, and a marker must be laid down, keep it broad enough, and vague enough, to permit the other side to back down without great loss of face, but also to allow the line to be slackened to allow more time for conflict- resolution diplomacy — without loss of one’s own credibility.
Yet, crucially, always – when laying down a red line — be sure that there will be adequate resolve and resources to deal with the consequences of its being breached.
You can read the full article here.