Soldiers, Statecraft, and History: Coercive Diplomacy and International Order

By James A. Nathan | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1

Westphalia and the Rise of Modern Diplomacy


The emergent post–Cold War international order is unique: For the first time since the invention of the diplomatic method, an international architecture is materializing without any postwar diplomatic charter. Moreover, order is now conditioned not on a Germany divided and distracted; on the contrary, if it is to be sustained, order requires Germany to be geopolitically coherent and competent—the reverse of the Cold War reality that the fragmentation of German power was an essential element of stability. Still, this radically new international structure, if it is to sustain itself and prosper, will have to reconcile those contradictory supports of order that were first adumbrated in the Westphalia Treaty of 1648: collective security on the one hand, and the balance of power on the other.* Like those well-fed mid-seventeenth-century congregants who met in a bereft corner of Germany, we have come to the crossroads of choice.

Let us recall first the origins of Westphalian order. By the mid-seventeenth century, the flames of the Thirty Years War scorched the steppes of Transylvania, darkened Ireland, passed the Americas, touched the Cape of Good Hope, and licked at the Straits of Malacca. By 1648, Germans found their numbers reduced by a third. Much of the German

*Swedish diplomat Johan Adler Salvius wrote back to Stockholm that a primary Swedish interest was a balance of power as opposed to other mechanisms for maintaining international order: “The first rule of politics is that the security of all depends on the equilibrium of the individuals. When one begins to become powerful…the others place themselves, through unions or alliances, into the opposite balance in order to maintain the equipoise.” Cited by Geoffrey Parker (ed.), The Thirty Years’ War, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 164.


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