American Diplomacy in a New Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz | Go to book overview

1: A NEW ERA

Stephen D. Kertesz

Statesmen today have a difficult task indeed. International relations and conflicts present entirely different alternatives from those in the past. With the advent of atomic and thermonuclear weapons the character, means and ends of warfare have undergone a fundamental change. From the stone age to our time the destruction caused by war has been restricted in space, and most of the time wars were fought for limited objectives. At the time of the establishment of the modern state system war was considered a legally authorized and regulated contest of state armies. In the words of Albericus Gentilis: Bellum est publicorum armorum justa contentio. It is true that during two world wars the belligerents violated many rules of warfare which had been generally accepted in some earlier periods of history, but the fundamental purpose remained unchanged--to impose the victor's will on an overpowered enemy.

In the second half of the twentieth century a major war would no longer be a continuation of diplomacy by other means. After the Napoleonic era, Karl von Clausewitz, in writing his famous book on war, could have had no idea of the destructive capability of contemporary military weapons. Now it is doubtful whether in a serious armed conflict between leading powers the victor would enjoy the fruits of victory. In such cases war would not only defeat the purposes of diplomacy but would become a threat to civilization, if not to the human race. It is unlikely that statesmen of democratic countries today would deliberately resort to war as a means of resolving their differences. The prospect of an atomic holocaust makes the role of diplomacy in the peaceful solution of conflicts more important than ever before.

Meanwhile, diplomacy itself has undergone fundamental changes and today differs greatly from the diplomacy of previous eras, for a multiplicity of new factors has complicated the conduct of international affairs. Modern means of communication, personal diplomacy of leading statesmen, the increased role of specialists, and the important function of international organizations have downgraded

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