Diplomacy From Inception to Modern

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CHAPTER 14 THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MODERN DIPLOMACY: ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT TO 1914 Louis J. Nigro, Jr. Diplomacy, broadly defined as the peaceful dialogue and interaction between political units, is as old as civilization itself. The first known peace treaty was signed about 2300 BC between a king of Ebla, in what is today Syria, and the king of Assyria. The Amarna tablets record the diplomatic correspondence between Egypt and Syrian rulers more than 1,400 years ago, while Genesis 14 talks of Abrams treaty of alliance with Amorite kings. From the eighth to the third century BC, China was divided among several warring states that conducted diplomacy as well as made war on each other in order to survive and succeed, as Sun Tzus writings indicate. Other early civilizations offer similar examples of diplomatic activity. This chapter, concerning the development of modern diplomacy from its origins in 15th-century Europe until the 20th century, seeks to accomplish five things. First, the chapter describes the origins of the modern state in Renaissance Italy and shows how that new type of political organization developed a new kind of diplomacy that met its needs. Second, it examines the role of Florentine political thinker Niccol Machiavelli in providing a theoretical basis for the new state and for the new diplomacy used to accomplish its goals. The chapter stresses that Machiavelli gave directions to rulers of the new stateswhether monarchies, principalities, or republicson how to be successful in an international system characterized by constant interaction among geographically sovereign units for power, influence, and security. Third, it describes the parallel development of the modern sovereign or Westphalian state and the modern diplomacy that serves it. Fourth, it looks at the application of modern diplomacy to the classic European age of grand strategy and the balance of power from 1648 to the First World War. Finally, the chapter serves as background and introduction to other essays in this volume that deal with the characteristics of the state, the nature of the international system, and the role of diplomacy as an element of national power in the contemporary world. FROM MEDIEVAL TO MODERN Europe created modern diplomacy because Europe created the modern, geographically sovereign statethe so-called Westphalian state after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The new form of international actor that has characterized the modern international system required a new kind of diplomacy, matched to its needs and consonant with its nature. The modern, geographically sovereign state (or, nation-state) began to emerge in Europe during the 16th century as the old structures of European international order began to break down. The international order that Europe had inherited from the Middle Ages was composed of structures of power that were different from the nation-states that compose our contemporary international system. There were structures that existed above and beyond todays nation-state, structures that we can call supra-statal and structures existing below and within todays nation-state that we can call infra-statal. The chief supra-statal institutions were the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, both rooted in the spiritual domain and both reflecting the glory of the ancient Roman Empire. Both Popes and Emperors claimed to be the heirs of Rome. Popes and Emperors claimed wide and broad


powers over other rulers and over the subjects of other rulers that gave them legal, religious, financial, and other authorities. The primary infra-statal institutions were a bewildering (to us, not to contemporaries) assortment of thousands of autonomous jurisdictions, starting from national kingdoms like England, France, and Aragon, and continuing down a long hierarchical chain of political organizations through principalities, duchies, free counties, bishoprics, free cities, commercial alliances (like the Hanseatic League), baronies, petty lordships of all types and sizes, to corporate bodies like guilds, military orders, and religious orders. All of them exercised what we would call political power in various ways. The jurisdictions, rights, powers, and responsibilities of both the supra-statal and the infra-statal institutions often conflicted and overlapped. Together these supra-national and infra-national institutions made up what contemporaries called Christendom. Christendoms institutions drew their strength and legitimacy from feudal traditional practices that mixed public office and public functions with private property and hereditary rights; from religious and spiritual sanctions; and from social and cultural habits a thousand years in the making. Political order in Christendom was characterized by interlocking networks of rights and responsibilities fragmented into many small, autonomous parts. The focus of political authority was personal, feudal, and local. The idea that political rule was strictly linked to control of territory rather than to other sources of authority was largely absent, so that rulers were not geographically sovereign in the sense of exerting supreme and monopolistic authority over and within a given territory and population. Christendom as a political system appears to us to have been ambiguous, complicated, messy, and illogical, but it worked as long as people believed in it. The medieval order of Christendom started to break down under pressure from rising political units that drew their strength and legitimacy from new territorial and demographic realities; that were sanctioned more by the possession and use of practical power than by religion and tradition; and that were evolving behind borders that were more definite and more restrictive than the old porous, overlapping medieval political units. The growth of vernacular languages and the concomitant beginnings of national consciousness aided the process of the development of the new political units, which would eventually become the legally equal, sovereign states. This would intensify into the process of state formation at the expense of both the old supra-national institutions and the old infra-national institutions. THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE ORIGINS OF MODERN DIPLOMACY: 1450-1500 Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance and also of the first prototypes of the modern, geographically sovereign state. The reason for this was Renaissance Italys vanguard status in most areas of European endeavorart, literature, science, jurisprudence, philosophy, economics, and financebut also in political development. Jacob Burckhardts classic 1860 interpretive essay, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, had as its central theme the problem of politics and of political anthropology. Burckhardt believed that it was the unique political environment of Renaissance Italy that led to the development of the Renaissance mind with its more liberated ideas, ideals, morals and attitudes. The two overarching organizing institutions of the pre-Renaissance West, of what people thought of, not as Europe, but as Christendomthe universal Papacy and the universalistic Holy Roman Empirehad been effectively absent from Italy and had therefore exerted little or no influence in Italian political life for over a century and a half. That absence, Burckhardt wrote, left Italy in a political condition which differed essentially from that of other countries of the West and explained why in them we detect for the first time the modern political spirit of Europe. 1


The Italian Microcosm. Because the foundations of the medieval international order crumbled in Italy around 1300, the Italians began to create a new political institution to fill the void left by that collapse. This new institution was called in Italian the stato, transforming a word that until then had been used to describe the legal classes into which people fell within a political unit. Now statoand all its cognates, such as state in English, tat in French, estado in Spanish, Staat in German, and so on would become the term used to describe the basic political unit of the new international order. The Italian microcosm was an anarchic political space. The new states that the Italians evolved to fill that space were the prototypes of the future Westphalian state. They were, in contemporary eyes, illegitimate, existing outside the medieval and feudal hierarchies of political authority. They had to create their own legitimacy by defending their existence. They were, therefore, warlike and aggressive. They were geographically discreteseparate and distinct from other states or any other authorities and were nearly sovereign in the modern sense of the term, jealously guarding a monopoly of political authority within their borders and recognizing no other authority higher than themselves. The power vacuum created by the absence of higher authority in Renaissance Italy resulted in the growth of several Italian city-states into territorial states that absorbed smaller and weaker neighbors. This Darwinian process of political consolidation by conquest resulted eventually in the creation of a miniature state system in Italy, an enclosed political space with five great powers contending among themselves for hegemony and influence over smaller, weaker city-states. By 1450, the five principal territorial states of Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples, and the Papal State (based on Rome) dominated the Italian peninsula. As they maneuvered against one another for power and advantage, making and breaking alliances among themselves, the Italian peninsula came to constitute an enclosed system of interacting statesa state systemthat was a microcosm of the European state system to follow. In 1454, a series of wars to resist Milanese hegemonic aggression resulted in the general Peace of Lodi. In 1455, most of the five powers and other smaller ones signed a mutual security agreement, t