Diplomatic investigations essays in the theory of international politics


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This is far from being the case. The feeling of unease about the system of sovereign states is a deep-rooted one in Western thinking about international relations. It exists not only among those who explicitly espouse the elimination of this system, but also where we might least expect to find it, in the pronouncements of the servants of sovereign states themselves, by whose daily acts the system is preserved. These pronouncements often betray a sense of the inadequacy of the anarchical system, a lack of confidence in its institutions, a tendency guiltily to disguise their operation of the system or to apologize for doing so.

The League of Nations and the United Nations we are invited to see not as diplomatic machinery in the tradition of the Concert of Europe, but as first steps towards a world state. Military alliances , in this manner of speaking, become regional security systems ; exclusive political groupings, like Little Europe or the British Commonwealth, experiments in world order ; war, police action.

Men of affairs, even while in their actions they are seeking them, in their words are sometimes suggesting that solutions cannot in the long run be found within the framework of the existing system. Whether by a social contract among the nations or by conquest, whether gradually or at once, whether by a frontal assault on national sovereignty or a silent undermining of its foundations, the problem of international relations, if it is soluble at all, is taken to be in the last analysis the problem of bringing international relations to an end.

Diplomatic Investigations Essays Theory International Politics

The view that anarchy is incompatible with society among nations has been especially prominent in the years since the First World War. It was the First World War that gave currency to the doctrine of a 'fresh start' in international relations and set the habit of disparaging the past. Nineteenth century thought had regarded both the existence of international society and its further consolidation as entirely consistent with the continuation of international anarchy.

The ideas of were in part a mere extension of the liberal, progressive strand of this nineteenth century anarchist view : the strengthening of international law, the creation of new procedures for arbitration, the establishment of permanent institutions for co-operation among sovereign states, a reduction and limitation of armaments, the pressure of public opinion, the aspiration that states should be popularly based and that their boundaries should coincide with the boundaries of nations.

The twentieth century view of international anarchy is not, however, something new. Such a doctrine was stated at the outset of modem international history and has since found a succession of embodiments. The European system of sovereign states did not, of course, arise as a result of the outward growth and collision of hitherto isolated communities. When in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the question was raised of the nature of relationships between sovereign princes and states, order and justice on a universal scale were readily associated with the idea of a universal state: not merely because the supremacy of the prince was observed to be a condition of order within the confines of the state, but also because order throughout Western Christendom as a whole was associated with the vanished authority of the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.

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The idea that international anarchy has as its consequence the absence of society among states, and the associated but opposite idea of the domestic analogy, became and have remained persistent doctrines about the international predicament. The first of these doctrines describes international relations in terms of a Hobbesian state of nature, which is a state of war.

Sovereign states, on this view, find themselves in a situation in which their behaviour in relation to one another, although it may be circumscribed by considerations of prudence, is not limited by rules or law or morality. Either, as in the Machiavellian version of this doctrine, moral and legal rules are taken not to impinge on the sphere of action of the state : the political life and the moral life being presented as alternatives, as in the theory of quietism. In this first doctrine the conditions of social life are asserted to be the same for states as they are for individuals.

But the domestic analogy stops short at this point ; it is not the view of Hobbes, or of other thinkers of this school, that a social contract of states that would bring the international anarchy to an end either should or can take place.

The second doctrine accepts the description of international relations embodied in the first, but combines with it the demand that the international anarchy be brought to an end. Where the domestic analogy is employed to buttress this doctrine, it is taken further, to embrace the concept of the social contract as well as that of the state of nature. This search for an alternative to international anarchy may be sustained by the memory of an alternative actually experienced, as in the backward-looking tradition of a return to Roman or to Western Christian unity. Even as these two doctrines were taking shape there was asserted against them both the third possibility of a society of sovereign states ; and along with it the beginnings of the idea that the conditions of order among states were different from what they were among individual men.

Like the two doctrines against which it has been directed, this third doctrine consists in part of a description of what is taken to be the actual character of relations between states, and in part of a set of prescriptions. The description is one which sees sovereign states in intercourse with one another as consciously united together for certain purposes, which modify their conduct in relation to one another.

The prescriptions which accompany this account of the nature of international relations enjoin respect for the legal and moral rules upon which the working of the international society depends. Two traditions, in particular, have advanced this third conception of an international society. In the systems of sixteenth century writers like Vitoria and Suarez, and of seventeenth century thinkers like Grotius and Pufendorf, the idea of the domestic analogy was still strong; the alternative notion of the uniqueness of international society was fully worked out only by the positivist international lawyers of the nineteenth century.

According to such analyses states throughout modern history have been engaged in the operation of a 'political system' or 'states-system', which makes its own demands upon their freedom of action and requires them in particular to act so as to maintain a balance of power. In the nineteenth century the predominant doctrines moved close together : although it may still be doubted whether either theory can be reconciled to the other without sacrifice of an essential part of its content. It is not my purpose to vindicate the idea of an international society, nor to argue against the desirability or feasibility of a universal state.

But it would seem important to examine carefully an idea that has stood for so long at the centre of the theory and practice of modem international relations before concluding that it should be cast aside. II The identification of international relations as a variety of the Hobbesian state of nature derives from Hobbes himself. Hobbes' account of relations between sovereign princes is a subordinate part of his explanation and j ustification of government among individual men.

In it there can be no industry, agriculture, navigation, trade or other refinements of living, because the strength and invention of men is 1 Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. There are no legal or moral rules : 'The notions of Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice have there no place. It is consequent also to the same condition, that there can be no Propriety, no Dominion, no Mine and Thine distinct ; but only that to be every mans, that he can get ; and for so long, as he can keep it.

It may be claimed also for that other description of international relations as a potential community of mankind that it draws attention to qualities similarly permanent and universal : those arising from the bonds which men have in common as men, and in relation to which the division of mankind into sovereign states must be regarded as something accidental and transient, whether the relations of these states are taken to consist chiefly in conflict or in collaboration.

But there is a great area of international experience which is not taken into account by either theory ; and which can be accommodated only by the doctrine that there exists in the international anarchy a society of sovereign states. The theorists of international society have been able to question the applicability to relations between states of each of the three elements in Hobbes' account of the state of nature.

In the first place they have often remarked that sovereign states do not so exhaust their strength and invention in providing security against one another that industry and other refinements of living do not flourish. States do not as a rule invest resources in war and military preparations to such an extent that their economic fabric is ruined ; even if it may be argued that the allocation of resources to war and armaments is not the best allocation from the point of view of economic development.

On the contrary the armed forces of the state by providing security against external attack and internal disorder, establish the conditions under which economic improvement may take place within its borders. The absence of universal government and the fragmentation among sovereign states of responsibility for military security is not incompatible, moreover, with economic interdependence. The 1 I Ibid. The theorist of international society has often begun his inquiries, as Grotius did, by remarking the extent to which states depart from rules of law and morality, and by uttering a protest against this situation in asserting the binding character of the rules.

The element in the Hobbesian state of nature which appears most clearly to apply to international relations is the third. It is the fact of war which appears to provide the chief evidence for the view that states do not forn. On the one hand, if we take the modern state to illustrate the idea of a society, one of its salient features is that in it, apart from certain residual rights of self-defence, the private use of force is proscribed. But on the other hand, it cannot be denied that sovereign states in relation to one another are in a state of war, in Hobbes' sense that they are disposed to it over a period of time.

It must be conceded also that this war is one of all against all. At any single moment in the history of the modem states-system, it is true, certain states will not be disposed to war against certain other states.

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But if we consider the states-system not at a single moment but in motion throughout the whole of its life say, from then we shall find that every state that has survived the period has at some point or other been disposed to war with every other one. The theorist of international society has sought to deal with this difficulty not by denying the ubiquity of war, but by questioning the relevance of the model of the modem state. Theorists of the law of nations and of the system of balance of power have thus sought to show that war does not indicate the absence of international society, or its break-down, but can occur as a part of its functioning.

Thus some international legal writers have seen in war a means by which the law of international society is enforced by individual members ; others have seen in it a means of settling political conflicts. Theorists of the balance of power have seen war as the ultimate means by which threats to the international equilibrium are redressed.

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It may even be argued, in line with these theories, that the element in international relations of a 'war of all against all ' so far from being detrimental to the working of international society, is in a certain sense positively favourable to it. For if the enforcement of law depends upon the willingness of particular law-abiding states to undertake war against particular law-breaking ones, then the prospects of law enforcement will be best if every state is willing to take up arms against any state that breaks the law. The fact that at any one time certain states are unwilling to contemplate war with certain other states, either because they are allied to them, or because they are indifferent to one another's policies, or because they are bound by a particular sense of community, is an obstacle to the enforcement of international law.

In the same way the balance of power is best preserved if states are willing to take up arms against any state that threatens the balance, to focus their attention upon its recalcitrance in this respect and to disregard all special claims it may have on them. And although Locke's speculations about life of men in anarchy will leave us dissatisfied, we may tum to modem anthropological studies of actual societies of this kind, which have been 'forced to consider what, in the absence of explicit forms of government, could be held to constitute the political structure of a people'.

There are a number of these which are worth exploring. One, which has received some attention from international lawyers is the principle of the 'hue and cry'.

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Another is the place of ritual. Another is the principle of loyalty-among kinsmen in primitive society, among allies in international society. International society and certain sorts of primitive society would seem also to be alike in respect of the function performed within them by the principle that might is right.

This we are inclined to dismiss as the contrary of a moral principle, a mere way of saying that the question of right does not arise. This, indeed, is what, according to Thucydides, the Athenians said to the Melians : they did not appeal to the principle that might is right, but said that the question of right arose only when the parties were equal, which in this case they were not. The rule that the will of the stronger party should be accepted provides a means of going directly to what the outcome of a violent struggle would be, without actually going through that struggle.

Fortes and E. But also because international society is unique, and owes its character to qualities that are peculiar to the situation of sovereign states, as well as to those it has in common with the lives of individuals in domestic society. One of the themes that has accompanied the statement of the idea of international society has been that anarchy among states is tolerable to a degree to which among individuals it is not. This has been recognized in some measure even by those who originated the description of international relations in terms of the Hobbesian state of nature.

In the first place, as we have noted, it is not consequent upon the international anarchy that in it there can be no industry or other refinements of living ; unlike the individual in Hobbes' state of nature, the state does not find its energies so absorbed in the pursuit of security that the life of its activities is that of mere brutes.

In the second place states have not been vulnerable to violent attack to the same degree that individuals are. For, of course, a man is overcome by sleep every day, is often afll icted by disease of body or mind, and is finally prostrated by old age ; in addition, he is subject to other troubles against which a commonwealth can make itself secure.