chapter  6
44 Pages

Total diplomacy

One of the salient features of the development of the state during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the steady expansion of the functions ascribed to government. Even in those societies which clung the most tenaciously to the doctrine of free trade, governments were expected to play an ever more active role in the management of the national economy. The process was, perhaps, only a logical consequence of the industrialization and urbanization of much of the world. Yet it was also encouraged and facilitated by war. The two world wars involved the principal belligerents in the mobilization, not just of their manpower, but also of their economic and financial resources. Allied governments had likewise in their dealings with each other, with neutrals and eventually with ex-enemy administrations, to concern themselves with matters of economic assistance and containment. The problems associated with the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War thus tended to confirm the lesson of the inter-war years that no clear distinction could be made between international politics and international economics. An ever increasing number of industrial, social and technological matters were perceived as having an international, and therefore a diplomatic, dimension. Moreover, the onset of the Cold War had the effect of reversing Clausewitz’s celebrated maxim. Diplomacy remained closely wedded to grand strategy and often seemed as though it were no more than an extension of war by other means. And like warfare in the twentieth century, diplomacy became total in its objectives and subject matter. While the content of diplomacy was expanding, so too was its context

being rapidly transformed. The fall of France, the defeat of the Axis, the decline of Britain and the emergence in 1945 of the Soviet Union and the United States as two victorious superpowers, completed the destruction of the old European states system. By 1949, when the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb, a new and bipolar global balance of terror was well on its

way to replacing the former continental balance of power. Meanwhile the European empires which had held sway over most of Africa and much of Asia began to disintegrate. The French were denied the opportunity to reestablish their authority in the Middle East, the British abandoned the lands of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, and two years later the Dutch granted independence to Indonesia. The process of decolonization, which continued throughout the next

decade, gathered pace in the 1960s, and within thirty years of the ending of the Second World War the number of sovereign states had almost trebled. Most of the new actors on the world political stage were relatively poor, and some of them, particularly in the Caribbean and the Pacific, were so small in population and territory as to bear comparison with the city-states of Renaissance Italy. Many of them could barely afford to maintain more than skeletal foreign services. Few of them were prepared to forgo the formal trappings of independent statehood. Yet the birth of this Third World was also accompanied by the rise of atavistic and xenophobic nationalisms, which, like the Bolshevism of a previous generation, challenged the cultural and economic values of the West and the methods and mores of its diplomacy.