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Law and Diplomacy In the Quest for Peace

ISSUE:  Winter 1979

This discussion of law, diplomacy, and peace is focused on the connection between these three different systems of ideas. As the essay’s title indicates, the relationship is conceived along hierarchical lines in the sense that peace is the controlling or dominant reference whereas law and diplomacy appear as secondary or adjunct notions expected to serve the goal of peace. Furthermore, the phrase implies that the meanings carried by each of the three words, and therefore also by the associations within this triad, are unambiguous, perhaps even self-evident, thus allowing easy discourse and communication not just within the United States but also in the further reaches of the wider world. For is not the technically unified world of the 20th century also a morally unified world in which it is reasonable to expect separate yet interdependent nations to join in building what spokesmen for recent administrations in this country have been referring to as “structures of peace”?

Before taking issue with this and related formulations, and before addressing the theme’s specific challenges, I would like to submit a few rather general observations in the hope that they may be useful for the limited purpose of explaining the frame of thought in which my own orientations to law, diplomacy, and peace are enclosed.

One of the many helpful difficulties I have experienced in the course, first, of studying law, history, and diplomacy in Europe, and, later, in trying to understand non-European societies, relates to speculations about the role of ideas in shaping civilizations. Following some of my mentors, among them A. N. Whitehead in The Adventures of Ideas, I am convinced today that ideas are the major determinants of human destiny in all cultures, not only in that of the West where, after Ionia and Athens, a purely materialistic view of history is untenable, and that differences of civilizations are best perceived by relating one’s inquiries to socially and historically prevalent thoughtways and concepts. However, I am also certain that the life cycles of ideas can usually not be identified precisely, and that there are no reliable answers to questions such as these: How do concepts arise, change, and die? Can the beginnings or transformations of an idea be dated? Just when did a long familiar notion shed its meaning, and just what is happening to the word that carried this idea? Each of the three words that preside over this discourse has a long and checkered history, and each has undergone metamorphoses and mutilations that should be diagnosed.

A second set of unresolved queries concerns the relation between culture and language, on the one hand, and thought and concept formation on the other. Can one maintain that thought processes in all societies are fundamentally alike when one knows that languages are greatly different? Is it safe to assume that there exists a universal common logic of thinking shared by people everywhere? Do all speech communities permit the evolution of such idea clusters as “The Categorical Imperative,” “World Peace Through Law,” “Self-Determination,” or “Universal Human Rights”? Do the words “justice,” “power,” or “conflict” really evoke the same meanings and values in Iraq, Israel, Tibet, Uganda, and Canada?

The impression left by much modern literature in political science, law, and even history is indeed to the effect that perception, reasoning, analysis, and value judgment proceed under common auspices. But upon inspection these auspices turn out to be the norms of rationality, logic, and moral persuasion valid in the language worlds of the West, where the modern university with all its norm-engendering academic disciplines has its home. Situations in which the supposition of sameness cannot be substantiated readily are usually explained away with the argument that the deviation from the norm is purely temporary. Given time-and the time concept implied here is the concept of “development” —each people will have a constitution, a bill of rights, and peace. The fact, well known to students of philosophy, religion, and history, that certain culturally discreet orientations toward time do not accommodate the notion of development or progress, is then conveniently dropped from consciousness, as is the widespread and uncontested knowledge that government in most parts of the world has been, and continues to be, administered not in terms of law but in those of organized or arbitrary power.

Visions of a unified world society have never been missing in the Christian world, but they were cultivated more cautiously and realistically in past centuries than today, and that in the realm of politics as well as in that of the academic universe. Vico, for example, did not think that he could even fathom the unity of the human race until he had succeeded in composing a dictionary of the mental utterances common to all the nations and underlying their different languages. And Herder never tired of persuading his followers to learn difficult languages so as to explore the thoughtways of remote civilizations. More importantly, it cannot be said that we today lack guidelines for a more accurate appreciation of international discords and accords. Dr. Robert Livingston, a well-known neurophysiologist, thus remarks that we are quite wrong in assuming the existence of a universal common logic of thinking because culture, and in culture especially language, affects not only a person’s values and world views but also the very manner in which he thinks. After all, Livingston writes, a common pool of universal thought and memory is perforce missing since each human being has access only to a relatively uncontaminated screen of perceptional experience.

Transculturally valid understandings of norms and values cannot be presumed in such circumstances. Rather misunderstandings in international communications should be considered normal. Furthermore, correlations or comparisons of concepts across linguistic, cultural, and ideological boundaries should be expected to be tenuous, even when accomplished philologists and translators set out to narrow the distances between thought systems.

These findings are confirmed by I. A. Richards in his work Mencius on the Mind, which has the sub-title “Experiments in Multiple Definitions.” The major general question here raised is the following:

How deep may differences between human minds go? If we grant that the general physiology and neurology of the Chinese and Western races are the same, might there not still be room for important psychological differences? Peoples who have lived for great periods of time in different cultural settings, developing different social structures and institutions-might they not really differ vastly in their mental constitutions?

In the course of responding to these questions, Richards notes explicitly that all of us in the Occident are privileged when it comes to processes of thinking and communication because our languages derive from Greek and Latin and are based on an alphabetized script that is easily mastered. This classical Western tradition, which provides an elaborate apparatus of universals, particulars, substances, attributes, abstracts, and concretes, facilitates inventive and individual thought. Traditional Chinese thinking, by contrast, Richards points out elsewhere, gets along without the type of structure and logic we are used to. It operates within unquestioned limits, seeking a conception of the mind that should be “a good servant to the accepted moral system.” Here only such conceptual distinctions are allowed as are useful in supporting social aims, and only such facts are recognized as are compatible with an approved ritual and social order. Theories of knowledge, so common in classical and modern Western societies, were thus not readily developed there.

Any dialogue between China and the West presupposes in Richards’s view a close comparison of the purposes and limitations of thought that mark each of these two radically different civilizations. It is in this connection that he proposes a technique for comparative studies that would establish multiple definitions of the ranges of possible meanings carried by such pivotal terms as “knowledge,” “truth,” “order,” “cause,” or “good.” However, Richards also warns that neither of these or other ideas can be grasped on its merits unless one arrives first at a reasonably reliable understanding of the entire culture in which the idea lives.

As a student of law and history in comparative and international contexts, I am much attracted to this type of exploration, even as I am keenly aware of my incompetencies in the fields of linguistics and philology. Thus it is obvious to me that any quest for world peace and the rule of law is bound to be a frustrating undertaking unless we find out just what “peace” means in all culturally and linguistically different societies with which we today are linked in international relationships, and whether there is a group of ideas resembling the one we call “law” in the West. Gathering information about issues such as these should be one of the main concerns not only in scholarly circles but also, perhaps primarily, in the nation’s diplomatic establishment and in what we have come to call the intelligence community. Diplomatic investigations of this type should be continuous if only because ideas have a way of changing. For example, in our relations with China it is important to know what is traditionally Chinese about references to order, power, conflict, peace, and war, what by contrast reflects the influence of the West, and what is distinctly Maoist in inception and usage. With respect to Maoist thought, again, it is necessary to disentangle Marxist-Leninist renditions of these crucial concepts from those which Mao derived from his ancient mentors among the Chinese martial classics.

In short, it is important in today’s multicultural world to combat certain leveling dispositions that have been gaining dominance in American thought, among them the tendency to assume, without supporting evidence, that one of OUR morally preferred words and convictions carries a universally accepted truth. In the dictionary of terms relating to foreign affairs, this is particularly true of “Peace,” “Law,” and, in more recent years, of “Human Rights.”

Furthermore, it needs to be admitted that we have been careless custodians of our conceptual and linguistic heritage in the sense that we have blithely acquiesced in the wholesale pilfering and distortion of our political vocabulary. The term “People’s Democracy” has thus come to stand for a Communist totalitarian dictatorship, and the word “Majority Rule,” developed in Western democracies in the context of parliamentary elections, is being used without demurrer or qualification on our part to signify the rule of black majorities over white minorities in Africa south of the Sahara, even though no one either in Africa or here envisions this type of majority rule to be associated with constitutional proceedings. Another lost or wayward word is “Imperialism.” Why should we follow Lenin and apply this concept exclusively to modern, notably American capitalism and to a brief period of European rule in parts of Africa and Asia? Why do we not remember, first, that Lenin invented the dogma of imperialism as the last phase of capitalism and the root cause of unjust war because he had to find some kind of apologia or rationalization for the non-fulfillment of Marxian prophecies; and second, that the annals of thousands of years of international history are replete with records of non-European imperialisms and non-European wars?

The following reflections on law, peace, and diplomacy are informed by these concerns about the decay of our language and our conceptual apparatus, and by the conviction that we cannot think constructively about ourselves and the world environment unless we take words and ideas seriously.


The intellectual and political history of Europe and North America establishes the fact that law has always been a paramount concern in the West. The city states of classical Greece were poor and economically underdeveloped, but this kind of adversity did not keep their citizens from indulging in the most complex and advanced type of legal and philosophical thinking, as readers of Greek literature will readily acknowledge. Solon produced daring and successful legal reforms, and Aristotle was able to assign meanings to equity and justice that have retained validity in our civilization to this day. Likewise, he could analyze over one hundred different constitutions because they evidently did exist, and because he was intellectually ready to compare them. The ancient Romans, meanwhile,—and they too lived in the simplest of material circumstances—developed the most sophisticated legal system known to man. From the fifth century B. C. onward they were relentlessly at work establishing categories of jurisprudence that have ever since been considered definitive in the West. Public law was distinguished from private law, the state was defined in terms of law, and so were the rights and duties of citizens. In fact, nothing is quite as important for purposes of this discussion as the gradual disengagement of the autonomous person from the bonds of family and social status—a process clearly symbolized by Rome’s refinement of the idea of contract.

This concept, which is the root of constitutionalism, of treaty law, and therefore of all charters for the international organization of peace, presupposes the recognition that an individual is capable of having intentions of his own, that he can make and keep promises, and that he can acquire rights. After the Roman jurists had perfected these findings, they could conclude that a legally binding contract between two or more persons comes into existence when the law can isolate their authentic intentions and verify the meeting of their minds in a voluntary accord.

These intellectual breakthroughs in the private law were essential before the Romans could conceive of the constitution and of legislation as contracts in public law, and before they could describe the state as a bond or partnership in law.

All civil law societies in Christian Europe, including the Church and its canon law, carried this Roman tradition—hence the profusion of diets, synods, cortes, and “parlements” in the Middle Ages and the perennial concern to establish the proper relationship between power and law. In England, meanwhile, analogous emphases had evolved in the common law. Here, too, we find that law has traditionally had sweeping functions as a paramount moral value, a directive for thought and reasoning, a symbolic code capable of relaying other major norms and values, and as the axial principle of social behavior and political organization. The essence of civil liberties could thus be circumscribed as early as 1215, to be steadily developed in later centuries as the rights of Englishmen. What one does not find in either of these two great legal systems is the pretension to establish human rights beyond the bounds of the law’s actual authority and reach. The Romans who ended up ruling a vast empire composed of disparate cultures, speech communities, and social systems, thus did not think that the Egyptians—for example—could be subjected to the ius civile of Rome. After ascertaining the norms and customs by which each of their dependencies or satellites lived, they therefore fashioned another intricate legal order, the ius gentium.The English, whose 19th-century empire included even more diverse societies, proceeded similarly: wherever possible, they administered their colonies and dominions indirectly, namely through the agency of locally valid norms and institutions.

The convergence of European societies on law as the mainstay of their public order systems explains why relations between separate governments were also preferably rendered in terms of law. This custom became firmly established after the Thirty Years’ War when Europe had ceased to be a morally unified Christian commonwealth held together by the Catholic Church and was beginning to evolve into a society of separate secular nation states. It was during these times of trouble that Hugo Grotius composed his pioneering work, significantly entitled The Law of Peace and War, which has remained the foundation for all serious thought about international law today.

Grotius thought only of Europe when he cast about for reliable principles of international order, and in canvassing the records of history, jurisprudence, religion, and philosophy he therefore singled out the norms and values upon which he found generations of Europeans to have agreed. The equities of neighborliness observed by property owners in classical Rome thus suggested to him the rules for coexistence also of territorially bounded sovereign states. Legal definitions of crimes and wrongs were followed in his classification of permissible and impermissible injuries to life and property during war, and the Roman law of contract was extended to cover treaties between states. In short, Grotius realized that an international system is as solid only as the linkage relating it to the component local systems.

Next, Grotius followed his multiple informants in differentiating peace from war, in regarding peace as ethically superior and politically preferable to war, and in subjecting both human conditions to the rule of law. In other words, war was accepted as a legitimate exercise of sovereignty provided it was waged lawfully. Yet Grotius also notes in an interesting passage—one evocative of modern discourses on the subject of “the cold war” or “the protracted war”—that it may not always be easy to distinguish between war and peace or to see to it that wars are brought to a close.

Lastly, Grotius concluded from Europe’s records that the treaty was the major agency for all interstate communications, whether affecting conflict or cooperation, and that governments had traditionally been at one in believing that treaties, whether onerous or advantageous, must be kept. These commitments, often summarized in the phrase pacta sunt servanda, were considered indispensable for the attainment of mutual trust and the approximation of peace. Grounded in the law of contract, they reminded successive generations that just as the word “peace” is akin to the word “pact,” so should the ideal of peace between separate societies be entrusted to a pact for the preservation or restoration of peace.

The Western diplomatic method is infused by these values and understandings. Moreover, it has traditionally been carried by the language of law. Grotius’s contemporary, Cardinal de Richelieu, who is generally credited with having perfected the French design for diplomacy that was then imitated by all other European states, thus stated that diplomacy should aim at creating solid and durable international relations; that the most essential of all components of sound diplomatic practice is the element of certainty; that negotiations must result in agreements; and that treaties once signed and ratified must be observed “with religious scruple.” These maxims were elaborated by another French diplomat, François de Callières, who argues emphatically in De la manière de negocier avec les Souverains (publ, in 1716) that open dealings are the basis of confidence, that honesty is here and everywhere the best policy, and that diplomats must not resort to deceit but should aim at harmonizing the interests of the parties concerned.

The third specifically European disposition in the quest for peace is trust in the balance of power between coexisting states. This principle originated in Renaissance Italy as a concomitant of diplomacy when the governments of the main city states realized that bids for hegemony on the part of either Venice or France could be held in check only by concerted attempts to maintain all forces in bilancia.Alliance diplomacy as here conceived thus aimed at the prevention of strife and war. Indeed, it was symbolically and conceptually linked to justice and law when the Florentines borrowed the symbol of the scales from astrology. So conceived and projected, the balance of power stood not only for the protection of national interests but also for a justly measured international order. The linkage with international law could then be developed as a matter of course, until L. Oppenheim, the most influential European authority on the subject, was able to maintain in the first decades of the 20th century that the balance of power principle was indispensable to the existence of international law.

The United States joined the European States System as a matter of course when it gained its independence from Great Britain. Yet, deviations from established norms were apparent already in the formulation of the Declaration of Independence and were destined to become accentuated in the first quarter of this century when the American government assumed the leadership of the Occidental or Transatlantic Community. Among these uniquely American orientations the following seem particularly relevant to the topic of this discussion.

In light of modern elaborations of the principle of self-determination, it is thus important to remember that this concept was affirmed in the Declaration of Independence as a universal human right—one justifying resort to war. The great draftsmen of this “fateful document”—as an Englishman called it—simply assumed, it seems, on the authority of such selected European references as the law of nature and the Lockeian theory of social contract and without analyzing the records of international history or politics, that constitutionalism and democracy would automatically follow the exercise of self-determination in all societies on earth.

This confidence is very much with us today, just as it was in the administrations of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt—predecessors whom President Jimmy Carter cites as his models. Yet each of the propositions which 20th-century American diplomacy has entrusted to the abstractions and moral principles embodied in the 18th-century document remains as controversial and unproven as it was 200 years ago. The concrete findings of the ancient Romans or the modern English that “law” and “rights” cannot be presumed to embody or project identical meanings in the culturally disparate provinces of the world, carry no weight whatsoever in our society, perhaps because they were registered in European empires—a type of political organization traditionally considered anathema in the United States. Likewise, little if any importance is being attached to Montesquieu’s warning that the laws of one nation can never be suited to the wants of another nation, since laws must harmonize with the nature and the principle of government that is established. Lastly—and oddly enough—few today take Professor Woodrow Wilson seriously in his admonition in Constitutional Government in the United States that

Self-government is not a mere form of institution to be had when desired, if only proper pains be taken. It is a form of character. It follows upon the long discipline which gives a people self-possession, self-mastery, the habit of order and peace and common counsel, and a reverence of law which will not fail when they themselves become the makers of law: the steadiness and self-control of political maturity. And these things cannot be had without long discipline.

What the nation continues to identify with are some of President Wilson’s pronouncements, among them the following: that all states are equal even as all individuals are equal; that America must help implant a rule of justice that plays no favorites and knows no standards but the equal rights of the several peoples concerned; that diplomacy should proceed always frankly and in the public view; that the system of the balance of power has become forever discredited; that subject peoples must be granted their independence irrespective of the wishes of other states; and that war, being detested by all mankind, is everywhere susceptible to outlawry or joint international control.

Other impediments besetting the American search for world peace are related to the structure of domestic politics which allows each generation, indeed each administration, to write its own ticket in the domain of foreign affairs. This espousal of discontinuity, even impetuosity, explains, in conjunction with the strong tendency to evangelism, why we have not been able to build a philosophical base for our foreign policy, and why we do not have a time-transcendent strategic design for the furtherance of the national interest which might accommodate a realistic concern with the cause of peace.

The same disabilities, in conjunction with the nation’s constitutionally conditioned reluctance to recognize distinctions between civilizations, make accurate perceptions of the identities of foreign societies very difficult. The pronounced bent to see other states or peoples as actual or potential carriers of American values thus leads easily either to simplistic analogies or to unnecessarily polarized views of differences between “them” and “us,” For example, in the context of our human rights diplomacy it is common to juxtapose “democracy” and “despotism” without remembering first that “democracy” is represented today by a mere handful of governments; second, that the vast majority of states, whether present or not present in the United Nations, are associated with authoritarian regimes, and third, that there is an important systemic difference between totalitarianism as administered in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and some of Russia’s Eastern European satellites, and the kind of despotism found in most states of Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and non-Communist Asia.

There are thus certain basic questions which American scholars and policy-makers have not been in the habit of asking insistently in the last decades—decades, incidentally, during which this country had ample opportunities, in virtue of its power and unquestioned leadership in the non-Communist world, to take stock of its world environment. Among them are the following:

Can democracy or constitutionalism be expected in culture
areas where the individual has not been legally detached
from the group, and where the elements of contract are not

Is it reasonable to postulate the existence of bills of rights
where constitutional law is missing?

Should it be assumed that a treaty conveys the same norms
and values to non-Western and Western contracting parties?

Can there be an effective international or world law if national
or local meanings of public law are not analogous, or at
least proximate?

If the answers to the foregoing questions are negative, can
the missing concepts be securely grafted upon public order
systems built on non-legal traditions by introducing codes,
constitutions, and covenants of civil liberties and by concluding
international agreements assuring respect for human

Answers to these and related queries cannot be given unless and until one ascertains just how societies singled out for legal transplants have been held together previously and how strong the traditional bonds—whether derived from ritual, religion, and myth, or from military, bureaucratic and other types of secular power—have continued to be.

Another, for purposes of this discussion, most important, inventory should address itself to an examination of non-Western or non-American orientations to peace, and that on the planes of both domestic and foreign affairs. Are other nations—for example, India and the Soviet Union—as conditioned as we are to think of “pact” and “peace” as organically related ideas? Do Maoist China, Zambia, Israel, or Iraq agree with the Random House Dictionary’s definition of “peace” as the normal non-warring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world? And if comparative studies record negative responses to these inquiries, what roles do we assign to law and diplomacy in the quest for peace?


Precedents for diplomatic investigations of this kind were set hundreds of years ago by the Eastern Orthodox Empire of Byzantium and the Republic of Venice. Each of these two states endured close to one thousand years in a world environment not unlike the one in which we find ourselves today—a multicultural world in which no shared norms, values, or certainties could be expected as a matter of course. Both survived in an essentially hostile climate of international relations because their statesmen saw the entire world as a complex of ascertainable facts, which had to be understood separately and collectively if the national venture was to succeed. Fleets and armies, treaty rights and trading prospects, power and influence were thus seen through the eyes of the Venetians as factors that had to be isolated and evaluated in terms of national assets and liabilities if they were to be used as reliable determinants of policy. The fame of the Republic’s diplomatic service was due to the highly trained minds of its envoys and agents, the systematic supervision of all foreign missions by the home government, and the remarkable manner in which all information was stored. Indeed, no single aspect of Venetian diplomacy is as impressive as the very conception of these diplomatic archives, and among the records there assembled none are as important as the relazioni.These relations were comprehensive accounts that each ambassador had to render to the government immediately upon his return to Venice. Each was drawn up carefully so as to convey a complete picture of the political, social, and economic constitution of the foreign country to which the envoy had been assigned, and each was analyzed on its own merits in order then to be indexed and filed in the archives. Yet all were always viewed together as one great mirror reflecting the entire world at a given moment.

The world appraised by the Adriatic Republic was never a morally or politically homogeneous world. Generations of Venetians remained acutely conscious of the traditions of classical and Christian Rome, proud of their participation in the great intellectual movements that had fashioned Western Europe’s modern civilization, and mindful of their membership in the Western European states system. However, Venice was also—and simultaneously—closely linked to the rival Christian commonwealth of the East whose sphere of moral and political control included peoples of Eastern Europe as well as non-European societies in the Near East, Central Asia, and North Africa, whose imperial administrative system was not adaptable to the international order of coordinate states in the West, and whose ongoing cultural life was not decisively affected by the Renaissance.

Furthermore, Venetian images of the world securely accommodated the different life styles and thought ways of the Chinese and the Mongols, the steppe peoples of inner Asia, and the different culturally diverse Islamic societies of the Arabs, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Turks, and the Berbers. Venetian policy-makers were keenly aware of the fact that European references to the law of nations and of nature, the rights of war and peace, or the ethics of treaty relations were not universally valid guidelines for the conduct of foreign affairs. Centuries of close coexistence with Muslim societies thus served to instruct both Venice and Byzantium in the highly developed Islamic law of nations. This set of rules, which was derived exclusively from religious sources, stipulated that the entire world must be submitted to Islam, and that the holy war of the jihad was the chief legal instrument for the consummation of this task. Pending this accomplishment, the theory continued, “peace” had to be defined as “dormant war.” It followed, in the logic of this world view, that diplomacy in relations with unbelievers was officially understood as an auxiliary of the law of war, and that peace treaties, being mere expedients, could be repudiated if they were not found to be beneficial to the cause of Islam.

Conflicts between rival realms in Christendom and the Islamic domain were thus normal, but adjustments of political interests and moral persuasions could also be recorded frequently, if only because the substratum of the different religious belief systems was the same. This was not the case in the relations between Islam and Christianity on the one hand, and Hindu India on the other; for this South Asian society had brought forth a unique system of international relations that allowed few if any compromises with the orientations of non-Hindu contemporaries. The distinguishing norms as culled from India’s classical texts are the following.

Each king—and the subcontinent was dotted with kingdoms, large and small—had the obligation to be at war if he was to acquire spiritual merit as a member of the warrior caste to which he belonged by definition. Being engaged in the world of artha where only winning counts, he was expected to best neighboring kingdoms by any means, fair or foul. The only interstate law we find here is what the texts describe as “the law of the fishes” in accordance with which the big ones eat the little ones. Diplomacy in this world was assigned functions not sanctioned by Richelieu or Machiavelli, as the following excerpts illustrate:

“The whole world stands in awe of the king ready to strike.”

“Like a snake devouring a mouse, the Earth devours a king
who is inclined to peace.”

“As a fowler, carefully uttering cries similar to those of the
birds he wishes to seize or kill, captures and brings them
under his power, even so should a king bring his foes under
subjection and then slay them if he likes.”

Other tactics of statecraft included giving bribes or presents, appeasements, sowing dissension in adjoining realms, casting spells and illusions on people singled out for takeover, and above all maintaining elaborate espionage establishments that included guerrilla units and assassination squads (described in the artha manuals as “fiery spies”). Alliances and peace agreements received attention too, but usually in the strict context of war diplomacy. For since peace denoted nothing more or less than stagnation, kings were counseled by their brahmans to remember that “whoever is rising in power may break the agreement of peace.”

Peace between the world’s multifarious races and nations was not a goal for which men contended during the millennial span of Venetian independence. This independence began in the 8th century when the city state was granted autonomy by Byzantium. It was extinguished by Napoleon in 1797, a few years after statehood had come to the United States.

The last two centuries have witnessed the steady development of this nation’s power, the rapid and intense diffusion of European and American ideas to all other culture centers of the world, and a relentless rise in the velocity of communication between the diverse peoples of the earth. The combination of these factors explains why the quest for world peace could be pursued by the United States with such high hopes for realization. What went unnoticed in this process was the gradual resurrection of the ancient conflict systems in all new states of Africa and Asia that had been fashioned on the model of the Western nation state and the relentless consolidation of Communist ways of thought and political organization.

Muslim institutional patterns thus did not change simply because these states came to accept certain Western principles regulating the conduct of external relations. Indeed, many Arab diplomats and jurists object to modern international law as essentially Western and alien. They also take issue with certain provisions of the United Nations Charter that unconditionally prohibit war—a proposition deemed strained and unrealistic particularly in the context of the existing state of war in their relations with Israel. The Islamic foreign minister of the Sudan may have spoken for African as well as Middle Eastern and other Asian peoples when he addressed the following message to the West in 1972:

It is only you, the Europeans, totally weakened by two world wars, who believe that peace is a supreme good of humanity. We in Africa do not see it that way. For us, power, violence and might are much more important than peace.

This frank self-appraisal is borne out by surveys of the heavy incidence of coups d’etat, revolutions, civil wars, and all manner of interstate conflicts, and by analyses of the records of endemic inter-African warfare as these have accumulated in the past.

The cause of public peace and law goes begging also in Southern Asia and Latin America, where many modern states have gradually been converted into fields of violence. Such transformations of the inner normative orders are clearly inimical to existing and projected structures of world peace. Equally clearly, they are favorable to the hardening of old and the genesis of new types of international war. Neither category can today be regulated objectively by the law of nations.

This severance of war from law and the general disillusion with the state of world affairs by which so many in the West are seized today may well be the principal causes for that critically significant shift of focus away from the actualities of war and peace and toward speculative positions in the lofty realms of philosophy and morality which marks much modern writing in Europe and the United States. Scholars, unable to presuppose neat distincitons, first, between internal and external war and, next, between international war and peace as legally justifiable conditions, have thus been drawn into pre-occupations with such issues as the morality of specific wars or of specific acts of war. However, precision in thought and discourse is perforce missing in all such arguments if only because there are no common standards of morality in the 20th-century world. Furthermore, the net effect of this retreat or ascent to domains of sentiment and ethics is distinctly destabilizing for the cause of law and unity in the remaining democracies. Nothing but anarchy can result if everyone—statesman or citizen, commander or corporal—takes morality as the proper guide for his thoughts and actions in regard to international violence.

Multiple causes can be adduced in explanation of our present confusions about the relationships among peace, war, law, and diplomacy. But chief among them is the continuous worldwide impact of Marxism-Leninism upon patterns of political organization, modes of thought and perception, and ways of communication. The singling out of this factor is justified in the context of this discussion because communism has brought forth a vocabulary of norms regarding peace, war, law, and diplomacy that is, in each instance, a denial or a reversal of the ideas which we associate with these terms. All authoritative announcements of the Communist Party line, whether identified with Lenin, Stalin, Krushchev, Brezhnev, or Mao Tse-tung, thus insist that peace will be attained only when the camp of socialism is trimphant over the bourgeois world of capitalism, that all wars waged with a view to liberating peoples from capitalist slavery or defending them from capitalist attacks, are just, and that wars fought to impede the progress of the communist cause are by definition unjust. In this combat-oriented ideology, conflict is accepted as continuous or protracted, peace becomes a stratagem, and diplomacy is valued as a tool of political warfare.

Peace offensives or “détentes”-and six distinct cycles of “détente” can be distinguished in the history of our relations with the Soviet Union—are thus not conceived by Communist statesmen as part of the order of “peace” but rather of “peaceful coexistence,” which is something far different. According to the Statement of the 81 Communist and Workers Parties of December 1960,

The policy of peaceful coexistence is a policy of mobilization of the masses and launching vigorous action against the enemies of peace. Peaceful coexistence of states does not imply renunciation of the class struggle . . . . The coexistence of states with different social systems is a form of class struggle between socialism and capitalism.

And the same definition was clearly enunciated as recently as the 25th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union when Brezhnev said:

Détente does not in the slightest abolish, and cannot abolish or alter, the laws of the class struggle. None should expect that, because of detente, Communists will become reconciled to capitalist exploitation.

This limited survey of culturally and historically different orientations to the cause of peace permits the following conclusions:

Peace in the present world environment is best defined as a
condition in which conflict is controlled.

International law cannot be viewed today as an adequate
agency for conflict control,

The quest for peace is not a universal, morally shared concern.
Its furtherance thus depends upon diplomacy.

The effectiveness of a nation’s diplomacy depends on intelligence,
political will, military power, and capacity for


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