‘ War does not cause change in the international order, it merely accelerates it.’ Discuss. The signature of the peace of Westphalia, some three hundred and fifty years ago, has had a significant impact on the international order and in the way different States, actors and thinkers, viewed an international system1. Since then the world has been through various processes of metamorphosis. Diplomacy, mediation or inter-state negotiation are rather new ways of dealing with international issues, WAR has been for a long period the most “popular way” of conflict resolution. Violence has been dictating its will in order to achieve peace, a dilemma that mankind has found difficult to overcome.
In this study, we will focus our attention on the role that War has played in the shaping and moulding of the international order. Does war cause or accelerates change in the international order? To answer this question, we will be looking at different period of History in which significant conflicts happened. We will observe that the 20th century has been the most interesting era in terms of Political, Social, Economical but also Cultural evolution. How does war cause change in the international order, who are the actors, and why do they behave in a belligerent manner?
These are some of the pole of interest we will have to analyse in the first part of the study. Secondly, if the process of change has already been enforced on the international order, how does War act as an accelerator of this change? On the other hand we will try to see in which situation or context war does not change the international order nor does it accelerates change. Finally we shall concentrate on the post cold war situation and try to draw an objective portrait of the new challenges that may have a significant influence on the international order. Where does terrorism stand in the 21st century?
The bedrock of international relations was without a doubt the peace of Westphalia, which marked the end of the thirty years war. It gave us an international system where the sovereignty of states should be primordial and where higher authorities, such as religion or empires should be undermined to benefit the state’s independence of action2. This is mainly how the peace of Westphalia had changed the international order, it has decentralised the international system by giving more freedom to the States and within the States. This system had been a starting point and international relations remained into this shape until the beginning of the 20th century which had been severely marked by the First World War.
The First World War (1914 -1918) had reached a degree of atrocity which in some ways gave a breath of fresh air to the idealism of the “Big four” (Wilson [US], Clï¿½menceau [France], George [UK], Orlando [Italy]), in deed, according to Williams, they thought that the First World War could be the war that would end all wars3. At the Versailles peace treaty conference, the political leaders realise that isolationism was not a solution and that international relations should be deepened, “States should walk hand in hand4”. These were very wise thoughts, but to develop them, an intellectual framework was needed, unfortunately no consequent actions were taken to create one.
The headline in Versailles were Wilson and his fourteen points, he promoted open diplomacy, the freedom of the seas, the free movement of capital, disarmament, general association of the nations. The European leaders did not agree to this total liberation of markets and economies. Their mercantilist background was resisting to this whole new concept of association and international co-operation. The other main aspect of the post-WW1 change in the international system, was the creation of the League of Nations, weak ancestor of the United Nations, it had been created following an American initiative.
Weak, for diverse reasons, first there was no consensus and no equilibrium amongst the powers, there was also the fear amongst the other member states of the league of nation, that the United-States would monopolise power by having control on the foreign affairs sector within the League of nations. But what could insure us on the vulnerability of the Versailles treaty and of the League of nations is very well highlighted by a politico-economic argument of John Maynard Keynes. He says that the treaty of Versailles, had made no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe. Moreover he affirms that the Central Empires involved in war and Russia, did not benefit of the post-war settlement, it would be difficult for them to become “good neighbours”.
He continues by saying that: ” the treaty does not promote in any way a compact economic solidarity amongst the allies themselves; no arrangement was reached at Paris for restoring the disordered finances of France and Italy, or to adjust the systems of the Old World and the New.5″ The idea of a new world order was on its way, and the Treaty of Versailles constituted a base for modern International relations, but reaching a total agreement was a difficult task.