World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History by Henry Kissinger. Read online, or download in secure EPUB format. Dazzling and instructive [a] magisterial new book.” —Walter Isaacson, Time Henry Kissinger offers in World Order a deep meditation on the. Editorial Reviews. Review. Hillary Clinton, The Washington Post: “It is vintage Kissinger, with Kindle Store; ›; Kindle eBooks; ›; Politics & Social Sciences.
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Henry Kissinger world order Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History Contents INTRODUCTION: The Question of World Order Varieties. There has never been a true "world order," Kissinger observes. For most of history, civilizations defined their own concepts of order. Each considered itself the. A deep meditation on the roots of international harmony and global disorderHenry Kissinger has traveled the world, advised presidents, and been a close.
World Order is the summation of Henry Kissinger's thinking about history, strategy and statecraft. As if taking a perspective from far above the globe, it examines the great tectonic plates of history and the motivations of nations, explaining the attitudes that states and empires have taken to the rest of the world from the formation of Europe to our own times.
Kissinger identifies four great 'world orders' in history - the European, Islamic, Chinese and American. Since the end of Charlemagne's empire, and especially since the Peace of Westphalia in , Europeans have striven for balance in international affairs, first in their own continent and then globally. Islamic states have looked to their destined expansion over regions populated by unbelievers, a position exemplified today by Iran under the ayatollahs. For over years the Chinese have seen 'all under Heaven' as being tributary to the Chinese Emperor.
America views itself as a 'city on a hill', a beacon to the world, whose values have universal validity. How have these attitudes evolved and how have they shaped the histories of their nations, regions, and the rest of the world? What has happened when they have come into contact with each other?
How have they balanced legitimacy and power at different times? How was this new balance of power to be calibrated? A distinction must be made between the balance of power as a fact and the balance of power as a system.
Any international order—to be worthy of that name—must sooner or later reach an equilibrium, or else it will be in a constant state of warfare. Because the medieval world contained dozens of principalities, a practical balance of power frequently existed in fact.
After the Peace of Westphalia, the balance of power made its appearance as a system; that is to say, bringing it about was accepted as one of the key purposes of foreign policy; disturbing it would evoke a coalition on behalf of equilibrium. The rise of Britain as a major naval power by early in the eighteenth century made it possible to turn the facts of the balance of power into a system.
Until the outbreak of World War I, England acted as the balancer of the equilibrium. It fought in European wars but with shifting alliances—not in pursuit of specific, purely national goals, but by identifying the national interest with the preservation of the balance of power. There were in fact two balances of power being conducted in Europe after the Westphalian settlement: The overall balance, of which England acted as a guardian, was the protector of general stability.
A Central European balance essentially manipulated by France aimed to prevent the emergence of a unified Germany in a position to become the most powerful country on the Continent. The balance of power can be challenged in at least two ways: The first is if a major country augments its strength to a point where it threatens to achieve hegemony. The second occurs when a heretofore-secondary state seeks to enter the ranks of the major powers and sets off a series of compensating adjustments by the other powers until a new equilibrium is established or a general conflagration takes place.
The French King had in the past ruled through feudal lords with their own autonomous claims to authority based on heredity. Louis governed through a royal bureaucracy dependent entirely on him. He downgraded courtiers of noble blood and ennobled bureaucrats. What counted was service to the King, not rank of birth.
The brilliant Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, son of a provincial draper, was charged with unifying the tax administration and financing constant war. The memoirs of Saint-Simon, a duke by inheritance and man of letters, bear bitter witness to the social transformation: He [Louis] was well aware that though he might crush a nobleman with the weight of his displeasure, he could not destroy him or his line, whereas a secretary of state or other such minister could be reduced together with his whole family to those depths of nothingness from which he had been elevated.
No amount of wealth or possessions would avail him then. That was one reason why he liked to give his ministers authority over the highest in the Land, even over the Princes of the Blood. With a unified kingdom spared the ravages of internal war, possessing a skilled bureaucracy and a military surpassing that of any neighboring state, France was for a while in a position to seek dominance in Europe. In the end, as was the case with all later aspirants to European hegemony, each new conquest galvanized an opposing coalition of nations.
The opposition to Louis was not ideological or religious in nature: French remained the language of diplomacy and high culture through much of Europe, and the Catholic-Protestant divide ran through the allied camp. Rather, it was inherent in the Westphalian system and indispensable to preserve the pluralism of the European order. Its character was defined in the name contemporary observers gave it: Louis sought what amounted to hegemony in the name of the glory of France.
He was defeated by a Europe that sought its order in diversity. Situated on the harsh North German plain and extending from the Vistula across Germany, Prussia cultivated discipline and public service to substitute for the larger population and greater resources of better-endowed countries.
Split into two noncontiguous pieces, it jutted precariously into the Austrian, Swedish, Russian, and Polish spheres of influence. It was relatively sparsely populated; its strength was the discipline with which it marshaled its limited resources. Its greatest assets were civic- mindedness, an efficient bureaucracy, and a well-trained army.
When Frederick II ascended the throne in , he seemed an unlikely contender for the greatness history has vouchsafed him. Finding the dour discipline of the position of Crown Prince oppressive, he had attempted to flee to England accompanied by a friend, Hans Hermann von Katte.
They were apprehended. The King ordered von Katte decapitated in front of Frederick, whom he submitted to a court-martial headed by himself.
He cross-examined his son with questions, which Frederick answered so deftly that he was reinstated. Frederick concluded that great-power status required territorial contiguity for Prussia, hence expansion. There was no need for any other political or moral justification. In the process, Frederick brought war back to the European system, which had been at peace since when the Treaty of Utrecht had put an end to the ambitions of Louis XIV. The price for being admitted as a new member to the European order turned out to be seven years of near-disastrous battle.
Russia, remote and mysterious, for the first time entered a contest over the European balance of power. At the edge of defeat, with Russian armies at the gates of Berlin, Frederick was saved by the sudden death of Catherine the Great. The new Czar, a longtime admirer of Frederick, withdrew from the war. Hitler, besieged in encircled Berlin in April , waited for an event comparable to the so-called Miracle of the House of Brandenburg and was told by Joseph Goebbels that it had happened when President Franklin D.
Roosevelt died. The Holy Roman Empire had become a facade; no rival European claimant to universal authority had arisen. Almost all rulers asserted that they ruled by divine right—a claim not challenged by any major power—but they accepted that God had similarly endowed many other monarchs.
Wars were therefore fought for limited territorial objectives, not to overthrow existing governments and institutions, nor to impose a new system of relations between states. Tradition prevented rulers from conscripting their subjects and severely constrained their ability to raise taxes. International orders that have been the most stable have had the advantage of uniform perceptions. The statesmen who operated the eighteenth-century European order were aristocrats who interpreted intangibles like honor and duty in the same way and agreed on fundamentals.
National interests of course varied, but in a world where a foreign minister could serve a monarch of another nationality every Russian foreign minister until was recruited abroad , or when a territory could change its national affiliation as the result of a marriage pact or a fortuitous inheritance, a sense of overarching common purpose was inherent. Power calculations in the eighteenth century took place against this ameliorating background of a shared sense of legitimacy and unspoken rules of international conduct.
This consensus was not only a matter of decorum; it reflected the moral convictions of a common European outlook. Europe was never more united or more spontaneous than during what came to be perceived as the age of enlightenment.
New triumphs in science and philosophy began to displace the fracturing European certainties of tradition and faith. In short, from the earth to Saturn, from the history of the heavens to that of insects, natural philosophy has been revolutionized; and nearly all other fields of knowledge have assumed new forms … [T]he discovery and application of a new method of philosophizing, the kind of enthusiasm which accompanies discoveries, a certain exaltation of ideas which the spectacle of the universe produces in us—all these causes have brought about a lively fermentation of minds.
Spreading through nature in all directions like a river which has burst its dams, this fermentation has swept with a sort of violence everything along with it which stood in its way.
The political philosopher Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron of Montesquieu, applied the principles of the balance of power to domestic policy by describing a concept of checks and balances later institutionalized in the American Constitution.
He went on from there into a philosophy of history and of the mechanisms of societal change. Surveying the histories of various societies, Montesquieu concluded that events were never caused by accident.
There was always an underlying cause that reason could discover and then shape to the common good: It is not fortune which rules the world … There are general intellectual as well as physical causes active in every monarchy which bring about its rise, preservation, and fall.
All [seeming] accidents are subject to these causes, and whenever an accidental battle, that is, a particular cause, has destroyed a state, a general cause also existed which led to the fall of this state as a result of a single battle. In short, it is the general pace of things which draws all particular events along with it.
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant, probably the greatest philosopher of the Enlightenment period, took Montesquieu a step further by developing a concept for a permanent peaceful world order. The answer, Kant held, was a voluntary federation of republics pledged to non- hostility and transparent domestic and international conduct. The Enlightenment philosophers ignored a key issue: Can governmental orders be invented from scratch by intelligent thinkers, or is the range of choice limited by underlying organic and cultural realities the Burkean view?
The Enlightenment philosophers on the Continent generally opted for the rationalist rather than the organic view of political evolution. In the process, they contributed— unintentionally, indeed contrary to their intention—to an upheaval that rent Europe for decades and whose aftereffects reach to this day.
So it was with the French Revolution, which proclaimed a domestic and world order as different from the Westphalian system as it was possible to be. It demonstrated how internal changes within societies are able to shake the international equilibrium more profoundly than aggression from abroad—a lesson that would be driven home by the upheavals of the twentieth century, many of which drew explicitly on the concepts first advanced by the French Revolution.
Revolutions erupt when a variety of often different resentments merge to assault an unsuspecting regime. The broader the revolutionary coalition, the greater its ability to destroy existing patterns of authority. But the more sweeping the change, the more violence is needed to reconstruct authority, without which society will disintegrate. Reigns of terror are not an accident; they are inherent in the scope of revolution.
The French Revolution occurred in the richest country of Europe, even though its government was temporarily bankrupt. Its original impetus is traceable to leaders— mostly aristocrats and upper bourgeoisie—who sought to bring the governance of their country into conformity with the principles of the Enlightenment. It gained a momentum not foreseen by those who made the Revolution and inconceivable to the prevailing ruling elite.
At its heart was a reordering on a scale that had not been seen in Europe since the end of the religious wars. For the revolutionaries, human order was the reflection of neither the divine plan of the medieval world, nor the intermeshing of grand dynastic interests of the eighteenth century. The popular will, as conceived in that manner, was altogether distinct from the concept of majority rule prevalent in England or of checks and balances embedded in a written constitution as in the United States.
These theories prefigured the modern totalitarian regime, in which the popular will ratifies decisions that have already been announced by means of staged mass demonstrations. In pursuit of this ideology, all monarchies were by definition treated as enemies; because they would not give up power without resisting, the Revolution, to prevail, had to turn itself into a crusading international movement to achieve world peace by imposing its principles.
The Revolution based itself on a proposition similar to that made by Islam a millennium before, and Communism in the twentieth century: The concept of an international order with prescribed limits of state action was overthrown in favor of a permanent revolution that knew only total victory or defeat. In November , the French National Assembly threw down the gauntlet to Europe with a pair of extraordinary decrees.
It also declared war on Austria and invaded the Netherlands. In December , an even more radical decree was issued with an even more universal application. To achieve such vast and universal objectives, the leaders of the French Revolution strove to cleanse their country of all possibility of domestic opposition.
Two centuries later, comparable motivations underlay the Russian purges of the s and the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the s and s. Eventually, order was restored, as it must be if a state is not to disintegrate.
The essence of the Great Man was his refusal to acknowledge traditional limits and his insistence on reordering the world by his own authority. The Revolution no longer made the leader; the leader defined the Revolution. As he tamed the Revolution, Napoleon also made himself its guarantor.
But he also saw himself—and not without reason—as the capstone of the Enlightenment. He created the Napoleonic Code, on which the laws that still prevail in France and other European countries are based. He was tolerant of religious diversity and encouraged rationalism in government, with the end of improving the lot of the French people.
It was as the simultaneous incarnation of the Revolution and expression of the Enlightenment that Napoleon set about to achieve the domination and unification of Europe. By , under his brilliant military leadership, his armies crushed all opposition in Western and Central Europe, enabling him to redraw the map of the Continent as a geopolitical design.
He annexed key territories to France and established satellite republics in others, many of them governed by relatives or French marshals. A uniform legal code was established throughout Europe. Thousands of instructions on matters economic and social were issued. Would Napoleon become the unifier of a continent divided since the fall of Rome? Two obstacles remained: England and Russia. As it would a century and a half later, England stood alone in Western Europe, aware that a peace with the conqueror would make it possible for a single power to organize the resources of the entire Continent and, sooner or later, overcome its rule of the oceans.
England waited behind the channel for Napoleon and a century and a half later, for Hitler to make a mistake that would enable it to reappear on the Continent militarily as a defender of the balance of power.
Napoleon had grown up under the eighteenth-century dynastic system and, in a strange way, accepted its legitimacy. In it, as a Corsican of minor standing even in his hometown, he was illegitimate by definition, which meant that, at least in his own mind, the legitimacy of his rule depended on the permanence—and, indeed, the extent —of his conquests. Whenever there remained a ruler independent of his will, Napoleon felt obliged to pursue him.
Napoleon could not live in an international order; his ambition required an empire over at least the length and breadth of Europe, and for that his power fell just barely too short. Not until Napoleon succumbed to the temptation to enter territories where local resources were insufficient for the support of a huge army—Spain and Russia—would he face defeat, first by overreaching himself, above all in Russia in , and then as the rest of Europe united against him in a belated vindication of Westphalian principles.
The defeat in Russia was by attrition. After the Battle of the Nations, Napoleon refused settlements that would have enabled him to keep some of his conquests. He feared that any formal acceptance of limits would destroy his only claim to legitimacy. In this way, he was overthrown as much by his own insecurity as by Westphalian principles. The Napoleonic period marked the apotheosis of the Enlightenment. Inspired by the examples of Greece and Rome, its thinkers had equated enlightenment with the power of reason, which implied a diffusion of authority from the Church to secular elites.
Now these aspirations had been distilled further and concentrated on one leader as the expression of global power. I saw the Emperor—this world-soul—riding out of the city on reconnaissance.
How to Defend Global Order
It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it. But in the end, this world spirit had drawn into Europe an immense new power—of Europe and yet with three-quarters of its vast territory in Asia: Its strength raised fundamental issues for the balance of power in Europe, and its aspirations threatened to make impossible a return to the prerevolutionary equilibrium. The liberties of Europe and its concomitant system of order required the participation of an empire far larger than the rest of Europe together and autocratic to a degree without precedent in European history.
Since then, Russia has played a unique role in international affairs: It has started more wars than any other contemporary major power, but it has also thwarted dominion of Europe by a single power, holding fast against Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon, and Hitler when key continental elements of the balance had been overrun.
Its policy has pursued a special rhythm of its own over the centuries, expanding over a landmass spanning nearly every climate and civilization, interrupted occasionally for a time by the need to adjust its domestic structure to the vastness of the enterprise—only to return again, like a tide crossing a beach. From Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin, circumstances have changed, but the rhythm has remained extraordinarily consistent.
A monstrous compound of the petty refinements of Byzantium, and the ferocity of the desert horde, a struggle between the etiquette of the Lower [Byzantine] Empire, and the savage virtues of Asia, have produced the mighty state which Europe now beholds, and the influence of which she will probably feel hereafter, without being able to understand its operation. Everything about Russia—its absolutism, its size, its globe-spanning ambitions and insecurities—stood as an implicit challenge to the traditional European concept of international order built on equilibrium and restraint.
With Vikings to its north, the expanding Arab empire to its south, and raiding Turkic tribes to its east, Russia was permanently in the grip of conflating temptations and fears.
The most profound disjunction had come with the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, which subdued a politically divided Russia and razed Kiev. Two and a half centuries of Mongol suzerainty — and the subsequent struggle to restore a coherent state based around the Duchy of Moscow imposed on Russia an eastward orientation just as Western Europe was charting the new technological and intellectual vistas that would create the modern era.
Europe was coming to embrace its multipolarity as a mechanism tending toward balance, but Russia was learning its sense of geopolitics from the hard school of the steppe, where an array of nomadic hordes contended for resources on an open terrain with few fixed borders. There raids for plunder and the enslavement of foreign civilians were regular occurrences, for some a way of life; independence was coterminous with the territory a people could physically defend.
Russia affirmed its tie to Western culture but—even as it grew exponentially in size—came to see itself as a beleaguered outpost of civilization for which security could be found only through exerting its absolute will over its neighbors.
In the Westphalian concept of order, European statesmen came to identify security with a balance of power and with restraints on its exercise. The Peace of Westphalia saw international order as an intricate balancing mechanism; the Russian view cast it as a perpetual contest of wills, with Russia extending its domain at each phase to the absolute limit of its material resources.
Thus the American man of letters Henry Adams recorded the outlook of the Russian ambassador in Washington in by which point Russia had reached Korea: His political philosophy, like that of all Russians, seemed fixed on the single idea that Russia must roll —must, by her irresistible inertia, crush whatever stood in her way … When Russia rolled over a neighboring people, she absorbed their energies in her own movement of custom and race which neither Czar nor peasant could convert, or wished to convert, into any Western equivalent.
With no natural borders save the Arctic and Pacific oceans, Russia was in a position to gratify this impulse for several centuries—marching alternately into Central Asia, then the Caucasus, then the Balkans, then Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and the Baltic Sea, to the Pacific Ocean and the Chinese and Japanese frontiers and for a time during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries across the Pacific into Alaskan and Californian settlements.
It expanded each year by an amount larger than the entire territory of many European states on average, , square kilometers annually from to When it was strong, Russia conducted itself with the domineering certainty of a superior power and insisted on formal shows of deference to its status.
When it was weak, it masked its vulnerability through brooding invocations of vast inner reserves of strength. In either case, it was a special challenge for Western capitals used to dealing with a somewhat more genteel style. Thus the world-conquering imperialism remained paired with a paradoxical sense of vulnerability—as if marching halfway across the world had generated more potential foes than additional security.
In this context, a distinctive Russian concept of political legitimacy took hold. A common Christian faith and a shared elite language French underscored a commonality of perspective with the West. Russia had joined the modern European state system under Czar Peter the Great in a manner unlike any other society.
On both sides, it proved a wary embrace. Peter had been born in into a still essentially medieval Russia. As a young ruler, he toured Western capitals, where he tested modern techniques and professional disciplines personally. Having found Russia backward compared with the West, Peter announced his aim: Russia would adopt Western manners and hairstyles, seek out foreign technological expertise, build a modern army and navy, round out its borders with wars against nearly every neighboring state, break through to the Baltic Sea, and construct a new capital city of St.
Yet the suddenness of the transformation left Russia with the insecurities of a parvenu. This is clearly demonstrated by the following Observations.
Nevertheless, like his successor reformers and revolutionaries, when his reign was over, his subjects and their descendants credited him for having driven them, however mercilessly, to achievements they had shown little evidence of seeking.
According to recent polls, Stalin too has acquired some of this recognition in contemporary Russian thinking.
The Extent of the Dominion requires an absolute Power to be vested in that Person who rules over it. It is expedient so to be that the quick Dispatch of Affairs, sent from distant Parts, might make ample Amends for the Delay occasioned by the great Distance of the Places.
Every other Form of Government whatsoever would not only have been prejudicial to Russia, but would even have proved its entire Ruin.
Thus what in the West was regarded as arbitrary authoritarianism was presented in Russia as an elemental necessity, the precondition for functioning governance. The Czar, like the Chinese Emperor, was an absolute ruler endowed by tradition with mystical powers and overseeing a territory of continental expanse.
Yet the position of the Czar differed from that of his Chinese counterpart in one important respect. In Russia, the sovereign is the living law. He favors the good and punishes the bad … [A] soft heart in a monarch is counted as a virtue only when it is tempered with the sense of duty to use sensible severity.
Not unlike the United States in its own drive westward, Russia had imbued its conquests with the moral justification that it was spreading order and enlightenment into heathen lands with a lucrative trade in furs and minerals an incidental benefit. Yet where the American vision inspired boundless optimism, the Russian experience ultimately based itself on stoic endurance.
They are Scythians! What resoluteness! The barbarians! By the time the Congress of Vienna took place, Russia was arguably the most powerful country on the Continent. Its Czar Alexander, representing Russia personally at the Vienna peace conference, was unquestionably its most absolute ruler. A man of deep, if changing, convictions, he had recently renewed his religious faith with a course of intensive Bible readings and spiritual consultations. He was convinced, as he wrote to a confidante in , that triumph over Napoleon would usher in a new and harmonious world based on religious principles, and he pledged: For on behalf of its new vision of legitimacy, Russia brought a surfeit of power.
Czar Alexander ended the Napoleonic Wars by marching to Paris at the head of his armies, and in celebration of victory he oversaw an unprecedented review of , Russian troops on the plains outside the French capital—a demonstration that could not fail to disquiet even allied nations. In the space of twenty-five years, they had seen the rationality of the Enlightenment replaced by the passions of the Reign of Terror; the missionary spirit of the French Revolution transformed by the discipline of the conquering Bonapartist empire.
French power had waxed and waned. Many called Talleyrand an opportunist. Talleyrand would have argued that his goals were stability within France and peace in Europe and that he had taken whatever opportunities were available to achieve these goals.
He had surely striven for positions to study the various elements of power and legitimacy at close hand without being unduly constrained by any of them. Only a formidable personality could have projected himself into the center of so many great and conflicting events. The vanquished enemy would become an ally in the preservation of the European order in an alliance originally designed to contain it—a precedent followed at the end of World War II, when Germany was admitted to the Atlantic Alliance.
It produced a consensus that peaceful evolutions within the existing order were preferable to alternatives; that the preservation of the system was more important than any single dispute that might arise within it; that differences should be settled by consultation rather than by war.
After World War I ended this vision, it became fashionable to attack the Congress of Vienna order as being excessively based on the balance of power, which by its inherent dynamic of cynical maneuvers drove the world into war.
The British delegation asked the diplomatic historian C. Webster, who had written on the Congress of Vienna, to produce a treatise on how to avoid its mistakes. But that was true, if at all, only in the decade prior to World War I. The statesmen who assembled in Vienna in were in a radically different situation from their predecessors who drafted the Peace of Westphalia. The application of Westphalian principles was then expected to produce a balance of power to prevent, or at least mitigate, conflict.
Over the course of the next nearly century and a half, this system had managed to constrain challengers to the equilibrium through the more or less spontaneous alignment of countervailing coalitions. The negotiators at the Congress of Vienna faced the wreckage of this order. The balance of power had not been able to arrest the military momentum of the Revolution or of Napoleon. A new balance of power had to be constructed from the wreckage of the state system and of the Holy Roman Empire—whose remnants Napoleon had dissolved in , bringing to a close a thousand years of institutional continuity—and amidst new currents of nationalism unleashed by the occupation of most of the Continent by French armies.
That balance had to be capable of preventing a recurrence of the French expansionism that had produced near hegemony for France in Europe, even as the advent of Russia had brought a similar danger from the east. Hence the Central European balance also had to be reconstructed. These were large and polyglot roughly present-day Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, and southern Poland , and now of uncertain political cohesion.
Several of the smaller German states whose opportunism had provided a certain elasticity to the diplomacy of the Westphalian system in the eighteenth century had been obliterated by the Napoleonic conquests.
Their territory had to be redistributed in a manner compatible with a refound equilibrium. The conduct of diplomacy at the Congress of Vienna was fundamentally different from twenty-first-century practice. Contemporary diplomats are in immediate real- time contact with their capitals. They receive minutely detailed instructions down to the texts of their presentations; their advice is sought on local conditions, much less frequently on matters of grand strategy.
The diplomats at Vienna were weeks away from their capitals. It took four days for a message from Vienna to reach Berlin so at least eight days to receive a reply to any request for guidance , three weeks for a message to reach Paris; London took a little longer.
Instructions therefore had to be drafted in language general enough to cover changes in the situation, so the diplomats were instructed primarily on general concepts and long-term interests; with respect to day-to-day tactics, they were largely on their own.
And because one could never foresee which particular piece would be missing in any given instance, he was totally unpredictable. Talleyrand was more blunt: But they did not have congruent perceptions of what this would mean in practice.
Their task was to achieve some reconciliation of perspectives shaped by substantially different historical experiences. Britain, safe from invasion behind the English Channel and with unique domestic institutions essentially impervious to developments on the Continent, defined order in terms of threats of hegemony on the Continent.
But the continental countries had a lower threshold for threats; their security could be impaired by territorial adjustments short of continental hegemony. Above all, unlike Britain, they felt vulnerable to domestic transformations in neighboring countries.
The Congress of Vienna found it relatively easy to agree on a definition of the overall balance. Already during the war—in —then British Prime Minister William Pitt had put forward a plan to rectify what he considered the weaknesses of the Westphalian settlement. The Westphalian treaties had kept Central Europe divided as a way to enhance French influence.
The obvious candidate to absorb these abolished principalities was Prussia, which originally preferred to annex contiguous Saxony but yielded to the entreaties of Austria and Britain to accept the Rhineland instead. This enlargement of Prussia placed a significant power on the border of France, creating a geostrategic reality that had not existed since the Peace of Westphalia. In that sense Germany has for much of history been either too weak or too strong for the peace of Europe.
The German Confederation was too divided to take offensive action yet cohesive enough to resist foreign invasions into its territory. This arrangement provided an obstacle to the invasion of Central Europe without constituting a threat to the two major powers on its flanks, Russia to the east and France to the west. To protect the new overall territorial settlement, the Quadruple Alliance of Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia was formed.
A territorial guarantee—which was what the Quadruple Alliance amounted to—did not have the same significance for each of the signatories. The level of urgency with which threats were perceived varied significantly. Britain, protected by its command of the seas, felt confident in withholding definite commitments to contingencies and preferred waiting until a major threat from Europe took specific shape. The continental countries had a narrower margin of safety, assessing that their survival might be at stake from actions far less dramatic than those causing Britain to take alarm.
This was particularly the case in the face of revolution—that is, when the threat involved the issue of legitimacy. The conservative states sought to build bulwarks against a new wave of revolution; they aimed to include mechanisms for the preservation of legitimate order—by which they meant monarchical rule.
His partners saw in the Holy Alliance—subtly redesigned—a way to curb Russian exuberance.
The right of intervention was limited because, as the eventual terms stipulated, it could be exercised only in concert; in this manner, Austria and Prussia retained a veto over the more exalted schemes of the Czar. Three tiers of institutions buttressed the Vienna system: This concert mechanism functioned like a precursor of the United Nations Security Council. Its conferences acted on a series of crises, attempting to distill a common course: The Concert of Powers did not guarantee a unanimity of outlook, yet in each case a potentially explosive crisis was resolved without a major-power war.
For most of the eighteenth century, armies had marched across that then-province of the Netherlands, in quest of the domination of Europe.
For Britain, whose global strategy was based on control of the oceans, the Scheldt River estuary, at the mouth of which lay the port of Antwerp across the channel from England, needed to be in the hands of a friendly country and under no circumstances of a major European state.
The new state agreed not to join military alliances or permit the stationing of foreign troops on its territory.
This pledge in turn was guaranteed by the major powers, which thereby undertook the obligation to resist violations of Belgian neutrality. The internationally guaranteed status lasted for nearly a century; it was the trigger that brought England into World War I, when German troops forced a passage to France through Belgian territory. The vitality of an international order is reflected in the balance it strikes between legitimacy and power and the relative emphasis given to each.
Neither aspect is intended to arrest change; rather, in combination they seek to ensure that it occurs as a matter of evolution, not a raw contest of wills.
If the balance between power and legitimacy is properly managed, actions will acquire a degree of spontaneity. Demonstrations of power will be peripheral and largely symbolic; because the configuration of forces will be generally understood, no side will feel the need to call forth its full reserves.
When that balance is destroyed, restraints disappear, and the field is open to the most expansive claims and the most implacable actors; chaos follows until a new system of order is established. That balance was the signal achievement of the Congress of Vienna. The Quadruple Alliance deterred challenges to the territorial balance, and the memory of Napoleon kept France—suffering from revolutionary exhaustion—quiescent.
And Austria, Prussia, and Russia, which on the principles of the balance of power should have been rivals, were in fact pursuing common policies: Austria and Russia in effect postponed their looming geopolitical conflict in the name of their shared fears of domestic upheaval. The historian Jacques Barzun has described it another way: Underlying the theory was fact: In place of the eighteenth century horizontal world of dynasties and cosmopolite upper classes, the West now consisted of vertical unities—nations, not wholly separate but unlike.
Linguistic nationalisms made traditional empires—especially the Austro-Hungarian Empire—vulnerable to internal pressure as well as to the resentments of neighbors claiming national links with subjects of the empire. The competition of the two great German powers in Central Europe for the allegiance of some thirty-five smaller states of the German Confederation was originally held in check by the need to defend Central Europe. Also, tradition generated a certain deference to the country whose ruler had been Holy Roman Emperor for half a millennium.
The Assembly of the German Confederation the combined ambassadors to the confederation of its thirty-seven members met in the Austrian Embassy in Frankfurt, and the Austrian ambassador acted as chairman. At the same time, Prussia was developing its own claim to eminence. With the passage of decades, the relative subordination of Prussian to Austrian policy became too chafing, and Prussia began to pursue a more confrontational course.
The revolutions of were a Europe-wide conflagration affecting every major city. As a rising middle class sought to force recalcitrant governments to accept liberal reform, the old aristocratic order felt the power of accelerating nationalisms. At first, the uprisings swept all before them, stretching from Poland in the east as far west as Colombia and Brazil an empire that had recently won its independence from Portugal, after serving as the seat of its exile government during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Holy Alliance had been designed to deal precisely with upheavals such as these.
For the rest, the old order proved just strong enough to overcome the revolutionary challenge. But it never regained the self-confidence of the previous period. Finally, the Crimean War of —56 broke up the unity of the conservative states —Austria, Prussia, and Russia—which had been one of the two key pillars of the Vienna international order.
This combination had defended the existing institutions in revolutions; it had isolated France, the previous disturber of the peace. Now another Napoleon was probing for opportunities to assert himself in multiple directions. The alignment indeed checked the Russian advance, but at the cost of increasingly brittle diplomacy. The conflict had begun not over the Crimea—which Russia had conquered from an Ottoman vassal in the eighteenth century—but over competing French and Russian claims to advance the rights of favored Christian communities in Jerusalem, then within Ottoman jurisdiction.
The demand— which amounted to a right of intervention in the affairs of a foreign state—was couched in the terms of universal moral principles but cut to the heart of Ottoman sovereignty. Ottoman refusal prompted a Russian military advance into the Balkans and naval hostilities in the Black Sea. After six months Britain and France, fearing the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and with it the European balance, entered the war on the Ottoman side.
The alliance systems of the Congress of Vienna were shattered as a consequence. Prussia stayed neutral. The effort to isolate Russia concluded by isolating Austria. Within two years, Napoleon invaded the Austrian possessions in Italy in support of Italian unification while Russia stood by.
Within Germany, Prussia gained freedom of maneuver. Within a decade Otto von Bismarck started Germany on the road to unification, excluding Austria from what had been its historical role as the standard-bearer of German statehood—again with Russian acquiescence.
Austria learned too late that in international affairs a reputation for reliability is a more important asset than demonstrations of tactical cleverness. Both have been viewed as archetypal conservatives. Both have been recorded as master manipulators of the balance of power, which they were.
He was born in the Rhineland, near the border of France, educated in Strasbourg and Mainz.
Metternich did not see Austria until his thirteenth year and did not live there until his seventeenth. He was appointed Foreign Minister in and Chancellor in , serving until Fate had placed him in the top civilian position in an ancient empire at the beginning of its decline. Once considered among the strongest and best-governed countries in Europe, Austria was now vulnerable because its central location meant that every European tremor made the earth move there.
Autres titres intéressants
Its polyglot nature made it vulnerable to the emerging wave of nationalism—a force practically unknown a generation earlier.
For Metternich, steadiness and reliability became the lodestar of his policy: Where everything is tottering it is above all necessary that something, no matter what, remain steadfast so that the lost can find a connection and the strayed a refuge. A product of the Enlightenment, Metternich was shaped more by philosophers of the power of reason than by the proponents of the power of arms.
Metternich rejected the restless search for presumed remedies to the immediate; he considered the search for truth the most important task of the statesman.
In his view, the belief that whatever was imaginable was also achievable was an illusion. Truth had to reflect an underlying reality of human nature and of the structure of society. Anything more sweeping in fact did violence to the ideals it claimed to fulfill.
Bismarck, by comparison, was a scion of the provincial Prussian aristocracy, which was far poorer than its counterparts in the west of Germany and considerably less cosmopolitan. While Metternich tried to vindicate continuity and to restore a universal idea, that of a European society, Bismarck challenged all the established wisdom of his period. Until he appeared on the scene, it had been taken for granted that German unity would come about—if at all—through a combination of nationalism and liberalism.
To Metternich, order arose not so much from the pursuit of national interest as from the ability to connect it with that of other states: The great axioms of political science derive from the recognition of the true interests of all states; it is in the general interest that the guarantee of existence is to be found, while particular interests—the cultivation of which is considered political wisdom by restless and short-sighted men—have only a secondary importance.
Modern history demonstrates the application of the principle of solidarity and equilibrium … and of the united efforts of states … to force a return to the common law. Bismarck rejected the proposition that power could be restrained by superior principle.
His famous maxims gave voice to the conviction that security could be achieved only by the correct evaluation of the components of power: Ultimate decisions would depend strictly on considerations of utility. The European order as seen in the eighteenth century, as a great Newtonian clockwork of interlocking parts, had been replaced by the Darwinian world of the survival of the fittest.
With the conservative monarchies of the East divided in the aftermath of the Crimean War, France isolated on the Continent because of the memories evoked by its ruler, and Austria wavering between its national and its European roles, Bismarck saw an opportunity to bring about a German national state for the first time in history.
With a few daring strokes between and , he placed Prussia at the head of a united Germany and Germany in the center of a new system of order. What emerged after the unification of Germany was a dominant country, strong enough to defeat each neighbor individually and perhaps all the continental countries together. The bond of legitimacy had disappeared. Everything now depended on calculations of power.
The crushing defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of —71, which Bismarck had adroitly provoked France into declaring, was attended by the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, a retributive indemnity, and the tactless proclamation of the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles in Bismarck understood that a potentially dominant power at the center of Europe faced the constant risk of inducing a coalition of all others, much like the coalition against Louis XIV in the eighteenth century and Napoleon in the early nineteenth.
Only the most restrained conduct could avoid incurring the collective antagonism of its neighbors. In a world of five, Bismarck counseled, it was always better to be in the party of three.
This involved a dizzying series of partly overlapping, partly conflicting alliances for example, an alliance with Austria and a Reinsurance Treaty with Russia with the aim of giving the other great powers—except the irreconcilable France—a greater interest to work with Germany than to coalesce against it. The genius of the Westphalian system as adapted by the Congress of Vienna had been its fluidity and its pragmatism; ecumenical in its calculations, it was theoretically expandable to any region and could incorporate any combination of states.
With Germany unified and France a fixed adversary, the system lost its flexibility. But a country whose security depends on producing a genius in each generation sets itself a task no society has ever met. Leo von Caprivi, the next Chancellor, complained that while Bismarck had been able to keep five balls in the air simultaneously, he had difficulty controlling two. Almost inevitably, France and Russia began exploring an alliance.
Such realignments had happened several times before in the European kaleidoscope of shifting orders. The novelty now was its institutionalized permanence. Diplomacy had lost its resilience; it had become a matter of life and death rather than incremental adjustment.
Because a switch in alliances might spell national disaster for the abandoned side, each ally was able to extort support from its partner regardless of its best convictions, thereby escalating all crises and linking them to each other. Diplomacy became an effort to tighten the internal bonds of each camp, leading to the perpetuation and reinforcement of all grievances.
It did so not formally but de facto via staff talks, creating a moral obligation to fight at the side of the counterpart countries. Military planning compounded the rigidity. The Franco-Prussian War was confined to the two adversaries.
It had been conducted about a specific issue and served limited aims. By the turn of the twentieth century, military planners—drawing on what they took to be the lessons of mechanization and new methods of mobilization—began to aim for total victory in all-out war.
A system of railways permitted the rapid movement of military forces. With large reserve forces on all sides, speed of mobilization became of the essence. Preemption was thereby built into its military planning. Mobilization schedules dominated diplomacy; if political leaders wanted to control military considerations, it should have been the other way around. Diplomacy, which still worked by traditional—somewhat leisurely—methods, lost touch with the emerging technology and its corollary warfare.
They were reinforced in that approach because none of the many previous diplomatic crises of the new century had brought matters to the breaking point. In two crises over Morocco and one over Bosnia, the mobilization schedules had no operational impact because, however intense the posturing, events never escalated to the point of imminent confrontation.
Paradoxically, the very success in resolving these crises bred a myopic form of risk-taking unmoored from any of the interests actually at stake. It came to be taken for granted that maneuvering for tactical victories to be cheered in the nationalist press was a normal method of conducting policy—that major powers could dare each other to back down in a succession of standoffs over tangential disputes without ever producing a showdown.
But history punishes strategic frivolity sooner or later. World War I broke out because political leaders lost control over their own tactics. For nearly a month after the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince in June by a Serbian nationalist, diplomacy was conducted on the dilatory model of many other crises surmounted in recent decades.
Four weeks elapsed while Austria prepared an ultimatum. Consultations took place; because it was high summer, statesmen took vacations. But once the Austrian ultimatum was submitted in July , its deadline imposed a great urgency on decision making, and within less than two weeks, Europe moved to a war from which it never recovered. All these decisions were made when the differences between the major powers were in inverse proportion to their posturing.
A new concept of legitimacy—a meld of state and empire—had emerged so that none of the powers considered the institutions of the others a basic threat to their existence. The balance of power as it existed was rigid but not oppressive. Relations between the crowned heads were cordial, even social and familial.
But in the Balkans among the remnants of the Ottoman possessions, there were countries, Serbia in the forefront, threatening Austria with unsatisfied claims of national self-determination. If any major country supported such a claim, a general war was probable because Austria was linked by alliance to Germany as Russia was to France.
A war whose consequences had not been considered descended on Western civilization over the essentially parochial issue of the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince by a Serb nationalist, giving Europe a blow that obliterated a century of peace and order. In the forty years following the Vienna settlement, the European order buffered conflicts.
In the forty years following the unification of Germany, the system aggravated all disputes. None of the leaders foresaw the scope of the looming catastrophe that their system of routinized confrontation backed by modern military machines was making almost certain sooner or later.
And they all contributed to it, oblivious to the fact that they were dismantling an international order: Russia, by its constant probing in all directions, threatened Austria and the remnants of the Ottoman Empire simultaneously.
And Britain, by its ambiguity obscuring the degree of its growing commitment to the Allied side, combined the disadvantage of every course.
Its support made France and Russia adamant; its aloof posture confused some German leaders into believing that Britain might remain neutral in a European war. Reflecting on what might have occurred in alternative historical scenarios is usually a futile exercise.
But the war that overturned Western civilization had no inevitable necessity. It arose from a series of miscalculations made by serious leaders who did not understand the consequences of their planning, and a final maelstrom triggered by a terrorist attack occurring in a year generally believed to be a tranquil period.This book should've been named "The American order"! But it never regained the self-confidence of the previous period.
In , the Western allies combined their three occupation zones to create the Federal Republic of Germany. There was always an underlying cause that reason could discover and then shape to the common good: His wisdom and depth of understanding are phenomenal. His heroes are those who manipulate the balances of states to manage their own states' survival amid chaos.
Richelieu developed a radical approach to international order. The memoirs of Saint-Simon, a duke by inheritance and man of letters, bear bitter witness to the social transformation: It is a gift.
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