Diplomacy, Old and New

THE terms "old diplomacy" and "new diplomacy" have been in common use for twenty-five years or more. The system of alliance set up by France, England and Russia to ward off the German danger in the decade before 1914 is dubbed "old diplomacy." The system of so-called international security which took shape in the League's Covenant of June 1919, and afterward regulated or was supposed to regulate the relations of the fifty-odd states of the world, is labelled "new diplomacy." All the implications of the word "alliance" connote "old diplomacy." In the same way, "new diplomacy" connotes the twin ideas of replacing the bilateral alliances of the past with a universal or semi-universal association of states pledged to compliance with a set of general principles embodied in international law, and the abandonment of "power politics" -- that is, the use of force to settle conflicts between nations.

It is difficult today to imagine the unbounded enthusiasm which burst out in most European nations when the American President landed in Brest in 1918. I shall always remember the remark of an eminent British political writer with whom I was taking a short rest in the country. A common friend was about to go to London as correspondent: of the Echo de Paris, the newspaper of which I was then foreign editor. That friend, who was to make a great name as a playwright, had remarked that he was attracted by his new journalistic task but feared lest his scanty knowledge of history would prove a serious hindrance. "Do believe," said the Englishman, "that we are starting today with a clean slate and that the interests and the passions which formerly have determined the fate of the world will henceforth be of little weight." Such was the belief of many, perhaps of most -- if not in France, at least in England, and, I am sure, here in America.

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