Courtesy Reuters

Diplomacy Then and Now

Since 1914 the structure of the world has changed. Compared to the present struggle between West and East, the rivalries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries sink into insignificance. Today we are faced, not with a clash of interests, but with a fight between ideologies, between the desire on the one hand to defend individual liberties and the resolve on the other hand to impose a mass religion. In the process the old standards, conventions and methods of international negotiation have been discredited. Had it not been for the invention of the atomic bomb, we should already have been subjected to a third world war.

Members of the Communist bloc today are convinced that sooner or later they will acquire world dominion and will succeed in imposing their faith and their authority over the whole earth. They strain towards this objective with religious intensity and are prepared to devote to its achievement their lives, their comfort and their prospects of happiness. Anything that furthers their purpose is "right"; anything that obstructs it is "wrong"; conventional morality, even the creation of confidence, has no part in this scheme of things. Truth itself has lost its significance. Compared to the shining truth of their gospel, all minor forms of veracity are merely bourgeois inhibitions. The old diplomacy was based upon the creation of confidence, the acquisition of credit. The modern diplomatist must realize that he can no longer rely on the old system of trust; he must accept the fact that his antagonists will not hesitate to falsify facts and that they feel no shame if their duplicity be exposed. The old currency has been withdrawn from circulation; we are dealing in a new coinage.

This transformation of values has been aided by a new or "democratic" conception of international relations. In the old days the conduct of foreign affairs was entrusted to a small international elite who shared the same sort of background and who desired to preserve the same sort of world.

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