War & Diplomacy

The young émigré military analyst Anton Kersnovsky (1907-1944) saw that far from putting an end to war, the liberal system has dramatically expanded it, both geographically and into the realms of psyche and spirit. Nowhere was this easier seen for him than in the simultaneous disingenuousness and dysfunction of the new popular diplomacy. Since this work was first published in 1932, Kersnovsky, an Orthodox Christian and monarchist, still reflected positively on the phenomenon of fascism; he had yet to witness the murderous idolatry of National Socialism that would devastate his fatherland. And while Kersnovsky proclaimed peace to be man’s natural condition, he also knew well the realities of our fallen world. Translated by Mark Hackard.

Peace is the normal state of humanity. Peaceful conditions favor to the greatest degree both its spiritual development and its material well-being. For humanity, war is a phenomenon of the same order as sickness is for the human body.

War is in the same manner a phenomenon violating the proper circulation of the state organism. The body of the nation that wages war is in many ways comparable to a human body in a diseased state. The difference is only that the human body does not will disease, while the organism of the state, to the contrary, consciously takes the risk of “war sickness.”

Many wars rendered service to humanity. The campaigns of the Romans, who subjugated the entire known ancient world, introduced the Iberian and Celtic tribes to civilization, the rule of law, and subsequently Christianity. The pila javelins of the Roman legionaries became the pillars of European sovereignty (In the anarchy and weak sovereignty of Slavic tribes conquered by the Germans, there was felt just this absence of Roman influence). In the age of the Crusades, the West borrowed from the East its arts, and the half-wild Europeans learned much from enlightened Arabs. On the verge of the 14th and 15th centuries, the Italian campaigns of Charles VIII and Louis XII introduced France to the Renaissance. And France imparted to the Renaissance luster and European scope, something its homeland, an Italy divided among a multitude of minor states, could not bestow.

If we must generally consider war in itself a disaster, the results of war can be at times beneficial. The Great War of 1914-1918 was a catastrophe, the scale of which is rare in the history of man. The Russian Revolution of 1917 can be compared only perhaps to the Black Death of the 14th century, and to a lesser degree, the Mongol invasion.

Yet the Russian Revolution is not war’s own child, but merely one by adoption. The Revolution is the daughter of the 19th century and its obsolete theories. The direct descendant of the Great War is “fascism” and its related ideas, which have opened before humanity new horizons and have given it new forms of social organization to lead human thought out of that dead end where it was driven by the savages of 1789 and their disciples, the materialists of the 19th century. Already for the sake of this one positive spiritual result we can constitute that ten million men did not give their lives in vain.

With all of this, war is an indisputable and great evil. One should decide upon this evil, this disease, only in hopeless situations, when “fighting fire with fire” remains the sole means after the exhaustion of all other arguments. A bad peace is generally better than a good war. This is a rule from which it is possible to make exceptions only in the case of a terrible peace, threatening ultimately to effect in baneful fashion the morality and well-being of the nation.

The organ of the state competent in the given case is called diplomacy (composed of a central apparatus and external representations). There exist two schools of diplomacy.

The older school is known as cabinet diplomacy. Affairs of state in this case are charged to men especially set aside, trained, cultivated, and, one can say, born for this work. The very nature of the service of these men, among whom each before receiving the “general’s rank” of ambassador would have been in four or five countries and consequently studied in practice four or five states, their rulers, and other accredited diplomats there – i.e. the greater part of their foreign colleagues – would guarantee their competence.

After the pathological years of 1914-1918, there followed an age of collective softening of minds (the result of the cruel shell-shock suffered by the world in that war), an age called the “democratic.” Its result in foreign policy was the replacement of the old cabinet diplomacy with the new school – that of the carnival.

Instead of professionals, amateurs began to insert themselves in foreign affairs, and instead of men in the know, men without a clue, orators of mass assemblies who held the status of “elected by the people” but were not always in possession of a grammar-school diploma.

The results of this “casual diplomacy” were not long in showing themselves. This style transferred into international relations the spirit of “internal politics” – an atmosphere of rallies and back-room intrigues. In comparison with professional diplomats – men bound to nothing – the political leaders of democracies are tied hand and foot. Some political chicanery that has not the least relation to a matter at hand or a certain incident in one’s party forces them to hastily depart international conferences, where there are debated – with either more or less competence – issues of paramount importance. The interruption of work, weeks of an undefined and tense situation that puts everyone on edge, all until one can manage to reassure a late-adjourning masonic lodge or parliamentary fraction – here is the grain of sand that can halt a train.

In the democratic age, all international problems are examined primarily and often exclusively from the point of view of internal politics, i.e. party interests, with personal success in parliament or in an election campaign the only concern of all these carnival-barker Talleyrands.

The refined and intricate work of professional diplomats is beyond the masses and their leaders. Their poses, words and actions are calculated only for the present day and the intellect of the crowd. Before the eyes of a mob descending into satanic frenzy from the blood of gladiators in the coliseum, all matters earlier discussed earlier by competent men in the calm and business-like environment of ministerial and embassy offices are now performed in a scorching atmosphere.

We shall mention only for the sake of memory the League of Nations, which has ceased existence in such an inglorious manner. The bankruptcy of this institution and the idea that birthed it is so obvious as to deliver us from the necessity of proving this with multiple facts.

The old diplomacy is reproached for “provoking” wars. Only men consciously divorced from history, the most anti-democratic of sciences, could make such an admonishment. The history of the last two hundred years teaches us that for every war “provoked” by diplomacy (provoked, it’s worth remembering, on the orders of corresponding governments), there are three wars that cabinet diplomacy could not prevent – just as carnival diplomacy could not prevent them (it’s impossible to stop a tiger from pouncing with notes of protest). Moreover, for each such case there are at least ten wars that did not take place due to the timely and tactful intervention of professional diplomacy, unseen to bystanders and the savage and ignorant crowd.