How can we end the war peacefully?


Eberhard Kolb

University of Cologne

What can he do historian contribute to answering this question? When I was asked to participate in this panel discussion, I accepted without hesitation. That was a somewhat hasty reaction, because on closer inspection the result is twofold:

1.) Under the question formulated in the topic, the history of war prevention and the end of war in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries has never been systematically investigated - while evaluating the historical material. There is no corresponding monograph in historiography.

2.) When looking at the history of European states in the 19th century and the developments in the first half of the 20th century, there are no examples that would allow a more or less decided statement to be made about the question posed to us.

In this respect, historical research has to report essentially no reports. Also the monumental work of the important American peace researcher Quincy Wright "A Study of War" (Chicago 1942, 21965) leaves us largely in the lurch when it comes to the question of the extent to which wars have been prevented or ended by international intervention. In the voluminous work of over 1,600 tightly printed pages, in which a large number of factors are systematized and analyzed, can be found no Chapter on conditions, reasons, process and results of international intervention in the event of an impending war or during a war. There are only scattered remarks in Wright; The index refers to around a dozen text passages under the heading "Intervention", although the term intervention tends to appear en passant and is not explicitly discussed.

This striking deficit may be related to the vagueness of the concept of intervention. In the "Dictionary of International Law" (Strupp-Schlochauer I, 144) one reads: "The concept of intervention, although it appears frequently in state practice and international law theory, is one of the most unclear concepts of international law. The application in the service of state power politics has intervention give rise to an unclear and contradicting state practice, which has not remained without influence on international law theory. "

When "intervention" more should be as a very vague and ambiguous general term, which describes diplomatic activities in international crisis situations or during a war or the connection to a war coalition, then this is to be understood the massive diplomatic intervention, above all a collective intervention, of those not involved in the conflict States behind which not only the Drohung with a military intervention stands, but also the determination a single power or a plurality of states to actually intervene armed if necessary. It is precisely when this standard is applied that it becomes difficult to present unambiguous "cases" from the history of the 19th and 20th centuries.

In these circumstances I will limit myself to two points:

1.) The formation of the intervention doctrine in the era of the French Revolution and the Restoration after 1815.

2.) Intervention as a more or less suitable instrument for (peaceful) conflict resolution under the sign of supranational organizations since the end of the First World War.

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If we consider the development of an intervention doctrine and its practice in the years after the outbreak of the French Revolution and then in the restoration decade after 1815, then we must state that in the decades between 1789 and 1830 the way of intervention Not was trodden to prevent or end wars between states, but rather to prevent wars start. And armed intervention with the aim of changing the inner To justify conditions in a state required an ideological justification. Strictly speaking, this complex does not come under the subject. Nevertheless, it is of considerable interest because the reference to the ideological justification of an interventionist intervention encompasses a generally important basic feature of interventionist practice.

In 1790/91 the sovereigns of the European powers put the question of armed intervention against revolutionary France on the agenda. Formal negotiations were held for this purpose from August 1791, but they did not produce any concrete result. It was France that in April 1792 opened the era of coalition wars with the declaration of war on Austria and now for its part claimed the right to armed intervention.

The decisive novelty of the situation after 1789 can be seen in the fact that "two opposing ideas of legitimacy with a common European claim to validity" now appeared on the battlefield; "Each of them asserted the right to intervene, while opposing the other with a prohibition of intervention" (E. R. Huber).

In ancient Europe there was a compelling legal reason to intervene from the right to defend the traditional order, des ius publicum Europaeumcaused by the fall of the royal family in France and the execution of Louis XVI. looked hurt. Not only the protection of the French monarchy, but also the protection of one's own order and rights, demanded and justified - in the opinion of the European powers - the intervention.

To revolutionary France, on the other hand, the interference of the monarchical-feudal powers of Europe to protect the Bourbon kingship appeared to be an attack on them without any rights volonté générale the sovereign nation. The revolutionary movement in France viewed the overthrow as an internal constitutional matter for which the principle of non-intervention had to apply according to state and international law, as an act of "national democratic sovereignty for which there were no common European legal barriers" (E. R. Huber).

After the victory over Napoleon, the restorative powers developed the principle of intervention into a veritable doctrine, with the help of which the system of power was to be secured against any change, but which also served to maintain the domestic political and social status quo established after 1815 all to protect European states against a liberal - denounced as "revolutionary" - constitutional development. Interventionism experienced a heyday after 1820, when liberal regimes - with a written constitution and election of parliaments - were established in southern Europe (in Spain, Portugal and in the Kingdom of Naples) following successful uprisings. It was the declared will of the restorative statesmen to eliminate these regimes as quickly as possible through armed intervention. The intervention principle was formulated in an unmistakable way by the spokesmen of the "Holy Alliance" (Russia, Austria, Prussia) in the so-called Troppauer Protocol of November 1820:

"The states that have suffered a change in government caused by insurrection will automatically cease to participate in the European alliance ..." If such changes would result in direct dangers for other states, then the powers that be undertake not to recognize such revolutionary changes, but to act against them, initially with diplomatic ideas, but also with if necessary armed forceto bring the troubled state back into the bosom of the great alliance. (One only needs to exchange a few words in the formulations of the Troppau Protocol, and then one has the Brezhnev doctrine of the limited sovereignty of socialist states from 1968). In the spring of 1821 the Austrian army intervened in the Kingdom of Naples and Piedmont, and in the spring of 1823 a French army of 100,000 men in Spain. The restorative regimes were restored in these countries. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 also belongs in this context: shielding the western hemisphere against the arrogance of intervention by the European powers (which were primarily directed against the independence movements in South and Central America).

The intervention principle remained on the agenda in the following years, but lost its effectiveness. In the Greek uprising, Metternich endeavored to seek collective interventionist action by the powers that be in favor of Turkey; but in fact there was armed intervention by Russia, Great Britain and France in favor of the rebellious Greeks. After the victory of the French July Revolution in 1830, an intervention against France was considered in Vienna and Petersburg - but only briefly; a little longer against Belgium, which fell away from the Kingdom of the United Netherlands and was constituted as a sovereign state. Metternich also failed to bring about the collective action of the powers that he had planned in the Swiss Sonderbund War of 1847.

In the period from the Revolution of 48 to the outbreak of World War I, there was no longer any question of interventions aimed at preventing domestic political changes in one of the European states. In the state wars of the second half of the century - the Crimean War, the wars of 1859, 1864, 1866 and 1870/71 - collective diplomatic actions by the powers that be or massive threats by neutrals with armed intervention did not have any bearing on the outbreak, course and end of the war Role played as might be shown by detailed analysis. At most one could cite the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 for our context: Great Britain and Austria-Hungary made a front against the peace of San Stefano concluded between Russia and Turkey (March 1878) and threatened to intervene; thus the Berlin Congress was convened, at which the peace of San Stefano was revised. Viewed as a whole, however, one can say: Before the First World War, the specific course of the conflict was given its essential character Not through collective diplomatic and armed interventions by the powers that be.

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After the end of World War I, a new element entered international relations. With the League of Nations, a supranational organization was established whose main task was the creation of a system of collective security - peacekeeping, peaceful conflict resolution, and if necessary the use of coercive measures to settle a military conflict. The League of Nations statutes not only specified the purpose of the Confederation, but also the instruments for achieving the federal purpose: arbitration, conciliation, and finally sanctions, ranging from economic and financial measures to military intervention.

Because the League of Nations showed a high degree of helplessness in the face of armed conflicts, especially in the 1930s, was unable to enforce a consistent policy of sanctions against the aggressive states of Japan, Italy and Germany and ultimately only led a shadowy existence, the activities of the League of Nations experienced a predominantly negative one Evaluation. In contrast, Wright paints a somewhat more favorable picture of the efforts of the League of Nations for peaceful conflict resolution. It lists 66 "Political Disputes" for the years 1920-1939 that were negotiated in the bodies of the League of Nations. In 35 cases - according to Wright - a solution was found in accordance with the League of Nations statutes; in 20 cases no solution was found or the decision was made outside the League of Nations (through diplomatic negotiations, mediation or at conferences); only in 11 cases the decision was made by "dictation" by one of the "parties" involved, contrary to the League of Nations procedures. However, it must be taken into account that the majority of the 66 cases were conflicts of modest proportions, which barely reached the threshold of an armed conflict, so that the mediating function of the League of Nations was quite desirable for the states involved. However, in the conflicts that took on larger dimensions and in which great powers became involved with decisive action, the intervention efforts of the League of Nations were unsuccessful - there is no getting around this insight. The League of Nations was just as unable to prevent Japanese aggression against China as it was to prevent the Italians from conquering Abyssia. The sanctions decided by the League of Nations were ineffective; armed intervention was not on the agenda.

Against the violation of international treaties by Hitler's Germany and then against the aggressive expansion of Hitler's Germany since 1938, a policy of sanctions or collective international intervention was not up for discussion in the League of Nations. In contrast, the German Reich and Italy intervened in the Spanish Civil War, which was triggered by the officers' coup led by Franco in July 1936, while Great Britain pursued a policy of strict non-intervention. Open intervention by France and Great Britain in favor of the legal (Popular Front) government might have led to a major European conflict. This was avoided by the British non-intervention at the time, but it was only to be shown that it was only postponed. It was precisely the success of their interventionist policies that encouraged the dictators to adopt a more aggressive policy of aggression; this is where the immediate prehistory of World War II begins. In this respect, the Spanish Civil War represents a "case" in which the problems of scope and effects of interventionist and non-interventionist procedures of individual states can be discussed.

Since the beginning of the atomic age at the end of World War II, the shape of war has changed in such a fundamental way that the problem of war and peace has also moved into a completely different perspective, which is qualitatively different from that in which we are Be able to view and analyze wars of the 19th and early 20th centuries. I cannot go into that any more here; that is another large topic.

Following on from my opening remarks, I sum up as follows: From the point of view of the historian of international relations in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it is difficult to give a firm answer to the question formulated in the topic.

At least it should have become clear from what I have said that I am leaning towards a rather skeptical judgment - at least as far as the period between the French Revolution and the end of World War II is concerned. With their policy of armed intervention, the statesmen of the restorative powers were not able to block the secular development trend towards a liberal constitutional state permanently, but only for a short time. The state wars in the 19th century grew out of genuine power conflicts. It was unable to prevent international intervention, and it was hardly ever attempted with the utmost determination; the wars ended without massive collective international intervention. But - this must also be taken into account -: There were, especially in the 19th century, many more war-prone conflict situations than wars - international crises in which war often enough seemed inevitable. But only in a few cases did the crisis actually escalate into war. "Wars that Not took place ", Veit Valentin titled a brief but highly stimulating essay. If most crises could be defused in any way and settled without armed conflict, then, according to my analysis, this was not due to international intervention in the strict sense, but to the efforts of the statesmen to resolve the crisis with the Means of diplomacy to solve. There is no doubt that the attitude of the powers not directly involved in the conflict was of great and occasionally decisive weight, even if this attitude did not take the form of open intervention.

In view of the myriad of variables that were effective in each individual conflict constellation, each individual "case" basically requires a specific investigation. Precisely for this reason it seems impossible to make a generalizing judgment; any generalizing statement must therefore be formulated with great caution.

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | September 1998