Postdoctoral research fellow Tobias Wille and Robert Jervis have a two-year research project entitled, “DIPLOWAR: Hybrid Practices of Diplomacy and Warfare.” Their research intends to open up a new perspective on the changing relationship between diplomacy and war. The central conceptual move will be to conceive of diplomacy and war not primarily as political or legal relations between states but as structuring principles of peaceful and violent political practices. Through a comparative study of foreign policy-making in the United States and Germany from 1945 to the present, they hope to demonstrate that practices of diplomacy and war which once were neatly separated have increasingly formed hybrid constellations. These hybrid constellations cannot adequately be grasped by the traditional Westphalian notions of diplomacy and war. The proposed practice-theoretical reconceptualization of these notions can therefore contribute to a more accurate understanding of war and peace in contemporary international politics.

Carl von Clausewitz famously argued that ‘war is merely the continuation of policy by other means.’[1] Read against the background of his work, this often misunderstood assertion expresses the insight that war, even though also governed by powerful internal dynamics, cannot be understood in isolation. Rather, war always serves some end external to it and thus ultimately follows a political logic. Extending Clausewitz, one could say that if war is policy by violent means, then diplomacy is policy by peaceful means. This is certainly how war and diplomacy have been understood by most practitioners and theorists of international politics in the Westphalian order: statespersons in their dealings with each other have a choice between various means, some of them violent, others non-violent. On the standard account, violent and non-violent means are taken to be alternatives. Most of the time, states deal with each other through diplomacy, and only if things go wrong, the military has to step in. Once the weapons have spoken and one side has relented, the diplomats again take over. However, the shrewdest statespersons from Metternich to Bismarck have always understood that it is the high art of statecraft to blend violent and non-violent means in a way that best serves one’s political ends. Nevertheless, their thinking still rested on the assumption that there are two clearly discernible sets of political means, one of them associated with peace, the other one with war.

The central conceptual move in the proposed research is to take Clausewitz seriously and to distinguish peace and war by the means that are deployed to realise political ends. Drawing on practice theory, they will conceptualise these means, however, as sets of practices that are either structured by the telos of peaceful coexistence or the telos of the efficient use of force. Diplomacy and war for me are thus concepts that do not primarily describe relations between states but rather specific properties of certain political practices. Through this reconceptualization, one becomes able to see that in the Westphalian order the two sets of practices were so clearly separated from each other that they produced the effect of two clearly distinguished spheres, the sphere of inter-state diplomacy and the sphere of inter-state war. Since the heyday of the Westphalian order, we can however observe a process in which practices of diplomacy and war have increasingly blurred into each other forming various hybrid constellations. As a result, we are today confronted with a situation in which neither diplomacy nor war can be clearly grasped at the level of inter-state relations anymore.

Empirically, they intend to study how practices of diplomacy and war have formed hybrid constellations through two explorative case studies that trace the development of the foreign policy bureaucracies in the United States and Germany from 1945 to the present. Both states are liberal Western democracies and NATO members. Nonetheless, practices of peace and war have been balanced very differently in these two states. As the most powerful state in the state system, the United States in the period since 1945 has projected military power all around the globe. In the complex web of bureaucracies administering its foreign policy, the military has always played an important role. Nonetheless, an increasing hybridisation of diplomatic and war practices can be traced through the development of the national security state and, more recently, the war on terror. In contrast, the German government in light of Germany’s history for a long time understood itself as a civilian power that in its international relations generally does not resort to the use of force. This stance was also reflected in a clear separation between diplomacy and military in which the former took precedent over the latter. Only over the last two decades, the German government has moved incrementally towards a more interventionist stance. This change of strategy was accompanied by a significant rearrangement of the foreign policy bureaucracies that can be described as a process of moderate hybridisation. The aim of the comparative study is to generate theoretical insights into how various hybrid constellations of diplomatic and war practices evolve and how they shape a state’s foreign policy.