Tag Archives: diplomacy

Singapore and the Arctic: Is the Gibraltar of the East Going to Materialize its Geopolitical Ambitions?

In 1965, Singapore achieved independence after being expelled from the Federation of Malaysia. Having no natural resources and being one of the smallest countries in the world, Singapore had to shape itself as a State, regional and global player in order not to become, like most micro-states, gobbled up by expanding, neighboring states, or an inaudible voice and non-existing international diplomatic and political structures[1]. To do so, Singapore saw the action of a team led by one man that directed the country for 25 years, shaped its political system, diplomacy, economy and society: Lee Kuan Yew[2]. But to understand Singapore, we must understand its unique conditions that led to a unique economic, political, diplomatic and social system that drove its survival and, later, prosperity.

Singapore: an “Independent Gibraltar” in Asia

From its British colonial past, Singapore inherited the title of “Gibraltar of the East”, an analogy based on geographic, strategic and commercial features both cities enjoy[3]. However, Singapore is an independent country which had to reinvent and adapt itself to a new rising international order, being in a difficult region at the time (and still today): there was war in Vietnam, Communism in Cambodia and China, unstable political and religious conditions in Indonesia, and the United States’ military presence in the region. In order to survive in such a regional context, Singapore crafted what I will call its “Singaporean Survival” philosophy adopting national and diplomatic core values[4]:

  • Successful and Vibrant Economy: How?
  • Not Being a Vassal State: Why?
  • Friendly to All, Enemy of None: Who?
  • Global World Governed by the Rule of Law and International Norms: Where and How?

The first core value may be considered as a “How?” in the international relations analysis of the “Singaporean Survival” philosophy. It is the means for Singapore to achieve primary survival as a sovereign nation, ensure an income and opportunities for its inhabitants, as well as ensuring an economic income for the national government with the goal to secure a political system to run the country. The second core value may be considered as a “Why?”, as it reflects Singapore’s fears driven by the concept of Westphalian Statehood: not having full sovereignty within its borders and not having a strong international status. It is a fear driven by the fact that Singapore is a small nation without resources, and with a small population[5], meaning it would be relying on other countries to secure its status as a microstate. The third is a “Who?” in the sense of identity. Singapore had to shape itself as a nation, implying the creation of an international identity that would fit its regional geopolitical context and thus avoiding conflict, as it would not be strong enough to be an international military power. Furthermore, this approach helped Singapore in cooperating with everyone and then shape economic partnerships. It is a barrier-free approach to Liberalism. However, Singapore does not want to have friendly relations at any cost as its primary interest is its own security[6]. Finally, the fourth component is a “Where and How?”. This last point reflects Singapore’s ambition to promote freedom and stability to strengthen its image as a safe State willing to play by the rules. In this sense, this core value shows Singapore’s faith in peace and international cooperation, promoting international institutions as the primary international rule to avoid conflicts of interest by promoting the common international rules for all states and not a particular foreign state’s philosophy.

Singapore and International Relations Theories: the 2-Stroke State

Singapore created, through its philosophy, a development structure for its small nation, in which we may identify several points:

From Independence to Security and Stability:

As a small State, Singapore may not be able to compete with other States in terms of military capacity and technology, being rapidly outnumbered and outpowered by larger States due to its relatively small population (around 5,7 million people), small territory and therefore limited natural resources. This implies that the realist definition of power given by Waltz: “size of population and territory, resource endowment, economic capability, military strength, political stability and competence”[7] is overall not favorable to Singapore. This means that Singapore had to find new ways of asserting power while still developing such traditional fields with the development of an army, the implementation of compulsory military service and a constant progression towards cutting-edge military technology[8]. Therefore, Singapore achieved a version of soft Realism to achieve a primary survival: despite being small and limited in resources, be consistent, trustworthy, competent, stable politically, and keep asserting your position in the world as a state[9]. By recognizing its own features and the regional context in which it had to develop itself, Singapore accepted the vision of chaos and State-driven interests, starting with its own[10]. This Singaporean approach targeted the promotion of national wealth through the development of international cooperation where Singapore would play a key role, trying to be a “necessary, competent and wealthy” actor on the international scene. In this sense, the goal was the creation of a strong economy and then transition towards a more liberal approach. The process was a 2-step one: first reaching security, stability and international recognition, and then reaching sustainability and prosperity by using its key status to continue running its economy. I will call this process the 2-Stroke Singaporean Engine: 2 strokes that complement each other and meant to keep the Singaporean ball of survival rolling while increasing its wellbeing, international high-level status as an untouchable state, and therefore security. A philosophy marked by a progressive mix between realism (dominant at the beginning of Singapore’s history for its own survival) and liberalism (a philosophy progressively introduced over time). In this sense, Lee Kuan Yew’s approach to Realism and political stability was based on a hybrid regime[11] with a dominant – party system, a political system that still continues today. This political system would help in controlling all aspects of the State’s development without contestation, building continuity within government policies and society, with strong measures such as implementing compulsory military service to raise an army and to limit freedom of press[12]. In this sense, the shift from Realism to Liberalism is the first of the 2-Stroke Singaporean Engine: materialization of national effort to secure the international position of the State in a chaotic region with almost no natural resources but with a high strategic geographic position.

From Security and Sustainability to Sustainability and Prosperity:

The implementation of a strong liberalist approach to economy mixed with an institutionalist perspective[13] is the second stroke, where Singapore increases its liberal approach by creating and promoting all the required frameworks and values to enhance its economy and take the most out of it[14], frameworks based on the analysis of foreign countries and international companies’ policies[15]. However, the second stroke is still based on soft Realism, where Liberalism plays a stronger role of catalyst than traditional realist concepts of power such as military strength by achieving economic capability and, to some extent, competence. In this sense, Singapore has secured its survival and stability, starting then the building of a wealthy nation that is meant to be a model of sustainability and prosperity, attracting two of the core values promoted by Liberalism: investment and free trade. Singapore progressively achieved this shift, notably with the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967[16] and its membership to the General Agreement on tariffs and Trade in 1973 (that would become later the World Trade Organization in 1995)[17]. Therefore, Singapore is promoting a very aggressive form of Liberalism and Pragmatism[18], supported nationally by a hybrid political regime that is still meant to achieve, at the same time, a soft form of Realism. An example and cornerstone of Singapore’s success may be the creation of the Economic Development Board in 1961, which laid the foundations for the economic development of Singapore through industrialization and the import of high-level engineering skills[19]. Therefore, this soft form is diversified in terms of tools used to achieve prosperity while serving the purpose of strengthening constantly the state of security, such as the production of high-level technology and the concentration of financial services and institutions, generating therefore economic, social, industrial and ultimately geopolitical stability for the benefit of all actors connected to the country.

Overall, with this second stroke, Singapore means to increase its wealth and develop its nation, capacity, resources and international gravitas, not forgetting to improve its own security at the same time. In this sense, the second stroke achieves a shift in terms of priorities, in which economic, diplomatic, technological and social development are the first goal, serving at the same time the purpose of security as a secondary but not so far away goal.

Friendly to All, Enemy of None: Is Singapore the Maximum Exponent of the Democratic Peace and Regime Theory?

Singapore’s international approach to diplomacy is mainly cooperative and peace-focused[20]. Despite its larger GDP[21], stronger military alliances (with the US for example) and technological development, Singapore remains a small city-state facing bigger neighbors in case of conflict. Therefore, Singapore developed an international diplomatic policy of “Friendly to All, Enemy of None”[22] to survive as a micro-state in the international scene. This policy might be compared to the democratic peace theory as it promotes a peaceful relationship between Singapore and its regional belligerent and bigger neighbors such as Malaysia and Indonesia[23]. In order to be successful, and not being a full-scale democracy (hybrid regime) by itself, Singapore adopted a dyadic approach to the democratic peace, making no difference between democratic and non-democratic States in its diplomatic and economic relations[24].

However, it can be argued that Singapore, as a hybrid regime, may not be associated with the concept of Democratic Peace. Despite such feature, Singapore still represents, in many aspects, a credible and successful representative of the Democratic Peace. Going further, the country represents a true alternative in terms of governance, stability, prosperity, international relations, social and economic development. In this sense, the country tops the world ranking highlighted in the Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum since 2019, in which metrics such as health, infrastructures, environment, institutions, skills, education, employment conditions and workers’ rights play a prominent role in evaluating the country’s economy[25]. Therefore, it can be argued that despite being a hybrid regime with a dominant – party syndrome, Singapore is performing pretty close to, or even better than, traditional democracies, as highlighted in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019. This implies that Singapore’s government succeeded in building a strong, stable, sustainable and prosperous country despite being a dominant – party system.

In this sense, despite the political sacrifice of democracy as a cost of opportunity, this effort has been materialized in a successful and innovative model, in which the People’s Action Party (PAP) plays the dominant political party building governmental authority, stability and consistency. Therefore, Singapore’s representation of the Democratic Peace may be justified by the fact that the PAP appears to be largely approved by Singaporeans, as the party won the 2020 general elections[26]. Nevertheless, it may be argued that Singapore is not a democracy and thus the elections may be flawed. However, it is harder to argue Singapore’s success since its independence, outperforming regional and international competitors, leaving a clear legacy and an existential question for other countries: “What is the ultimate purpose of government?”[27].

In this sense, as the goal was to achieve survival and reach a minimum level of security, Singapore’s government efforts were oriented towards the creation of stability and make use of opportunities and commonalities between states to create a fruitful cooperation. The country was ultimately showing to the World that it is safe and profitable to work with them, despite being an atypical country in many aspects above-mentioned.

This perspective is strengthened by the fact that Singapore has shown a strong belief in and commitment towards international institutions, building supra-national protection against its more powerful partners and bringing the necessary stability its cooperation agreements needed to survive[28]. But not confident in its militarily weak situation in Southeast Asia, Singapore nuanced its liberal policy with a strong realist component: military cooperation with the US. In this sense, Singapore is friendly towards the US, perhaps in an attempt of applying the shelter theory, and is definitely frustrating any regional threat to its sovereignty[29][30]. It is a double protection in the end: an economically “necessary” partner and protected militarily by a superpower.

Singaporean Geopolitical Pillars

To understand what the Singaporean interest in the Arctic would be, four geopolitical pillars have been identified: Geography, maritime sector, financial sector, and education sector. Singapore is located right in a key junction of the main international sea routes between Asia and Europe: Malacca. Being the shortest passage for maritime routes between East Asia and Europe, Malacca is a heavy traffic and maritime strategic area as well as a converging point between the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea[31]. The development of harbor facilities, bunkering and a friendly policy towards shipping positioned Singapore to get the most out of its geographic location: becoming a key harbor within the main trade routes as it provides all the shipping-related services before entering the Indian Ocean or the South China Sea[32]. Furthermore, the maritime sector is vital for the country as it allows its industrial and manufacturing sectors to continue developing as it is an important logistic factor for exports and imports. Alongside the maritime sector, which constitutes up to 7% of its GDP[33], the financial sector was developed with tax-friendly policies to attract foreign investments[34]. This policy would bring another nickname for Singapore: the Switzerland of the East[35]. Bank secrecy and favorable tax policies, in addition to its neutrality and stability, would lead Singapore to become a central marketplace and one of the most economically competitive countries in the world[36]. But Singapore did forecast future trends and saw that its citizens would have to follow the country’s growing path, realizing as well that a highly educated population would represent a strong asset to further development of the country. Education was a central social component of the State’s social policy, increasing its budget every year and considerably (up to 70% increase between 2007 and 2018)[37]. It is a way to mitigate or “compensate” the regime theory approach to State, so population would not feel being apart and ignored totally. We may find points of comparison with the famous Roman “Panem et Circenses” (Bread and Circus), best analyzed by Fyodor Dostoevsky in his poem “The Grand Inquisitor”, in which he describes how persons may bow down to the person who will give them bread[38]. However, seduction of mind may constitute a barrier to this “power” given by bread, but Singapore has found the way to achieve both: ensure social security and prosperity (bread) and promote opportunities and provide a strong international status to its citizens[39].

Global Role Translated in Arctic Affairs

Therefore, what are the possible interests of Singapore in the Arctic? According to the previous short analysis, and in light of the recent developments in the Arctic (e.g., the increasing in traffic and tonnage on the Northern Sea Route[40]), we may identify three main fields of interest: diplomacy, shipping and natural resources. As it has been highlighted, Singapore heavily relies on maritime industries. As the Arctic routes represent a strong alternative (despite being still under development and facing great challenges), they constitute a direct threat to the traditional maritime routes passing via Singapore[41]. In this sense, there won’t be a total shift of traffic from these Southern routes to the Arctic ones, as East Asia is still connected to other Southern regions that will continue passing through Malacca Strait: the Persian Gulf and the oil fields; India; Africa; Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea; etc. In addition, not all companies might be willing to upgrade their fleet, which is very expensive (upgrade to or acquisition of Ice-Class vessels, compliance with the Polar Code, subscribing to particular insurances for Polar waters, paying the Russian fee for the Northern Sea Route, etc.), and may decide to continue sailing the controlled and mastered Southern routes. But Singapore has a long-term economic policy in which it tries to forecast all trends and diversify its assets[42]. In this approach, Singapore follows the move towards the Arctic, where high level investments are required and where opportunities and empty seats are still available. Russia is in need of foreign investments for its mega projects on natural resources (e.g., Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 have French, Chinese and Japanese investments[43]) and for developing infrastructures such as bunkering, harbors, shipyards and trade centers, features in which Singapore is specialized. We may notice the presence of the largest Asian maritime stakeholders like China, Japan and South Korea in such projects (e.g., South Korean Samsung Heavy Industries signed a partnership with Zvezda Shipyard in Bolshoy Kamen, Eastern Russia to develop Arctic shipbuilding[44]), having developed an official Arctic policy[45]. But Singapore has, probably in its flexible and “Friendly to All” policy, not issued an official policy yet, but has developed structured and recognized by the Arctic Council strong diplomatic ties.

However, it is participating actively within the Arctic Council’s Working Groups, as this is the main entrance door for Observers to Arctic Affairs[46]. It demonstrates that Singapore is seeking to strengthen its actions in the Arctic as a future trade place for natural resources (according to a US Geological Survey report, large reserves of oil, gas and minerals are untapped in the Arctic[47) and as a future maritime transit passage. Singapore has developed, in its attempts to reach sustainability and prosperity, education and essential diplomatic, maritime and financial positions that have been the key to be part of large international ventures. The approach to the Arctic is no different. In this sense, Singapore may bring via the Arctic Council’s Working Groups its knowledge power (experience, expertise and education) as a diplomatic way, and its financial and industrial expertise through the private sector for economic ventures. The lack of information regarding Singapore’s moves in the Arctic might be attributed to the geopolitical challenges linked to the region, where its two main partners are in an open front: China and the US (e.g., the construction of airports in Greenland[48]). We might then raise awareness on the Singaporean diplomatic policy: will the Friendly to All survive to the Arctic tensions? Will Singapore be able to keep its neutrality if its steps in Arctic diplomacy and industry? As many Asian countries, governments may issue interventionist policies for their private sector (e.g., the South Korean government urged the merger between Samsung and Daewoo Heavy Industries shipyards[49][50]) to maintain international competitiveness. Singapore is much of the same. Moreover, as a supporter of the regime theory with a dominant – party syndrome, it is known to be highly interventionist[51].

Furthermore, Arctic challenges stress Singapore’s adaptability skills. Its natural economic, political and geopolitical environments are strongly linked to its Asian geography. As a region dominated by sovereign states (which apply a strict Westphalian conception of state and a hard realist approach in the Arctic[52]), the Arctic will oblige Singapore to walk on a thin line between the two facing blocs if it is willing to cooperate on Arctic affairs: East and West. As a regional economic power in Asia, Singapore might be pushed by its neighbor China to take its side, but the US might be willing to see Singapore as an ally or, at least, to continue being neutral economic and diplomatically. However, Singapore may find diplomatic ties in more neutral Arctic States such as Norway or Finland, States that have been through the Cold War and survived to the East-West tensions adopting specific diplomatic approaches such as the Nordic Peace for Norway[53].


Singapore has crafted, applied and enhanced a successful economic, political and social model over the decades to reach the top of the ranking in terms of economy, international influence and wellbeing. Despite the nuances between its national interventionist and regime theorist policy, and its ultra-liberalist international approach, Singapore faces the greater challenge of reinventing itself. Furthermore, a progressive shift of the maritime sector to the Arctic might engage a third stroke in the Singaporean Engine. However, this economic shift is implying a geopolitical shift in its international relations and to adapt to Arctic diplomacy and the emerging opportunities. In this sense, Singapore will play in the same arena as its two major partners: the economic China and the military US. Nonetheless, the past ghosts of the Cold War are reappearing: nuclear accident in the Russian Arctic in 2019[54], China – US confrontation in Greenland[55], progressive military build-up in Russia[56], aggressive Chinese Arctic policy[57], tensions around Svalbard between Russia and Norway[58], to name but a few. In this sense, some of these Arctic challenges and issues may highly benefit from the Singaporean diplomatic and pragmatic approach, giving to Singapore a chance to promote itself as a problem solver. However, Singapore has to find its narrow line to steer gently across the geopolitically stormy Arctic, avoiding losing its neutrality, promoting cooperation and taking the most out of the new markets and economic opportunities. To do so, Singapore may apply to Arctic affairs its savoir-faire and promote its own philosophy through its neutral economic and diplomatic approach, avoiding falling into taking part in geopolitical issues that might have repercussions back in Asia. As a successful path forward in a conflictive region, Singapore represents a lighthouse that may be used in order to navigate the harsh Arctic affairs conditions: avoiding escalation, advancing stability, and ultimately promoting new ways for all States to follow a peaceful cooperation with mutual benefits and respect in the Arctic.


[1] Archie W Simpson, ‘Revisiting the United Nations and the Micro-State Problem’ International Relations 8.

[2] ‘Lee Kuan Yew | Biography, Education, Achievements, & Facts’ (Encyclopedia Britannica) <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lee-Kuan-Yew> accessed 14 May 2020.

[3] ‘Battle of Singapore | Infopedia’ <https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2013-07-19_113523.html> accessed 14 May 2020.

[4] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (CNA) <https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/full-speech-vivian-balakrishnan-highlights-principles-9038582> accessed 14 May 2020.

[5] OECD, Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013: With Perspectives on China and India (OECD 2013) 191 <https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/development/southeast-asian-economic-outlook-2013_saeo-2013-en> accessed 14 May 2020.

[6] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[7] ‘Comparing and Contrasting Classical Realism and Neorealism’ <https://www.e-ir.info/2009/07/23/comparing-and-contrasting-classical-realism-and-neo-realism/> accessed 26 May 2021.


[9] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[10] The regional chaos generated by different political movements opposed and in war with both the Malaysian and Indonesian central governments (such as the Second Malayan Emergency 1968 – 1989, the invasion and occupation of East Timor by Indonesia 1975 – 1999 and the still ongoing Papua Conflict which opposes Indonesia to the Free Papua Movement since 1962) deviated these countries’ attention from Singapore’s independence and development.

[11] International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, The Global State of Democracy 2019: Addressing the Ills, Reviving the Promise (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 2019) 167 <https://www.idea.int/publications/catalogue/global-state-of-democracy-2019> accessed 14 May 2020.

[12] ‘Singapore : An Alternative Way to Curtail Press Freedom | Reporters without Borders’ (RSF) <https://rsf.org/en/singapore> accessed 14 May 2020.

[13] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[14] ibid.

[15] Jon ST Quah, ‘Why Singapore Works: Five Secrets of Singapore’s Success’ (2018) 21 Public Administration and Policy 5, 15 <https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/PAP-06-2018-002/full/html> accessed 30 September 2020.

[16] ‘ASEAN’ <http://www.mfa.gov.sg/SINGAPORES-FOREIGN-POLICY/International-Organisations/ASEAN> accessed 26 May 2021.

[17] ‘WTO | Singapore – Member Information’ <https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/countries_e/singapore_e.htm> accessed 26 May 2021.

[18] Quah (n 15) 6.

[19] ‘Transforming Landscapes, Improving Lives: 50 Years of Economic Development’ <https://www.roots.gov.sg/stories-landing/stories/transforming-landscapes-improving-lives-50-years-of-economic-development/story> accessed 26 May 2021.

[20] ‘MINDEF Singapore’ <https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/portal/mindef/defence-matters/defence-topic/defence-topic-detail/defence-policy-and-diplomacy> accessed 14 May 2020.

[21] ‘Singapore Economy’ (Base) <http://www.singstat.gov.sg/modules/infographics/economy> accessed 14 May 2020.

[22] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[23] ‘The Indonesian Confrontation 1962 to 1966 – Anzac Portal’ <https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/indonesian-confrontation-1962-1966> accessed 26 May 2021.

[24] ‘Democratic Peace | Political Science | Britannica’ <https://www.britannica.com/topic/democratic-peace> accessed 26 May 2021.

[25] Klaus Schwab, ‘The Global Competitiveness Report 2019’ (World Economic Forum 2019) 506–509 <http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf>.

[26] rosamir, ‘SINGAPORE 2020 GENERAL ELECTION: The Results’ (The Straits Times, 11 July 2020) <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/2020-general-election-the-results> accessed 26 May 2021.

[27] Graham Allison, ‘Lee Kuan Yew’s Troubling Legacy for Americans’ (The Atlantic, 30 March 2015) <https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/03/lee-kuan-yew-conundrum-democracy-singapore/388955/> accessed 26 May 2021.

[28] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[29] ibid.

[30] Prashanth Parameswaran, ‘Army Exercise Puts US-Singapore Defense Ties into Focus’ <https://thediplomat.com/2019/07/army-exercise-puts-us-singapore-defense-ties-into-focus/> accessed 15 May 2020.

[31] Xiaobo Qu and Qiang Meng, ‘The Economic Importance of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore: An Extreme-Scenario Analysis’ (2012) 48 Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review 258 <https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1366554511001104> accessed 26 May 2021.

[32] ‘Why Is Singapore Port so Successful? A Look at World’s Top Shipping Centre’ (Ship Technology, 24 October 2019) <https://www.ship-technology.com/features/why-is-singapore-port-so-successful/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[33] ‘The Establishment of Maritime Singapore Ecosystem’ (Maritime Singapore) <http://www.maritimesingapore.sg/about-maritime-singapore/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[34] ‘Singapore Tax Rates, Tax System, Tax Incentives – 2020 Guide’ (CorporateServices.com) <https://www.corporateservices.com/singapore/singapore-tax-system/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[35] ‘Singapore, “Switzerland of the East”’ The New York Times (21 January 1973) <https://www.nytimes.com/1973/01/21/archives/singapore-switzerland-of-the-east.html> accessed 14 May 2020.

[36] Schwab (n 25).

[37] ‘MOF | Singapore Budget 2020 | Government Spending On Education And Healthcare’ <https://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2020/about-budget/budget-features/govt-spending-on-education-and-healthcare> accessed 14 May 2020.

[38] ‘11. Dostoevsky.Pdf’ <https://www2.hawaii.edu/~freeman/courses/phil100/11.%20Dostoevsky.pdf> accessed 14 May 2020.

[39] ‘Full Speech: Vivian Balakrishnan Highlights Principles Underpinning Singapore’s Diplomacy’ (n 4).

[40] ‘Shipping on Northern Sea Route up 40% | The Independent Barents Observer’ <https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic-industry-and-energy/2019/10/shipping-northern-sea-route-40> accessed 5 April 2020.

[41] NSF Abdul Rahman, AH Saharuddin and R Rasdi, ‘Effect of the Northern Sea Route Opening to the Shipping Activities at Malacca Straits’ (2014) 1 International Journal of e-Navigation and Maritime Economy 85 <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405535214000096> accessed 14 September 2019.

[42] ‘Singapore Economy’ (n 21).

[43] Published at: Apr 16 2020-09:17 / Updated at: Apr 16 2020-09:17 From Malte Humpert, ‘Construction of Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 Project Ahead of Schedule’ <https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/construction-novateks-arctic-lng-2-project-ahead-schedule> accessed 14 May 2020.

[44] MarketScreener, ‘Samsung Heavy Industries : Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex and Samsung Heavy Industries Sign Contract for Arctic LNG 2 Project Gas Carriers Design | MarketScreener’ <https://www.marketscreener.com/SAMSUNG-HEAVY-INDUSTRIES-6491583/news/Samsung-Heavy-Industries-Zvezda-Shipbuilding-Complex-and-Samsung-Heavy-Industries-Sign-Contract-fo-29163839/> accessed 31 March 2020.

[45] ‘Arctic Relevant Policies – Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network’ <https://arcticiceland.is/en/the-arctic/arctic-relevant-policies#japan> accessed 14 May 2020.

[46] ‘Observers’ (Arctic Council) <https://arctic-council.org/en/about/observers/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[47] USGS, ‘Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal: Estimates of Undiscovered Oil and Gas North of the Arctic Circle’ <https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3049/fs2008-3049.pdf>.

[48] Published at: Dec 05 2019-08:20 / Updated at: Jan 20 2020-23:55 From Malte Humpert, ‘Greenland’s Kangerlussuaq Airport to Close For Major Commercial Traffic in 2024 Due to Climate Change’ <https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/greenlands-kangerlussuaq-airport-close-major-commercial-traffic-2024-due-climate-change> accessed 6 May 2020.

[49] Richard Luedde-Neurath, ‘State Intervention and Export-Oriented Development in South Korea’ in Gordon White (ed), Developmental States in East Asia (Palgrave Macmillan UK 1988) <http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-349-19195-6_3> accessed 14 May 2020.

[50] ‘South Korea to Combine World’s Two Biggest Shipbuilders in $2 Billion Deal’ Reuters (31 January 2019) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-daewoo-s-m-m-a-hyundaiheavyinds-idUSKCN1PO17K> accessed 14 May 2020.

[51] William KM Lee, ‘Economic Growth, Government Intervention, and Ideology in Singapore’ (1996) 12 New Global Development 27 <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17486839608412592> accessed 14 May 2020.

[52] ‘American Flags in the Barents Sea Is “the New Normal,” Says Defence Analyst’ (The Independent Barents Observer) <https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2020/05/american-flags-new-normal-barents-sea-says-defence-analyst> accessed 14 May 2020.

[53] Gunnar Rekvig, ‘The Legacy of the Nordic Peace and Cold War Trust-Building in the North Atlantic’ (Háskólinn á Akureyri) <https://www.unak.is/is/samfelagid/vidburdir/gunnar-rekvig-a-felagsvisindatorgi> accessed 14 May 2020.

[54] ‘Russia Says New Weapon Blew Up in Nuclear Accident Last Week’ Bloomberg.com (12 August 2019) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-12/russian-says-small-nuclear-reactor-blew-up-in-deadly-accident> accessed 14 May 2020.

[55] ‘How the Pentagon Countered China’s Designs on Greenland – WSJ’ <https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-pentagon-countered-chinas-designs-on-greenland-11549812296> accessed 13 April 2020.

[56] Barbara Padrtova, ‘Russian Military Build-up in the Arctic: Strategic Shift in the Balance of Power or Bellicose Rhetoric Only?’ <https://arcticyearbook.com/arctic-yearbook/2014/2014-scholarly-papers/91-russian-military-build-up-in-the-arctic-strategic-shift-in-the-balance-of-power-of-bellicose-rhetoric-only> accessed 14 May 2020.

[57] ‘The Increasing Security Focus in China’s Arctic Policy’ (The Arctic Institute, 16 July 2019) <https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/increasing-security-focus-china-arctic-policy/> accessed 14 May 2020.

[58] ‘Moscow Sends Signal It Might Raise Stakes in Svalbard Waters | The Independent Barents Observer’ <https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2020/04/moscow-sends-signal-it-might-raise-stakes-svalbard-waters> accessed 14 May 2020.

The Peace System – As a Self-referential Communication System



Ever since Abbé Saint-Pierre wrote his magisterial Projet d’une Paix Perpétuelle, published in the aftermath of the Utrecht Peace in 1713, it has been questioned whether the “system of peace” could tackle the “system of war”. Earlier, “times of war” followed “times of peace” or vice versa. Under the umbrella of a pontifical order, the organisation of peace could manage to cool the inner dynamics of armed conflicts though the pope was definitely sometimes part of heated campaigns and war endeavours, as at the time when he initiated the first crusade in 1095. During the so-called Italian Wars, from 1494 to 1559, the combined dynamics of state organised campaigns were loaded with new heavy weapons as guns and soon after specialised warships; defensive strategies of fortifications followed by the religious conflicts of the Reformation did indeed rupture whatever could still be established as a pontifical peace (Porter 1994; Autrand 1998). The last such half-hearted peace endeavour was the Trento Council in the middle of the 16th century. Albeit the “Landesfrieden” in 1555 established a peace between Catholic and Protestant princes inside the Roman Empire of the Holy German Nation, an ongoing explosive conflict began in France in 1561 between Catholics and Huguenots only to be followed by the rebellion of Dutch provinces against the rule of Spanish Philip II in 1566.

From that moment a still stronger whirl of war increased the call for state organisation and its justification principle, the “necessities” entailed by a “raison d’État”, only to be followed by an increased competition among militarily organised states that copied each other’s innovations with a still higher speed. The so-called Thirty Years War took its departure in that context with the Bohemian rebellion, the “defenestration”, against Austrian rule in 1618; it faded of exhaustion in the years before the famous Treatises of Münster and Osnabrück that concluded the Westphalian Peace in 1648. Still, the French-Spanish Peace of the Pyrenees and the Danish-Swedish Peace had to follow in 1659.

After a hundred years of war, the system of war won an internal self-reference and was established as a functional system that was ungovernable for any other system outside itself. Its means were too strong, its dynamics too necessary and the powers that did not follow its imperatives were annihilated such as Burgundy in the 16th century, Denmark-Norway nearby in 1659 and Poland at the end of the 18th century. When Carl von Clausewitz, in the aftermath of the Napoleon Wars, was able to write that “war is the continuation of politics with other means” (Clausewitz 1832/1952: 888), it was because even absolute wars were in need of real supplies, and logistics could be governed. The still more complex and professional military organisation system could be controlled and governed; but not the war system.

The struggle between control and ungovernable dynamics has always been tested as one of finance. Seemingly politics could control war finance when the political legitimacy of still higher taxes disappeared, and loans and credits were stopped; however, this turned out not to be the case. Wars demand extremely increasing supplies of finance, and they have always exceeded any limitations whatsoever. The invention of not only new taxes but especially new credit systems far beyond imagination turned out to be part of the competition, symmetric or asymmetric, of wars. Every major war was decided less by the so-called decisive battles and more by the exhaustion of resources and their financial sinews.

What happened to the peace system? If the war system had its own hard-hitting dynamics, what about the dynamics of the peace system? Could any dynamics and self-referential codes of communication be identified in what was once called a peace system? Or did the peace system disappear after 1648 or 1713 as anything worth mentioning as a “system”? What are the semantics, he codes and resources to be found in such a system? And which potentialities could be detected inherent to a peace system (Bély 1993)?

This does indeed question: What precisely does “system” mean? What advantages, if any, could such a conception offer to a description of peace potentialities?

I will begin with a short outline of some frames offered by recent system theory. Although several system theories have been presented since Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, Gottfried Leibniz and Abbé Saint-Pierre presented the first system theories – and especially has been established with great endeavours from German immigrants in America after the 1930s – the only system theory I find just remotely adequate to answer these questions is German sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s. He did not himself undertake the task of writing anything like “Der Frieden des Gesellschaft” comparable to his many magisterial books about Das Wirtschaft der Gesellschaft (1988), Der Wissenschaft der Gesellschaft (1990), Das Recht der Gesellschaft (1993; Law as Social System 2004), Die Kunst der Gesellschaft (1995; Art as Social System 2000) Die Politik der Gesellschaft (2000), Die Religion der Gesellschaft (2000; A Systems Theory of Religion 2013) Das Erziehung der Gesellschaft (2002), Die Moral der Gesellschaft (2008) and not even his greatest achievement Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft 1-2 (1997; Theory of Society 1-2, 2013). As a German, born in 1927, he did not feel that he himself was sufficiently at a distance to write a “Der Krieg der Gesellschaft” nor a similar book on peace, on it functions, its communication codes, semantics and self-descriptions, its evolutions, organisations, structural couplings, sense and whatever else such a theory would imply. Though, comparable to a so-called “contingency formula” of for example “justice”, he several times wrote about the importance of a contingency formula of war/peace indicating when a war or a peace begins and ends. Gertrud Brücher wrote Frieden as Form (2002) and later Gewaltspiralen (2011) to compensate this lack in the theory of self-referential systems; but she did not focus on the form of communication and the codes of diplomatic communication according to the historical evolutions of diplomatic self-descriptions.

Yet, Luhmann wrote an important booklet on Trust (Vertrauen, 1968). From this he embarked into studies of risk and mistrust. Diplomacy and peace establishment is constituted by trust in order to cope with mistrust, and we may say that trust re-enters into mistrust, interprets mistrust and interprets war and conflict with peace, negotiations and contracts. Whereas Luhmann in his major general theory of Social Systems (1984) writes about conflict as the continuation of communication but in other means, he does not only paraphrase Clausewitz’ “war is the continuation of politics, but in other means” he also describes how conflicts could be displaced into law and contracts. To Luhmann the evolution of law and contracts was his answer to the solutions necessary to replace war with peaceful if not conflict free and dissent free means.

No other system theory is not even close to the level of theoretical and historical elaboration offered by Luhmann’s theory of self-referential communication systems. In the first section, I shortly introduce some of the basic conceptions of the theory useful for a construction of a system theory of peace (I). In the second section, I mark some of the basic self-references and use communication codes of diplomacy as an example (II). In the third and concluding section, I indicate what diplomatic communication codes mean in the actual modern world.


I. Medium, code, function and system: Giving sense to peace


Niklas Luhmann was not the only one to warn against identifying society with a nation-state, its territory, its population, its language and its narration of a national history. Émile Durkheim, Norbert Elias, Jürgen Habermas, Anthony Giddens and, more recently, Slavoj Zizek have done the same, and before them, perhaps more than any, Karl Marx. The problem is to detect exactly what the problem is. Using Gaston Bachelard’s famous concept, Luhmann describes the distorted identification as an “obstacle épistemologique”. The strive to concretise by identifying society with a certain spot to be circumscribed as the green, yellow or blue surface on a map, repeated over and over in schools for the past two hundred years, dissolves the possibilities to observe exactly what is the object in question. In fact, several obstacles are layered into each other.

Another obstacle is to conceptualise society as if it could be adequately observed as a sum of individuals or eventually as more than the sum of a mass of individuals, as if the little word “more” is adequate to answer questions about the dynamics of the mass. On the contrary, a Dutch society is not more flat than a Swiss, and an American society is not discovered to be heavier than a Japanese even if statistics show that Americans have another bodily weight than Japanese citizens.

Rather, “society” is a concept used in history in order to establish a communication with certain concerns. Above all, “society” is a medium of the communication that takes form in society itself, i.e. in the object in question. Hence the failure or obstacle is to turn immediately to the object rather than to constitute the conceptualisation with the concept of communication. Society is about communication. Society has the form communication offers, and it is very possible that the course of history has led society to communicate about territories, population statistics and grammatically well-defined languages. However, communication has led in all different kinds of directions. The spatial reference of communication has throughout history also and perhaps mainly been occupied with water, with rivers, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the Chinese Sea, but also with marital alliances and links between princes, princesses, uncles, aunts and parents. Even more to the point, the post-Jewish monotheist theologies developed conceptions about a trans-territorial and transcendent spirit of interpretation, whether the Umma or the Holy Spirit enabled synchronisation of communication across huge distances. More than anything, this re-established a conception of society after the dissolution of the Roman societas civilis. Society was constituted as a body of differentiated societal orders and estates (Luhmann 1980). Such a system of orders – to speak with Bodin (1583/1961: 562, 1056) – could use historical records of hereditary privileges in order to structure its own ordered hierarchy and even later on call it national history in order to exclude incomers.

Accordingly Luhmann defines society as a communication system and not a society of individuals, but what is communication? Communication cannot proceed without reference to individuals or space; but above all communication must be able to refer to communication itself and leave individuals, space, organic or mechanical systems outside in the environment of a communication system. Communication is not able to communicate about everything at the same time. Complexities have to be reduced if social communication about any matter should give any actual sense. In a social dimension, communication has to reduce complexities in order to establish communication about any substantial matter in any temporal delimited sense. When sense and nonsense is defined in communication, it is because communication can establish distinctions between left out external complexities and internal reduced complexities handled inside communication. Communication operates with distinctions. But these distinctions are asymmetric; they observe communication from the side of the internal operations of communication, not from the external overly complex side of communication. Thus, the distinction operated in communication can be designated in the following way (Figure 1) just as Niklas Luhmann does when he follows George Spencer Brown’s logical designation technique (Baecker 1999; 2005).


Figure 1. The form of distinction










More advanced communication theories usually go back to a tripartition of communication in order not to reduce communication to a transfer of information or transfer of intention – again two epistemological obstacles well-known to communication analyses. Since Charles Sander Pierce and Karl Bühler, several proposals have designated such tripartitions. Luhmann distinguishes between information, message and understanding. Full communication operates with a temporal dimension of ongoing understanding of information as a substantial dimension in the form of the social dimension of messages. This tripartion could be indicated as in Figure 2.



Figure 2. The form of communication











Thus, understanding is, in fact, only possible if communication can operate with its own understanding of whatever is accounted for as information. Information might appear as if it handles some observation of an outside world, but information only makes sense if operated by an ongoing communication interpreting information as if changing information is the difference that makes a difference to the understanding itself. Such operations are possible because messages take form as all kinds of semantics some of which are coded in binary ways as for example justùunjust peaceùwar or trueùfalse. The operation of such binary codes allows for a duplication of the form of codes, hence the distinction can be handled in a way that in itself is justùunjust; this duplication can be established and in the course of history even monopolised by a legal system that has monopolised communication about the code justùunjust in such a way that it can claim to communicate about it in a just way. Hence Luhmann describes how communication re-enters into itself in a form of self-reference separated from other forms, as law communication is differentiated from political communication, aesthetic communication or communication about war. With a reconstruction proposed by Dirk Baecker this could take a form as sketched in figure 3.


Figure 3. The differentiated form of communication separated from other forms



















Communication =




























The same construction of re-entered communication can be observed in cases of the codes of war and peace. And communication of war could even re-enter into – what Luhmann terms a “structural coupling” of law communication – the communication war has on war, this might happen with the so-called jus in bello and its codes of conduct.

However, operations of war were originally coded in terms belonging to the peace side, such as honour, justice, sacral virtues etc. The tactical codes of war as a form of interchanges about annihilation of force were in operation and can be traced in Roman or Greek warfare. However, war communication had not fully managed to communicate about tactics, strategy and operations; it only did so in the self-referential hard-hitting form that professionalised itself according to its own codes since the Thirty Years War. Ever since Cicero’s Republic and Augustin’s The City of God (book 19, chap. 12), the code peaceùwar was communicated as if it was self-evident that peace was understood as being the side from which the observation of the code was undertaken. This might still apply to systems of legal communication or political communication; however, in war communication the opposite distinction replaced it at latest with the Thirty Years War and, accordingly, Clausewitz could write his masterpiece as if the code peaceùwar was replaced by one of warùpeace as if war could strive towards absolute war without moderation of realities. All functional systems communicate about themselves as if they can neglect the moderations imposed by their environments; this is of course an illusion but, indeed, a very real illusion filled with consequences when wars go on and are planned as if their opponents have no plans of destroying those plans and accordingly planned without thought for constraints to the gravitation centres of moral, sorrow, public opinion, finance and credit.

Here the question is: What happens with the code of peaceùwar observed from the peace loving side?


II. Diplomatic communication about peace


The semantics and codes of peace communication can be observed in diplomatic communication. This entrance to the analysis of peace systems is obvious due to the fact that diplomacy throughout history has been extremely concerned with communication in every obvious way. The role of diplomatic communication has been described according to the communication form that wars begin and stop when diplomacy stops respectively begins.

In his penetrating book A History of Diplomacy, respected British historian Jeremy Black describe three functions typical of modern diplomacy as it emerged since the 17th century: Information gathering, representation, and negotiation (Black 2010: 12, 73ff). Other functions such as tribute and vassalage can also be observed, for instance in the Osman Empire, in Russian traditions, Popal diplomacy and in Chinese Ming or Manchu traditions. If anything was the result of the Westphalian peace system, it would probably appear to be a certain shift in diplomatic communication, a transformation that did not occur during the negotiations in Osnabrück and Münster, but rather in the interpretations that stabilised some of the codes of communication that ex post were traced back to 1648, and even better, they could also be traced back to the Landesfrieden in 1555 or the Italian and especially Venetian republican interaction system of diplomacy. Under Louis XIV, French semantics conditioned a diplomatic communication structurally established and coupled to a bureaucratic organisation system. Diplomats travelled to other monarchies instructed with codified dispatches as if they were commissioned as commissaries, later called intendants or prefects. They should inform about who, how and what (Harste 2013; King 1948; Bely 1990; they should negotiate for and represent their absent monarch This was no evident commission given the fact that the telegraph, not to say telephone, internet or even a regular postal service was well established. Black describes the interdependency of those functions as if they were held together by the communication form figured above. Hence I will re-describe diplomatic communication as in Figure 4.



Figure 4. The form of diplomatic communication










The representation form enables the temporal dimension of ongoing communication. Representation is about a lot of often extremely costly rituals establishing what communication theory normally calls phatic communication: keep in touch, especially when the presence of political decision-makers (princes, ministers, generals) is quite absent.

The communication established among diplomats emerged as a form structurally coupled to the organisation system of foreign ministries. The French foreign ministry was probably the first ministry to departmentalise itself into resorts, simply because foreign affairs have many sides. In other states, the departmentalisation into resorts often followed linguistic skills, but in Paris and among diplomats the language was French anyway, especially after the transition with Versailles, Colbert and Louis XIV 1660-1680. Organisation systems can be observed with system theory as communication systems specialised in decisions are always in the temporal form of decisions about decisions (Luhmann 2000). Furthermore, organisation systems do include members and offer them positions as responsible persons in hierarchies according to a stratified ordered society; responsibility is communicated as a form that can be delegated and, in extreme cases, decentralised by sending persons far away from the present organisation to re-present positions. This construction was established by the church organisation of a body of monks, coordinated and synchronised inside the communication form of a Holy Spirit. During the 17th century, this theologically interpreted corpus spiritus was replaced by a secular form of an esprit de corps that permitted delegates to interpret their commissions according to the same codes present at the organisational and political centre, for instance in the councils and the court in Versailles.

Thus, as a whole, war communication took place as a certain self-codifying form; but it was structurally coupled to the war system, inside it but also striving for control of war, at least from a distant position, organisation systems did increase their decision-making communication and their organisational complexities; then again, inside organisational systems, diplomatic communication took place in a form oscillating between internal and external positions. Diplomatic communication could very seldom offer anything like a securitisation of a link between internal decision-making operations and external negotiations. Stretching the figures of form analyses to their outmost possibilities, the form of classic early modern diplomatic communication could be sketched somewhat sophisticated as in Figure 5.


Figure 5. The form of diplomatic communication structurally coupled to war communication and organisation systems












organisational decision-making



































Of course there was a paradox inherent to classic diplomatic communication: Displaced and departed negotiators could only negotiate as if they were still to be trusted as representatives, as if they did not have their own interests and as if they somehow were online with the spirit of decision-making present at the organisational centre. Therefore, cities emerged as a medium of credibility where entrusted representatives could inform themselves and at the same time interpret and understand which decisions their far away organisational centre, who financed their costly commission, would favour. Seemingly absurd forms of communication in diplomatic communication offers far less non-sense to the careful symbolisation of respect, politeness and forms of listening inherent in diplomatic communication; a famous example is offered by Rousseau:


The context of what Kant had in mind was provided by Rousseau who, in his somewhat ironical commentary to Abbé Saint-Pierre in Extrait du Projet de paix perpétuelle, wrote about the common sense of diplomatic deliberations that


”From time to time there are convoked in Europe certain general assemblies called Congresses, to which deputies from every State repair solemnly, to return in the same way; where men assemble to say nothing; where all the affairs of Europe are overhauled in detail; where men lay their heads together to deliberate whether the table they sit at shall be square or round; whether the hall shall have six doors or five; whether one plenipotentiary shall sit with his face or his back to the window, whether another shall come two inches further, or less far, into the room on a visit of ceremony: in fine, on a thousand questions of equal importance which have been discussed without any settlement for the last three centuries and are assuredly very fit to engross the statesmen of our own. It is possible that the members of one of these assemblies may, once in a way, be blessed with common sense. It is even not impossible that they may have a sincere desire for the general good. For reasons to be assigned shortly, it is further conceivable that after smoothing away a thousand difficulties, they will receive orders from their sovereigns to sign the Constitution of the Federation of Europe.” (Rousseau 1761/1971: 340)


No doubt, Rousseau himself behaved as a careless communicator with disrespect of everything and everyone. Yet, the main formula for respect and carefully coded communication is found in Le Callières Comment negocier avec les princes from 1716.

The costs covered by those who commissioned the delegate was in itself a symbol of trust; high costs signified the standing of the negotiator at the same time as the centre sending the entrusted diplomat could risk that they invested to much in the symbols. Thus, fixed embassies are a relatively new phenomenon, especially outside Paris, since Paris was, so to say, as a city the centre of negotiation, information and representation. The central position is revealed by the fact that the absolutist Danish king found his foreign minister, Johan Bernstorff, in Paris. He was a Hanoverian diplomat, who was probably, even for a while, a close friend or even the lover of Madame Pompadour; his nephew and two sons later also became foreign ministers, one of them first in Denmark and later in Prussia.

The risky oscillation of diplomatic communication could be short cut with congresses among princes, dukes and others with similar standings. This bracketed the organisation system and even the functional system of war. The mythical position of such meetings is still absolute in the mass media. In reality, diplomats always made the hard work in negotiations, information, argumentation, deliberation among possibilities etc. in such a way that the decisions made were embedded in form of communication responsible to all kinds of accounting. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who had a background as a diplomat in Venice, was sceptical of the possibility for self-referential peace systems to be something that could match war systems. He revised Saint-Pierre’s project about the possibilities of a peace system and his description of classic diplomatic communication signifies the form of meaning he accounts for when describing diplomatic communication.



III. Conclusion


The legacy of classic diplomacy seems obsolete and absurdly embedded in l’ancien regime, but it is not. Rather it was truly an early modern way of communication in a modern functionally differentiated society in which status, at that time, was important, but the point was to communicate across lines of divisions. Divisions took place between different functional systems, different status layers, across borders, cultures and languages (even if the main post-Latin language was French). Already Hugo Grotius displayed how rules and normative orders are possible across confessional divisions (Grotius 1625/1999).

A very important example may give a hint of why communication constituted by codes of honour and respect is not obsolete. When George W. Bush’s diplomacy in 2002 – 2003 should convince the world public and Saddam Hussein that Iraq had delivered on the issue of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the classic (French) diplomatic code of communication said that Hussein, as an Arab clan leader, in no way could admit that he had a less threatening weapon arsenal than he had claimed in his military diplomacy of threats towards Iraq’s most important enemy, Iran. In fact, earlier, USA strongly supported Iraq in its deterrence policy against Iran; materials used in weapons of mass destruction were sold to Iraq in order to build up such deterrence. An Arab leader had to sustain his glory and be feared by his opponents. This is not a substantial question of facts and materials, but an unavoidable and indispensable symbolic fact. This code of honour was far more important in the 6,000-year-old Mediterranean and Mesopotamian cultural context than life and death. In cultures based on honour, the identity of persons and positions is constituted beyond life and death into eternity.

This is well-known to informed diplomacy. Governments that do not recognize such cultural foundations for diplomatic communication will be unable to establish peace communication. Peace systems are not constituted only by one actor or one state. Peace systems are built in co-operation with a system that tolerates differences in actors including differences of their communication form and how they communicate about responsibility and honour. Instrumental responsibility of materials (WMDs) is ontologically secondary to the primary code of deontological communication, which Western diplomats should have known. The result of this neglect was a war that has cost at least 120,000 lives plus an extra one million lives; thousands of US soldiers have been killed and even more continue to commit suicide because of such communication failures. The financial system of the world lost its stability and USA its position as a monolithic superpower.  

A reflexivity of opposed temporal orders is established by such codes. It is possible to proceed into the future with Immanuel Kant’s theory of post-national con-federal networks and his theory of a self-organisation among such systems; at the same time, it is possible, historically, to trace the constitutionalist potentialities detected by Kant back to the legal and organisational means invented and constitutionalised during the pontifical reconstruction of canon law since the 12th century (Thornhill 2008; 2011; Brunkhorst 2012). The European Integration re-constitutionalised the first sufficiently self-referential peace system (Harste 2009). This system does not proceed without risks; it is especially risk differentiated by incoherent system dynamics that unfold their internal temporal structures in unbalanced ways; rather than having a well constitutionalised separation of powers, more than anything the capitalist logics used in its beginnings and, in combination, the intellectual deficit – not any so-called “democratic deficit” – among political elites and mass media has distorted the risk structure of a European peace system. An admittedly risky further conclusion can describe some of the risk structures inherent in a modern future world society. The lack of a political legitimacy of the war induced debt structure of US as a falling star, – or a falling 50 stars – is a political risk outside imagination. At the same time, Chinese diplomacy will induce a more vassalage based peace system not constitutionalised by law and justice but by a far stronger state legacy than the absurdly incoherent Pax Americana. Kant outlined the possibilities of a convergent system among great powers. This is what Europe could hope for, the risk, however, is that a US population, still reluctant to pay taxes after the 1776 – 1783 War of Independence, will be unable to accept China as a main creditor and step into a still more neo-fascist desperate strife for claims of a worldly rule of the American Way of Life.




Abbé Saint-Pierre (1713/1981). Projet pour rendre la paix perpétuelle en Europe I-III, Paris: Garnier Frères.

Autrand, Françoise (1998). ‘Les artisans de paix face a l’État. La diplomatie pontificale’, i P. Contamine (dir.). Guerre et concurrence entre les États européens du XIVe au XVIIIe siècle, Paris: PUF.

Baecker, Dirk (1999). Problems of Form, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Baecker, Dirk (2005). Formen und Formen der Kommunikation, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Bély, Lucien (1993). ‘Les trois paradoxes du congrès d’Utrecht’, i Pierre Chaunu (red.), Les fondements de la paix. Des origines au début du XVIIIe siècle, Paris: PUF.

Bély, Lucien (1990). Éspions et ambassadeurs au temps de Louis XIV, Paris: Fayard.

Black, Jeremy (2010). A History of Diplomacy, London: Reaktion.

Bodin, Jean (1583/1961). Les six livres de la république, Aalen: Scientia.

Brunkhorst, Hauke (2012). ‘The co-evolution of cosmopolitan and national statehood – Preliminary theoretical considerations on the historical evolution of constitutionalism’, in Cooperation and Conflict, June 2012, Vol. 47: 176-199.

Brücher, Gertrud (2002). Frieden als Form. Zwischen Säkularisierung und Fundamentalismus, Opladen: Leske & Budrich.

Brücher, Gertrud (2011). Gewaltspiralen. Zur Theorie der Eskalation, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.

Calières, François de (1716/2006). L’art de négocier sous Louis XIV, Paris: Calligram.

Clausewitz, Carl von (1832/1952). Vom Kriege, Bonn: Dümmler.

Grotius, Hugo (1625/1999). Le droit de la guerre et de la paix, Paris: PUF.

Harste, Gorm (2009). ‘Kant’s Theory of European Integration’, Jahrbuch für Recht und Ethik, Band 17: 53-84.

Harste, Gorm (2011). ’Fear as a medium of communication in asymmetric forms of warfare’ i Distinktion, Vol.12, Issue 2: 193-213.

Harste, Gorm (2013a). ‘The improbable European state. Its ideals observed with social systems theory’ i Robert Egnell, Peter Halden (eds.). New Agendas in Statebuilding, London: Routledge.

Harste, Gorm (2013b) ‘The Big, Large and Huge Case of State-Building – Studying Structural Couplings at the Macro Level‘ in Alberto Febbrajo, Gorm Harste (eds.). Law and Intersystemic Communication: Understanding ”structural coupling, London: Ashgate.

King, James (1948/1972). Science and rationalism in the government of Louis XIV, New York: Octogon Press.

Luhmann, Niklas (1968). Vertrauen, Stuttgart: Enke Verlag (Engl in Power and Trust, 1979).

Luhmann, Niklas (1980). ‘Interaktion in den Oberschichten’, i Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik 1, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Luhmann, Niklas (1984). Soziale Systeme, Frankfurt a.M. (Engl. transl. Social Systems, 1995).

Luhmann, Niklas (1997). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft Band 1-2, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Luhmann, Niklas (2000). Organisation und Entscheidung, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1761/1971). ‘Extrait du projet de paix perpétuelle’, i Oevres Complètes T. 2, Paris: Seuil.

Thornhill, Chris (2008). ‘Towards a historical sociology of constitutional legitimacy’, Theory and Society 37 : 161-197.

Thornhill, Chris (2011). A Sociology of Constitutions. Constitutions and State Legitimacy in Historical-Sociological Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.