Àlvaro de Soto
In his introductory chapter to the 2009 edition of the indispensable Satow's Guide to Diplomatic Practice, Sir Ivor Roberts defines diplomacy as “the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of official relations between the governments of independent states,” and quotes the Duc de Broglie to the effect that diplomacy is “the best means devised by civilization for preventing international relations from being governed by force alone” (Roberts, 2009).
There have been diplomats since time immemorial, but diplomacy as we know it began to take shape with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. What we refer to loosely as the Westphalian system, including the bedrock notion of the sovereignty of states, remains the framework within which diplomacy is conducted. The Congress of Vienna, almost two centuries later, codified the basis for diplomatic representation in its Règlement de 1815, and with it the practice of diplomacy as a distinct profession.
Like World War I, World War II represented a catastrophic failure of the system. The repair work began early in the War, and the centerpiece that emerged was the collective security system as embodied in the United Nations. The dream was spoiled soon after its creation with the onset of the Cold War, which left the collegiality of the five permanent members of the Security Council on which it was premised in tatters. Yet the near-universal instrument that now regulates the conduct of ...