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Robert Weiner and Paul Sharp

Scholars acknowledge that there is a close connection between diplomacy and war, but they disagree with regard to the character of this connection—what it is and what it ought to be. In general, diplomacy and war are assumed to be antagonistic and polar opposites. In contrast, the present diplomatic system is founded on the view that state interests may be pursued, international order maintained, and changes effected in it by both diplomacy and war as two faces of a single statecraft. To understand the relationships between diplomacy and war, we must look at the development of the contemporary state system and the evolution of warfare and diplomacy within it. In this context, one important claim is that the foundations of international organizations in general, and the League of Nations in particular, rest on a critique of modern (or “old”) diplomacy. For much of the Cold War, the intellectual currents favored the idea of avoiding nuclear war to gain advantage. In the post-Cold War era, the relationship between diplomacy and war remained essentially the same, with concepts such as “humanitarian intervention” and “military diplomacy” capturing the idea of a new international order. The shocks to the international system caused by events between the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have intensified the paradoxes of the relationship between diplomacy and war.


Mediation is a process of managing or resolving a conflict through the intervention of a third party, based on the consent of the combatants. It is one of the primary diplomatic tools available to third parties seeking to decrease violence, find joint agreements on conflictual issues, and transform bellicose relationships. There are different types of mediators. While mediators are always individuals, the mediating agency providing the basis for mediation in interstate conflicts and civil wars can be a single country, formal or informal groups of countries, regional or global intergovernmental organizations, civil society organizations inside or outside the country in conflict, or even, occasionally, individuals acting on their own. These different types of mediators all take actions bringing the parties together toward an agreement on the substance of the conflict or on the procedure for managing it, without relying on the use of direct force or a law-based authority. However, they differ in their motivations, styles, access to—as well as leverage over—the parties, degree of biasness and neutrality, and their ability for internal coordination. On the path from war to peace, mediation plays an important role. Mediators contribute with marginal but important tasks in the process, including the diagnosis of the problem, getting the parties to the table, finding a formula for a settlement, and helping to work out implementation guarantees as well as many other duties. In order to perform these tasks, mediators need to build trust, mount pressure, and sometimes do both. However, mediation is not the only factor and often not the primary one behind the peaceful settlement of armed conflicts. Whereas there are many structural similarities when mediating between governments (interstate conflicts) versus between governments and nonstate armed actors (civil wars), the primary difference is that civil war contexts are permeated more intensively by issues relating to international recognition, power asymmetry, fragmentation, and complexity.