Values and strategy : from bridges to world attraction
Values point out the general direction toward which people’s actions ought to be directed.
They embody ideas of preferable mode of conduct or end-state of existence. In the field of
International relations, classical realism does not focus upon the leader’s values but upon power (ie., distribution of material capacities between States in order to make war). Less than
secondary variables, values are “futile and deceptive” in this framework. Nevertheless,
international reality provides a good deal of events or practices that reveal the role of values
in history or in current situations.
For instance, Spain and Portugal decided to set up a global line called raya after the
Tordesillas treaty in 1494, confirmed by Pope Jules II in 1506. This atlantic raya is a maritime
and colonial demarcation between these two States. All lands discovered West of the line
belong to Spain, whereas Portugal benefits from lands discovered at East. As these european
States share the same religion, their distribution of earth is embedded in catholic references.
Nowdays, the role of values in international relations takes on three dimensions : strategic,
diplomatic and global. In current strategy, two trends appear. On the one hand, classical
strategists (narrowers) stick to handle resort on force by States or other actors. Struggles for
political existence prevail. Values stand for a cultural variable that may be integrated to
analysis. For instance, strategic culture’s studies show how revisionist powers aim at using force so as to change the international order in the name of idealistic conceptions (case of
Germany before the Second World War). Although these elements do not determine
automatically strategic behavior, they appear as a consistent set of references or a general
context that influence choices. On the other hand, wideners are prone to broaden strategic
issues that are not limited to military components. New sources of conflict both transnational
and enlarged (environmental, criminal, economic, ...) need another paradigm of security that
would rely on “universal values”, as shows it human security, officially diffused by the United Nations Program of Development in 1994.
regarding diplomatic dimension, we must underline the role of values at the state-level but
also at the societal-level. First of all, States put forward cultural diplomacy to practice values’ enrolment. For example, United States used this kind of means during Cold War with the
famous Congress for Cultural Freedom (financed by CIA). After 9/11, the State Departement
was looking up to shape strategic environment thanks to cultural action (development of
public diplomacy). Charlotte Beers, a marketing expert, managed the program Shared Values
so as to change the images of Americans in the world. Besides, societal actors are involved in
such policies by developing informal diplomacy. Non-governmental organizations provide
conflict resolution’s program based on values (East-West Divan orchestra created by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Saïd on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians). Economic
actors imagine new ways to change perceptions of their values in other cultural areas.
Business for Diplomatic Action proposes “to enlist the U.S. business community in actions to improve the standing of America in the world with the goal of once again, seeing America
admired as a global leader and respected as a courier of progress and prosperity for all
people”. In 2006, Mohamed Jameel, a saoudi business man, provided more than 5 million
Euros to build a department devoted to islamic art in the Albert Museum (he intended to
change perceptions of Islam as a source of barbaric practices).
Above the figures of combatant and diplomat, we can identify international institutions and
supranational identities at a global level. Both of them must be tackled through values. For
instance, multilateralism must not be restricted to a diplomatic tool. It stands for a way of life
in a world where equality of humans and unity of humanity are moral duties. At this level, the
questions are : how this process of universalization is carried out ? What values can be
In this contribution, I propose to connect strategic and global dimensions for two reasons. stFirstly, there is a strong link between war and globality. Total wars in 21 century entail a radicalization of globalization towards a material (interdependances increase) and mental
point of view. Secondly, development of new policing wars “au nom de l’humanité” means the existence of universal values. But, as Rory Stewart underlines it in his last book (The Places in between), “ Implicit denial of the difference between cultures is the new mass brand
of international intervention”.
In International relations, three postures about the role of values. A middle-range posture defends the idea that two bridges can be built between values and resort on force and rejects
therefore minimalism (which denies the role of values) and maximalism (which overestimates the understanding of international facts by cultural factors). According to Krasner, values are
mobilized “by the very powerful perhaps also the very weak, by those who can make things
happen and those who cannot change what happens”. Therefore, a relation between differential of power and projection of values is identified. Strategic configuration since 9/11
provides an empirical example of these relations. A superpower, as Aron underlined it, has to
diffuse ideas so as to set up an international order. After 9/11, the Bush administration
opposes two worlds. On the one hand, the USA and their allies defend freedom. On the other
hand, President Bush fears that Al-Qaïda reinforces its goal, which “is not making money” but consists in “remaking the world and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere”. Ben Laden uses the same formal dualism in his discourses. He opposes his interpretation of
islam to what he identifies as american values.
The concept of heterogeneity, created by P. Papaligouras in the middle of XXth century,
stands for a second bridge between values and resort on force. This heuristic tool allows to set
up lines between homogeneous international society and heterogeneous ones. Composed by
States that share the same values and political regimes, the former are more stable than the
latter. In heterogeneous international societies, wars are frequent because of values’ struggle. Based on this distinction, resort on force by States in homogeneous society can be explained
by two elements : to identify a threatening heterogeneous State (or rebell actor) ; to socialize
this State (or this actor) by force. Thus, homogeneization of international society aims at
producing a global inclusivity. In other words, this project is nourished by a spaceless
C. Schmitt identifies this trend of homogeneization by inscribing it as the result of an
historical process. Modernity has produced a Jus Publicum Europaeum to end the Middle Age wars and to regulate resort on force. This is a breaking change because it creates a new
humanised ? nomos of earth ?, i.e., a permanent principle of space distribution, that usually
consists in seizing, sharing out and exploiting territories. Within the new international law of ththe XX century, war becomes illegal. The enemy becomes a criminal : on the one hand no
negociations can take place with him, on the other hand he must be punished. The relation
that Carl Schmitt sees is the exact opposite of the relation described by Kant : this change
within the law has given rise to Total Wars, the denial of hostility is the root of absolute
hostility. The goal of war is not to fight an enemy but to annihilate it under the assumption he
is guilty. In this view, Carl Schmitt sees a correlation between this criminalization of the
enemy and the increasing resort on aerial wars, which leads to the suppression of the other.
For him, american foreign policy is one of the ideological source of such practices. The birth
of the USA seems creation of a new political world above corruption, that has to be protected
from the old european one. Such identity have been translated by the attitude of neutrality that
Washington and Jefferson had adopted earlier. Because of total wars, the USA were requested
to intervene and to change this attitude. The end of isolation entails a pan-interventionism in
order to shape humanity as a whole. Once a world among others, USA now represent the
whole world (the source of values that everybody must adopt). Debates on just war after 9/11
is part of this process as illustrates the open letter written by sixty thinkers untitled “What are
we fighting for?” for instance.
Above these bridges, which give rise to a dilemma, a main process is appearing : world
attraction in favor of a political unity. In 1758, Wolff was the first philosopher to imagine a
multitude of men unified in a great city on earth. This civitas gentium maxima meant
humanity as a whole. But it was a fiction. Nowdays, humanity seems to have a more concrete
dimension. It is not only an idea or an imagined community. Humanity has a patrimony. It
stands for a norm. This process is redrawing lines. Furthermore, it erases all spatial lines.
That’s why current cosmopolitism criticizes the kantian project, which is now outdated
because of the importance it was giving to seovereign States. Cosmopolitism rhymes with a
universal political body and this attraction causes the dilemma regarding values.
From a theoretical and a methodological points of view, I think that “geopolitics of values”
carefully must be handled carefully. Initially, it stands for a contradictory approach unless we
consider geopolitics as an holistic discipline that denies its epistemological foundation : a
parcimonious explanation focused on territorial control. I prefer to speak about dialectic of
values that are embodied in political forms and part of the world attraction process. Today,
lines are not only spatial but also “susbtantive”, as they expressed what the international order
Frédéric Ramel, June 2009