The Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648 in the Rathaus of Muenster, Germany, ended one of Europe’s bloodiest periods: the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) fought mostly on German soil, and 80 years of war between Spain and the Dutch Republic. Today two nations that benefitted from that peace treaty, Germany and the Netherlands (it achieved its independence as a result), are the framework nations for a multinational NATO High Readiness Corps headquartered in Muenster.
Last week I attended an interagency symposium hosted by the 1st German/Netherlands Corps held at both the Corps headquarters and in the Peace Room (Friedenssaal), the signatory room of the Peace of Westphalia. Below you can see a photo of our symposium and a work of art depicting the 1648 ratification. In terms of comparisons, we had about 100 participants at our event, while the diplomats represented at the peace treaty numbered about 200. Some of our participants were women, unlike in 1648. Our own EUCOM diplomat, Ambassador Heather Hodges, the interim Civilian Deputy to the Commander, was present at our meeting and is in the front row. Another contrast: the diplomats of 17th century Europe stayed in Muenster much longer than we did, as the treaties were negotiated over 5 years - we were there for just a day.
Why were we in Muenster? We got together to discuss the relevance of NATO’s “Comprehensive Approach.” There werediplomats present, as previously mentioned, and soldiers, academics, and representatives from think-tanks, NGOs, and international organizations such as the UN and International Red Cross. The consensus of those attending the symposium? That just as back in 1648, collaboration and cooperation are essential for peace. We agreed that the “3D” approach (Diplomacy, Development, Defense) is a necessary answer to the crises of the world. It is, in fact, indispensable.
Complex modern-day crises compel all stakeholders to sit with each other, to dialogue (“interaction on steroids,” as one participant noted), to share information, to be transparent and to use the “Comprehensive Approach” as a means to an end. This is not unlike what the diplomats of the 17th century were compelled to do in Muenster in order to bring about a commonly sought peace after decades of war.
EUCOM’s J9 Interagency Partnering Directorate has been working closely with the German/Dutch Corps over the past 10 months, building a table-top exercise (18-21 September) called “COMMON EFFORT” which will exercise a “3D” response to a notional crisis. Our aim -- as was noted by a Dutch speaker at the symposium -- is to seek a solution to a crisis which is “as civilian as possible, and as military as necessary.” We recognize that the military will likely often be a part of a solution to an international emergency. But we also recognized that the military was not and should not be the whole solution. For that reason, it is essential that we at EUCOM and other military commands, work closely with diplomats, development officials, and non-governmental stakeholders in order to achieve pragmatic solutions on the ground.
It was a unique experience to be in the same famed, gabled structure that once played host to one of the most famous peace treaties in European and western history. It was inspiring to be there in that room and to be surrounded by other national representatives -- French, British, Turkish, Dutch, Spanish, Norwegian, Swiss, German -- all endorsing a practical, realistic methodology for dealing with today’s crises, the “Comprehensive Approach.” Perhaps that is the way it felt back in the spring of 1648…
J9 Interagency Partnering Directorate