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6. Suspension of South Africa 12-Military Budget 19-Peaceful
13-Future of Korea Settlements 8- Nuclear Tests
14-UN Charter 20-Chile
[From the New York Times Magazine, May 4, 1975]
THE UNITED STATES VERSUS THE U.N.?
WE MAY BE OUTVOTED NOW, BUT VOTING IS ONLY ONE WAY TO MAKE DECISIONS-WE
SHOULD TRY OTHERS, FOR THERE IS STILL MUCH IMPORTANT WORK TO BE DONE
(By Harlan Cleveland) On Nov. 11, 1974, the adult leaders of the Little League, a baseball organization for children 8 to 12, announced that henceforth their World Series would be limited to American teams. They did not say why. But the news item reported, deadpan, that teams from Taiwan and Japan have captured seven of the past eight championships. The incident reflects a mood and raises a question about the capacity of Americans to adjust to a world in which power is diffused, centers of decision are plural-and, even when our national game is played, Americans do not always win.
Americans certainly haven't been winning lately. We and our Western European partners have been on the receiving end of more international flak than at any other moment in our history-some of it from people who have been beneficiaries of our bounty, protected by our power and educated in our universities. At a U.N. Special Assembly called last year to consider a "new international economic order,” we were accused of wasting energy and minerals, building weapons we don't need, polluting the air and the oceans, eating too much and contributing to the poverty and starvation of others. The U.N.'s "automatic majority”—nearly all the Latins, all the black Africans, the Arabs, the Iranians, the South Asians, most of the Southeast Asians and all the different kinds of Communists—had no difficulty, in a one-country-one-vote assembly, passing resolutions advocating more economic help from those who vote no to those who vote yes. And subsequently, at the General Assembly, the same globe-girdling majority excluded South Africa from its debate, royally received a Palestinian guerrilla leader, and, in the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, excluded Israel from a regional caucus-all actions opposed by the United States.
On Dec. 6, the United States Ambassador to the U.N., John Scali, cleared his Government's throat and warned that the U.N. was fading into "the shadow world of rhetoric, abandoning its important role in the real world of negotiation and compromise . Support is eroding-in our Congress and among our people. Some of the foremost American champions of this organization are deeply distressed at the trend of recent events.” Ten Western Ambassadors spoke in similar vein. “We cannot overlook,” said the French delegate, Louis de Guiringaud, “the drawbacks of adopting so many short-lived resolutions each longer than the last, one a repetition of the other-virtually unreadable and sometimes not read, even by their sponsors. No newspaper in the world reproduces them. The United Nations thus runs the risk of living in a closed world.”
The replies from the non-Western delegations were sharp. Their common theme was that the West had had the votes and had victimized the rest of the world for a generation, and now it was the rest of the world's turn to victimize the West. The West hadn't seen anything wrong with the “tyranny of the majority" when it was used to partition Palestine, to keep Peking out, to bar North Korea from U.N. debates. Huang Hua of China gloated from the sidelines : "The world is progressing amid turbulence ... peoples want revolution. ... The present world situation is excellent."
Yet many of the replies were also tinged with conciliation: The educated leaders of developing nations do not really believe that resolutions feed people or hasten economic growth. “We here are not a parliament,” said Fereydoun Hoveyda, Iran's representative and brother of the Shah's Prime Minister. "Here we have to try to find in common-I stress the words 'in common?—solutions to the world's problems. To form a majority or act as a minority can lead to nothing constructive. A dialogue between the various schools of thought in our assembly must begin. The time for monologues is past.”
We made this lumpy diplomatic bed ourselves, of course. The Americans and other Westerners who wrote the United Nations Charter were programed by Magna Charta, Montesquieu, Jefferson, the United States Constitution and General Robert's “Rules of Order." Majority rule and parliamentary procedure were
1 Harlan Cleveland, an Assistant Secretary of State and a U.S. Ambassador to NATO in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, is now director of the Aspen Institute's Program in International Affairs at Princeton, NJ.
their narrow, procedure-oriented definition of democracy; the carry-over from one-man-one-vote to one-nation-one-vote was a natural. In setting up the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as affiliated United Nations agencies, the affluent voters weighed the voting according to affluence; even Jefferson limited the application of his philosophy when it came to money matters. In the Security Council they reserved the right of veto, blaming it on the Russians. But in the General Assembly and the specialized and functional agencies that radiate from it, they nailed down the principle of the juridical equality of nations. The number of juridically equal units in the world has tripled since then.
We didn't notice at first what a silly system this always was, because the automatic majority of the first 51 members were our friends or clients (sometimes both). Warren Austin, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and Adlai Stevenson, all of whom went directly from American politics to become American Ambassadors to the U.N., won many a domestic plaudit by mobilizing a coalition of the righteous to flay with rhetorical scorn and then vote down the Kremlin's pitiful band of 5 to 11 votes; the subject of the resolutions was Communist behavior. (During the Kennedy Administration, when I was working on U.N. affairs in Washington, I once asked Senator Hubert Humphrey why Stevenson had so much less clout in Congress than he did in the country and around the world. "We're jealous,” said Humphrey with his disarming frankness. “We work for a week on a major Senate speech, and it gets two paragraphs on page 36. All Adlai has to do is walk across the street and come out against the Communists, and he's on page 1 with a photo.")
Showboating tactics are still in vogue-and about as ineffective in getting things done. The earlier resolutions had little discernible effect on the minority's behavior, and the same is true of the latterday resolutions. Only now the automatic minority has a new set of targets : Afrikaners, Israelis and the industrial rich.
To be in the minority is uncomfortable, of course. We may in consequence become less obsequious in our public rhetoric; candor is as refreshing in international politics as in the domestic variety. Daniel P. Moynihan has implied (during his brief period of free speech as Harvard professor) that we should not be so polite at the United Nations, that we have failed to make ourselves understood. But that is a comment on style. The unanswered question is whether the Government thinks that a change in style is a substitute for American leadership in building the institutions of interdependence.
The U.N.'s main problem is not that Americans are sore. Its main problem is that the system is not coping with interdependence-because its members, including ourselves, haven't decided that they want it to. The instruments intended to "harmonize the actions of nations” are so clearly no match for conflict, poverty and runaway technology that most people in every nation display toward them a mixture of uninterest and dismay.
In the decade of the nineteen-forties, a war-generated spasm of creativity brought into being a cumulation of functional global andl regional international agencies for relief, collective security, technological cooperation, technical assistance, development lending and the regulation of trade and money. The dominant mood in 1975, about this legacy of the forties, is disenchantment. Americans are not only impatient with the General Assembly; they are annoyed with their allies and tired of foreign aid. Instruments of collective security and allied consultation are eroded by big-power strategies of coexistence and détente. A semiunited Western Europe and a suddenly powerful Japan still are embarrassingly dependent on the United States for their security and on Middle Eastern monarchs and colonels for their energy. And the developing nations of three continents find that bloc voting in global assemblies fails to redistribute the world's wealth, or even give promise of avoiding a crisis of survival, beginning almost immediately, for milliions of human beings.
The U.N. Charter and compacts of 30 years ago simply did not predict or provide for the now foreseeable vital issues in "harmonizing the actions on nations.” Many important trends of the present era are, taken together, clearly adverse to the self-fulfillment of nearly every human being, and to the survival of a large minority of the human race. Most of the thoughtful American statesmen who helped write the Charter were apprehensive that the U.N. might do something damaging to our independence. But now the danger is that the U.N. which is all of us, will fail to do something decisive about our interdependence.
Although it is clear enough that the U.N. isn't coping, the knee-jerk debate between let's-stay-in and let's-get-out schools is an exercise in irrelevance. The
real questions are more difficult–indeed, more interesting : What functions are simply going to have to be handled internationally, because they require decisions too big or too sensitive to be left to individual nation-states? To what extent can those functions be handled by reforming the U.N.? And what functions will require new social invention?
INTERNATIONAL PEACE-KEEPING The early United Nations doctrine was that an “aggressor” would be deterred or defeated by the overwhelming might of the rest of mankind. The hidden premise was that the World War II Allies (who had called themselves the United Nations in wartime, too) would stick together. The cold war, of course, changed the game, though the rules were never rewritten. One nation's aggression became another's “war of liberation" or "aid to beleaguered allies.” The U.N. could not do what its members did not want it to do.
In the nuclear confrontation, the peace has been kept by a credible and mutual fear, nobody who studies the potential of nuclear weapons thinks they are very usable. In day-to-day world politics, they are not even very useful for brandishing.
But in less-than-global warfare, there turned out to be a U.N. peace-keeping function not really envisaged in the charter. Several times in the Middle East, and in a dozen other places, mediation and physical separation of combatants by an operational third party, acting on a mandate from the "general opinion of mankind,” has proved to be both practical and indispensable. The ethnic and economic rivalries of the future will certainly require an enhanced capacity of the U.N.-or, in a pinch, less-than-global “consortia of the concerned"—to send peace teams, ranging from a single mediator to a division or two of "soldiers without enemies," into the no-man's land between combatants.
Similarly, in arms control, an international capacity to monitor, inhibit and collectively frustrate the actions of individual nations will surely be needed. The traffic in "conventional arms”-no longer obsolete leftovers from the big-power military arsenals but the most up-to-date weaponry that money can buy—is now enormous; each supplier says he's doing it only because if he doesn't others will get the business. The situation is ripe for agreements in restraint of a dangerous trade. Moreover, a dozen nations now have, and two or more dozen will have before long, the stuff and the know-how to convert their nuclear fuel into nuclear warheads.
An international system is also necessary to coordinate the international policing of terrorism as the miniaturization of high explosives puts more power in the hands of guerrilla groups and individual desperadoes.
PLANETARY BARGAINING An extraordinary political bazaar will very likely be at the center of things in the coming decade. In its varied boutiques, groups of nations will try to arrive at practical agreements about the price and supply of energy, management of food reserves, access to scarce raw materials, the stabilization of commodity markets, the limitation of population growth rates, the transfer of technology, the meeting of minimum human needs—in sum, the distribution of wealth and opportunity among the equal and the unequal.
The nature of this new peace game and the initial distribution of the chips are easier to predict than the international auspices under which the planetary bar. gains will be struck, monitored, enforced and renegotiated. Rhetoric in United Nations assemblies has doubtless helped make necessary a planetwide negotiation about who gets what, and when and how and why. The question is: Can the United Nations system develop (will its members permit it to develop?) the operational capacity to manage this deadly serious game-to administer the rulemaking, to monitor the keeping of agreements, to mobilize sanctions against those who break their agreements?
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT The United States and other industrial nations have gradually learned that bilateral giving does not buy durable political friendships for the grantor or political freedoms for the grantee. In consequence, the U.N. system, including the World Bank, is now the world's largest purveyor of development aid. In this aspect of the United Nations, there is much to build on, but the bargaining about who gets to decide what will be intense.