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[have) used the organization." 11 Their evidence is drawn from a wide range of instances, but their argument seeks mainly to establish the extent to which the United Nations operates as an anti-Israeli force rather than as an objective organization bent on fulfilling the purposes of its Charter. Here, the main complaint against the United Nations is partly ideological, partly normative. On an ideological level the critique arises out of opposition to the pursuit of Third World goals in United Nations arenas; on a normative level the critique emphasizes the gap between the Charter as organic instrument and the United Nations as political actor.12 On both counts, however, the complaint is irrelevant. The United Nations is inevitably a political actor that cannot be constrained by any underlying constitutional document, although its actions may be influenced, if not determined, by constitutional guidelines. To complain about the politicization of the United Nations represents either a confusion or, more likely, a substantive dissent from the kind of political positions that are ascendant at a given time. Who can seriously maintain that in the early Cold War years the United Nations was not every bit as much a political actor as it was during the 29th General Assembly? The United Nations political character in those earlier years was highlighted by the Korean operation. Indeed, at that time the United Nations provided a global cover for a military operation that was to all intents and purposes an American

I would argue that the main organs of the United Nations will either be truly impotent or they will actively pursue political ends. If those political ends are perceived as abhorrent to the purposes of peace and justice in the world, then it is reasonable to conclude that the Organization is a dangerous place. However, criteria of peace and justice must be set forth with some clarity and objectivity to enable such a judgment. In my view, the recent swing of sentiment on principal issues is cumulatively in the direction of peace and justice, although not necessarily on each and every issue in question. This judgment rests heavily on my assumption that the world's primary needs, at present, is for the redistribution of dignity and wealth, both to alleviate poverty and to build the kind of participatory system that can eventually design and carry out drastic global reforms.13

It should be understood that this approval of Assembly action is based on what I feel it is possible to expect within an intergovernmental context. Of course, many of the Third World governments that are the most progressive on an international stage pursue contradictory policies toward their own people. Therefore, there is an element of hypocrisy in such posturing and some mixed effects arising from so-called policies of redistribution. Is social justice really enhanced when purchasing power is transferred from taxpayers in industrial democracies to sheiks on the Persian Gulf? I think it is possible to endorse the progressive demands now being made on the international level, while calling attention to the failure of governments to implement these same demands within their own domestic societies.

The United States has a reputation for wild fluctuations of mood with respect to world policy.14 In recent decades, these fluctuations often centered upon the two major post-war experiments to create global political institutions for maintaining world peace. In many respects, Woodrow Wilson was the prime champion of the League idea, and yet the United States Senate refused to ratify the treaty of participation. Similarly, with the United Nations, it was American promotion of the UN idea that accounted for holding the preparatory conference in San Francisco and locating the Organization itself in New York, rather than elsewhere. Other governments, as well, felt that in light of the League experience it was important to make the UN seem like a part of the United States, and not something remote and alien in character. Through the years the United States has been by far the largest single financial contributor to the work of the Organization. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this positive attitude was partially contingent upon the existence and expectation of favorable political winds. Up through the Korean War, even until the early 1960's, the United States could command support in the United Nations for any position, or at least ávoid an adverse decision about which it seriously cared. Thus, both the tenor of debate and the formal actions of the political organs accorded roughly with American foreign policy references.

The watershed of pro-American sentiment within the United Nations was perhaps the Stanleyville Operation of December 1964, the occasion of a joint American United Kingdom-Belgium airlift in the Congo to rescue the thousands

Footnotes at end of Article.

of Europeans and North Americans stranded in the midst of a civil war and held hostage by one side. In retrospect, what was most revealing was the depth of African suspicions about American intentions, and America's corresponding attitude of apparent disbelief that its proclaimed humanitarian motives could be seriously questioned in a public forum. The American delegate in the Security Council, then Adlai Stevenson, protested American innocence. "... the sole aim of my government has been and is to assist in the rescue of innocent civilians endangered by rebel activities in violation of international law." 15

At that time there was a far greater tendency to accept Ambassador Stevenson's words at face value than would be the case today. By 1975, American credibility has been much more seriously damaged, especially by a decade of military intervention in Indochina and by a series of CIA disclosures substantiating allegations of covert operations ranging from assassination plots to the "destabilization" of constitutionally elected governments. Nevertheless, even in 1964 Africa's angry reaction suggested a deeper Third World opposition to any developed country's use of force in a Third World region, regardless of pretext. Also, and not unreasonably, the African participants in the dabate saw the operation as an attempt by Europeans and North Americans to tip the balance in an ongoing civil war in order to satisfy their own diplomatic goals and economic greed, as well as to remind recently independent African counrties that while colonialism may have collapsed as a formal system, new geopolitical forms of imperialism had emerged to take its place. My point is that in the years since Stanleyville there has been an intensification of these psychological trends, abetted by certain other factors such as the loss of American prestige as a consequence of defeat in Indochina, the rise of world social crises in relation to famine and poverty, the collapse of the liberal economic ideology based on prospects for indefinite economic growth, the increasing articulation of a Third World position that is anti-Soviet as well as anti-American, the success of OPEC strategy and the possibility of its extension to other sectors of North-South economic relations, the addition of India, another Third World country, to the nuclear club, and the political success achieved by the Palestinian Liberation Organization through recourse to international terroristic tactics. Although there are some counter-trends, these factors have all been components in the weakening of America's relative world position. This weakening has been underscored by severe economic setbacks for all advanced industrial countries including the United States and involves major issues such as inflation, rising unemployment, and declines in total economic output.

It is in this wider setting of world developments that we should appreciate the recent upsurge of negative American attitudes toward the United Nations. In China's first major address in the United Nations, delivered on 3 October 1972 by its chief delegate Ambassador Chiao Kuan-Hua, the following passage appears near the end :

The World is at a crossroads and so is the United Nations. If the United Nations is to regain its prestige and play its due role, it must conform to the trend of the world, truly express the just demands of large numbers of its members and the people of the world, act strictly in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and free itself from the manipula

tion and control by the big powers. The events of the session of the General Assembly definitely move symbolically in the direction advocated by China and supported by the overwhelming majority of member governments. Mr. Chiao Kuan-Hua went on to warn that unless the United Nations did so move "it would be very difficult” for it “to avoid eventually taking the old path of The League of Nations.” 17

What is at stake, then, is very fundamental: first, how do we interpret the forces of history? Second, how do we understand the American relationship to these forces? Third, how should the United States Government express this understanding in its role as a leading member of the United Nations ?

I would emphasize the close links between the questions posed in the United Nations arena, and other controversies involving America's political identity :

What do we do about the American covert operations program in foreign societies?

What do we do with our surplus food capacity in a world confronted by massive shortages and large-scale famine?

What do we do about the OPEC challenge?


Footnotes at end of Article.

What do we do to safeguard our "security” in terms of defense spending, arms sales and transfers, and arms control?

The approaching Bicentennial year itself provides a convenient symbolic occasion to reconsider the whole issue of American political identity. It could be a time of national renewal and rediscovery. Our roots are progressive and revolutionary, dependent on the politics of change and conscious of the link between true independence and dignity. Such renewal and rediscovery would lead Americans, I am convinced, to celebrate rather than bemoan the cumulative drift of initiative in the United Nations. The choice narrows, I think, to girding ourselves to ward off the barbarians at the gates, or to joining those governments and social forces seeking a more equitable and durable system of world order.

Thus, I think the debate on United Nations activity is crucial for the posture we take toward the future of world order. As yet, the Third World itself, including the Chinese, have provided only a negative vision based on what Houari Boumedienne of Algeria has called "a dialectic of struggle.” 18 But more than confrontation, more even than redistribution, is needed. A positive vision of how to construct an equitable system of world order must be shaped in the years ahead, and for this endeavor we must solicit the active participation of all major cultures and ideologies throughout the world.19 The General Assembly can play a major positive role in this process by providing a forum within which the main lines of intergovernmental consensus on global reform can take shape. It may be naive to envisage such a role, at present, for governments are generally locked into the logic of the state system and are not likely to take the miliative in formulating the case for a post-statal system. The future is likely to mix many elements of the present, to become centrally guided for practical reasons despite the preferences of governments, and officials who rise to prominence in some countries may begin to be imbued with a sense of loyalty and identification that goes beyond the citizenry of their individual states. One day, national leaders may even find it "realistic" to believe that the future of their countries can only be secured by genuine commitments to the well-being of the world as a whole 20

Of course, this is a dream, but we desperately need dreams to awaken from a dangerous form of sleep. On a more optimistic note, there seems to be some slight indication that the pendulum of official American perceptions may be swinging back from the strident denunciation of the Organization following the last session of the General Assembly. In this regard, it seems appropriate to call attention to a speech made by the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Joseph J. Sisco, to the World Affairs Council in San Diego on January 23, 1975:

“We overestimated the potential of the United Nations at its birth in 1945. We tended to view the creation of this institution as synonymous with solutions to the problems. We know better today. At the same time, we must exercise care not to underestimate its positive contributions to peace. The United Nations is not an entity apart from its membership. The U.N.'s imperfections mirror the imperfections of the world in which the United Nations operates.” 21 It is only necessary to add that what constitutes an imperfection depends upon the eye of the beholder; Undersecretary Sisco's important point is the extent to which the political organs of the United Nations inevitably mirror the priorities of the majority of governments that comprise its 138 state membership. From this it follows that the more political the organ, the more direct the mirroring effect. Hence, of course, the General Assembly will reflect the sentiments of the Third World. And it is equally true that such political majorities are not coordinated with ratios of economic or military power in the world. Indeed, it is quite possible that this state of affairs provides a healthy compensation for such imbalances, especially if some controversies can be resolved on the terrain of symbolic action—legitimacy struggles—instead of on the battlefield.

A caveat is in order. It remains uncertain whether an assembly composed of the governments of sovereign states can develop a set of policies designed to promote human and planetary interests as a whole. As matters now stand, governments seem too short-sighted and selfish to cooperate for the general good, furthermore, many governments do not even represent their national citizenry as a whole, but pursue the interests of a dominant class, race, religion, ruling group, or sub-national region. Perhaps governments can be sufficiently reformed from

Footnotes at end of Article.

within so as to represent both wider interests of humanity and the particular interests of their own society. However, the prospects are not now bright, and until such changes occur one must be skeptical about the positive potential for global reform that can be achieved within any intergovernmental framework, including even that of the United Nations.

Therefore, I am urging that this Committee see the United Nations in the broader setting of global concerns. It is partly a matter of appreciating its fundamental character as a forum for communication, where claims and controversies are aired, and partly a matter of grasping its growing stature as a quasi-legislative body that can mobilize public opinion around certain positions. Beyond this, the political organs of the United Nations, especially the General Assembly, may help build a global understanding of the need for longer-range planning and vastly augmented mechanisms for global coordination than presently exist. In reevaluating the role of the United Nations, let us not lose sight of these fundamental purposes served by the Organization, even if some of us find ourselves disappointed by some recent positions taken in the General Assembly with respect to particular controversies. Our most basic national interest is to strengthen the drift toward a global process of decision that the United Nations represents, and we should not be diverted from this priority. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim is surely correct when he says "... the achievements of the United Nations are nothing compared with its potentialities.": 22


1. Kurt Waldheim, “The United Nations -A Reflection of the Realities of the Modern World,” Review of International Affairs, No. 594, Jan. 5, 1975, pp. 3-4, at p. 3.

2. For discussion of this role see I. Claude, “Collective Legitimization as a PO litical Function of the United Nations,” 20 International Organization 367 (1966).

3. American statement reprinted as Scali, “U.S. Warns that Present Voting Trends May Overshadow Positive Achievements of the United Nations," 72 Bull. State Dep't 114, at 116 (1975).

4. For an official explanation of the American position see speech by Sen. Charles Percy, also delivered on December 6, 1974, in his capacity as U.S. Repre. sentative to the General Assembly. Percy, “U.S. Votes Against Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States,” 72 Bull. State Dep’t 146 (1975).

5. Scali supra note 2, at 115, 116.

6. The most widely noticed argument in academic circles is that put forward by Professor Robert C. Tucker of Johns Hopkins University. See Tucker, "Oil : the Issue of American Intervention,” 59 Commentary 21 (1975); the most direct official statement was a carefully qualified assertion by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the course of an interview with the editors of Business Week Magazine. "I'm not saying that there's no circumstance where we would not use force. But it is one thing to use it in the case of a dispute over price; it's another where there is actual strangulation of the industrialized world." Interview text reprinted in "Secretary Kissinger Interviewed for Business Week Magazine,” 72 Bull. State Dep't 97, 101 (1975).

7. As Kissinger put it in the same interview, "The political problem is that the whole Western world, with the possible exception perhaps of the United States, is suffering from political malaise, from inner uncertainty and a lack of direction.” Id. at 99. Elsewhere Kissinger said, “[T]he aspect of contemporary life that worries me most is the lack of purpose and direction of so much of the Western world." "Secretary Kissinger Interviewed for 'Bill Moyers' Journal," 72 Bull. State Dep’t 165, at 166 (1975). The fragility of the West is also expressed by critics of a military approach to the OPEC challenge. For instance, Zbigniew Brzezinski writes: "... the threat of military action is simply not credible ... an American failure, following an abortive intervention, could mean the disintegration of the West." Brzezinski, “Recognizing the Crisis," 17 Foreign Policy 63, at 69 (1974–75). Pro-interventionists argue to the exactly opposite effect.

8. On this theme see G. Barraclough, "The Great World Crisis I” in The N.Y. Rev. of Books, January 23, 1975, at 20-29; F. Ajami, "Scenarios of Doom : Scapegoating and Backlash Politics" (unpublishedmimeo., Jan. 1975).

9. A. Yeselson and A. Gaglione, A Dangerous Place: The United Nations as a Weapon in World Politics (1974).

10. Id. at X.

11. Id. at 196.

12. This argument is developed at some length in R. Falk, "The United Nations : Various Systems of Operations,The United Nations in International Politics 184–230 (L. Gordenker, ed., 1971).

13. R. Falk, A Study of Future Worlds (1975).

14. See the rather intriguing conclusion that there is a predictable cycle of introversion (twenty-one years) and extroversion (twenty-seven years) in American foreign policy reached by Frank Klingberg, in "The Historical Alternation of Moods in American Foreign Policy,” 4 World Politics 239 (1952).

15. As quoted in R. Falk, Legal Order in a Violent World at 331 (1968) for account of Stanley ville Operation see id. 324–335.

16. Text of speech reprinted in Peking Review, No. 41, Oct. 13, 1972, 4-10; quoted passage at 10.

17. Ibid.

18. Text of Boumedienne speech reprinted in "Petroleum, Raw Materials and Development,” Algerian Memorandum to Special Session of U.N. General Assembly, April 1974, III, at VIII.

19. For some instances see F. S. C. Northrop, The Taming of Nations (1952); On the Creation of a Just World Order (S. Mendlovitz, ed., 1975).

20. See suggestion by the development economist, John P. Lewis, that the political energy for global reform is most likely to come from above, indeed, from within the bureaucracy itself. Lewis, "Oil, Other Scarcities and the Poor Countries,” 27 World Politics 63, at 86 (1974); for an argument that reform will come from below, see F. Ajami, The Global Populists: Third-World Nations and World-Order (Princeton University, Center for International Studies, Research MoInograph No. 41, May 1974).

21. See J. Sisco, “America's Foreign Policy Agenda : Towards the Year 2000," 72 State Department Bulletin 182, at 186 (1975).

22. Waldheim, note 1, p. 4.

Mr. Falk. I also want to indicate my gratitude to the committee for giving me this opportunity to present my views and to participate in what I think are very important hearings on the United Nations, especially given a new sense of anxiety about the relationship of the United States to the United Nations that has grown in the last year or so.

And I think the center of that anxiety has very much to do with the perception of the Third World's role in the General Assembly.

I think it is this new role of the Third World that is causing a crisis of American loyalty toward the United Nations, a crisis that is deeper than any prior feeling of anxiety, forcing us to relinquish (at least formally) some of our sovereignty in the direction of international institutions.


I am sorry that Ambassador Moynihan could not be here today. I had initially been intimidated by the prospect of appearing opposite him and it would be too arrogant to presume that his absence is a reflection of his comparable intimidation. But I do think, and I would like to put it as clearly as I can, that endorsement this morning of what has been called the Moynihan approach to the Third World is in my view a very unfortunate kind of effort to alter the way in which the United States deals with the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the General Assembly and in the United Nations.

My main objection to what has come to be known as the Moynihan approach is that I think it is designed primarily to evoke a positive reception in domestic public opinion here in the United States, but would actually reduce the effectiveness of the United States within the United Nations itself. In other words, in my judgment, it is an

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