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attempt to use the United Nations arena for purposes of generating a popular domestic view here in the United States, despite the fact that it would deepen very real antagonism toward the United States that exists within the General Assembly at the present time.
POLITICAL CHARACTER OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY
What I would like to emphasize in these few minutes is that the United Nations and General Assembly in particular are inevitably political in their orientation. The General Assembly is a political actor that reflects the will of the majority of its members, and that the political character of the organization is one which is now reflecting wider changes that are taking place within international society. To act as if those changes are not real, and are not going to alter the general capacity of the United States to peacefully influence the attitudes of foreign governments, is to ignore one of the dominant political trends that is taking place in the world at the present time.
It follows from this political character of the General Assembly that the main potency of the organization depends on its playing a symbolic role in shifting what might be called the balance of legitimacy on controversial international issues. Although the General Assembly does not possess the ingredients of power that one associates with economic or political capabilities, at the same time it is a very important actor, and increasingly so because of its ability to provide a symbolic legitimacy that often is decisive in reshaping international public opinion on highly sensitive issues. It is for this reason, in my view, that such a furor was occasioned by giving Yassar Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization a forum within the General Assembly to say what he said one hundred times outside the Organization. Why—one must ask—did that access cause such a tremor in American public opinion? Why did it trigger the largest demonstration in the history of New York City? And I would answer that the real reason is not the impotency of the United Nations but its potency with respect to symbolic issues of legitimacy.
And I believe that this potency is going to continue; this is almost inevitable in a complex world of 100 or 140 or more sovereign states, where there is some need for centralized forums in which various positions on international conflict of the day can be peacefully articulated.
In effect, what the United Nations and is various arenas provide are minimum channels of communication that enable the crystalization of world public opinion, and that do not collide with a rather opposite tendency, namely, the affirmation of intense nationalism on the part of the Third World countries.
So that in a sense one has two contradictory developments taking place simultaneously. The use of the General Assembly to generate global positions on controversial questions, and the very sensitivity and opposition on the part of the great majority of members to any positions or policies that would in any sense intrude on their post colonial sovereign prerogatives.
UNITED STATES AN IMPORTANT ACTOR IN THE UNITED NATIONS
Now, I think it is also important to emphasize that despite the recent drift of General Assembly opinion against preferred American
positions on some critical questions, the United States today remains by far the most important actor within the United Nations and is in fact the only member with a capacity to sustain otherwise highly unpopular positions.
To illustrate, I think that only the United States could have kept mainland China out of the United Nations for so long, and only the United States could have kept the United Nations from taking really adverse positions on its policy throughout the Indochina war; in both these contexts, it was the only primacy of American influence within the United Nations that overcame å set of very unpopular positions throughout the world. But I would argue that the primacy that the United States still enjoys has been eroded by the rearguard stance that the U.S. Government has in recent years taken on almost every issue of genuine concern to the Third World.
We increasingly give the impression to others and to our own people that we are afraid of change in the world, that we oppose what other governments feel will promote minimal sentiments of justice. And so I think it is terribly important not to lose sight of the main point, namely, that it is in the interest of the United States to try to understand how other governments view the issues of international justice at the present time and to reexamine our own policies before being so quick to affirm the irresponsibility of Third World majorities.
I think General Assembly attitude toward Israel and liberation movements, the main issues on which the United Nations has taken a position in recent years, reflect two prevalent kinds of sentiment.
First, with regard to specific international conflicts, the majority of the General Assembly feels that one side is pursuing a set of just demands and the other side is either resisting those demands totally or is taking an unreasonable position. In this context, I think the majority of non-Third World countries share the view that Israel has not since 1967 taken a position that accords with Security Council Resolution 242, and has not withdrawn from the conquered territories that were acquired in the 1967 war. I think it is generally the feeling that the General Assembly pressure in support of Palestinian self-determination and return of the conquered territories is necessary to offset the kind of geopolitical and military advantage that Israel gained in the 1967 war.
Similarly, I think that the General Assembly clearly takes the side of the liberation groups in the conflicts that are raging in southern Africa and I think history is on the side of those liberation groups. I think it is largely a legacy of the colonial period, it involves racism as well as colonialism and I think it is not in any sense in the interest of the American people as a whole—as distinguishing from some special interest groups within the United States—to continue to feel that the survival of these oppressive regimes in southern Africa is a matter that American national interest should be committed to.
The second sentiment is the urgent need for a new international economic order, which is reflected in the attempt to evolve a new framework for international economic relations through peaceful means.
Now, I regard this as a constructive set of initiatives when one takes into account two salient facts of global political life. The first is
the objective conditions of inequality and poverty that exist in the world as a whole, and the other is the capacity of those who suffer from this inequality to cause grave danger to the stability of the international system. And I take the Indian nuclear explosion of May 1974 as a warning to the future, so to speak, that if we fail to
opportunity for peaceful accommodation with respect to this set of very sensitive but very significant economic issues, I think we will simply drive the international community into deeper and deeper economic and political conflict, with grave threats of military conflicts as well. The world, in other words, is not safe enough to indulge present levels of inequities and inequalities. To argue against trying to rectify this situation peacefully, to turn our backs on the fact that this system is very unfairly structured, seems to me, to imply an extremely shortsighted view of American national interests.
U.S. REORIENTATION NEEDED
I would conclude by saying that the basic attitude toward the United Nations should not be one of seeking partisan advantage in a narrow sense, but in genuinely trying to figure out how to convince ourselves that what is good for the world is good for the United States. I think that is the essence of the reorientation that we need. It involves coming to an appreciation of the fact that we do live in a genuinely interdependent world in which no nation, however powerful and however rich, can effectively isolate itself and pursue a separate antagonistic course. But unfortunately, if one looks at the votes in the General Assembly on critical issues over the past 2 or 3 years, we find that the United States is increasingly isolated not only from the Third World but from many of its traditional allies as well. This, it seems to me, communicates a message not that others should listen to our perspectives on these questions, but that there is no road to peaceful exchange with respect to the world order system that we now have. To those who seriously seek to rectify current imbalances, it communicates the message that nuclear capabilities are much more important than appeals to international justice or voluntarism or gradualism.
Unless Americans and the official governmental institutions of our society can understand that for the rest of the world, repression and poverty are not just slogans, we are going to have a very difficult time in the decades ahead. It requires farsighted leadership to appreciate the fact that it is in our interest to work with other countries, including the Third World, to create adequate international mechanisms for dealing with both economic and political problems, and to show that we have enough confidence in peaceful processes of change to cooperate even when the majority of the United Nations opposes the particular position that we take at a particular time. Thank you,
Mr. Chairman. Senator Case. The chairman has been called to the telephone, and he asked that I preside in his absence.
Senator Clark, do you have some questions?
WHERE DOES UNITED STATES COME OUT BY MAKING CONCESSIONS ?
Senator CASE. I do not have any questions except the deepest kind of question. Dr. Falk is a well-known person with very deep convic
tions and great intellectual capacity, and one hesitates to even raise any questions with a man like that.
ř do have a question as to where we come out on the other side. Where do we go conceding that all of these problems can be dealt with in a matter of equality, whatever that is, a matter of justice, whatever that is, by a political absolution that involves nobody getting down to work except the people of the United States and of Western civilization? Obviously, they are going to take all foods that Americans can supply and spread it around the world and for a time it may help but not for long. It will do more harm than good in one sense, because we get a lot of people in the frame of mind that they can rely on this forever and not go at things the hard way. This is apart from a political question that if we backed out and said, “All right, boys, you take over," then we would not have anything left in the way of civility in the world. These are questions that very deeply trouble people that are bothered by the Marxist approach that you quite properly hold. I say that not in the condemnatory sense at all. I am trying to bring out some basic conceptions of how the world would be run if we listen to you as the chief exemplar. It is all right to say, take it step by step, which is probably what you will say, and yield slowly in the hope that responsibilities will develop as pressures ease on the other side, and they may. But up to now they have not very much. You have some of the worst dictatorships in these underdeveloped nations that you ever could possibly have—the worst kinds of treatments of individual human beings. I am not very encouraged by this or encouraged to believe that the Soviet approach that you do so deeply believe, and which we respect, is going to lead anywhere.
Mr. FALK. Well, I am grateful, Senator Case, for your question because I think it does go to the root of the controversy between people like Ambassador Moynihan and myself. The primary point I would make in response is that what we have been doing in the U.N., and in the world as a whole, is to create an overriding impression that we are not committed to the peaceful solution of the outstanding controversies in the world when we are on the minority side. That is why it is so fundamental to understand that we were very prepared to use the U.N. as a political arena so long as we were on the side of the majority, because that merely strengthened our dispositions. We can gain the most in the U.N. by conveying to others our sense that there are nonmilitary alternatives to the outstanding issues of the day. That does not mean that we have to say third world countries are necessarily pursuing enlightened policies toward their own populations. It does mean we must try to make clear, to ourselves and to the world at large, that we have enough faith in international procedures so that when they go against us on a particular issue, we need not automatically criticize the organization and might even go so far as to reconsider our own position. As a matter of fact if you look at the specific issues that have elicited this crisis of loyalty toward the United Nations, I think that the majority of the General Assembly has a rather strong case.
With regard to a new international economic order very little has been done over the past 20 years to rectify existing inequalities. What I fear we are witnessing is an extremely counterproductive effort, to convince the third world nations that they have exhausted their peace
ful remedies. Americans who are genuinely concerned about eliminating war and eliminating violence could do much more for their country by listening to the claims for change that are being asserted throughout the world, than by trying to organize some kind of self-serving response to those claims.
I just do not feel our present posture is constructive. It may bring short-run domestic political gains here in the United States, but it will weaken our leverage within the U.N. and will mislead the American people as to the genuine opportunities to convert the U.N. into a constructive force for peacefully resolving key issues.
GIVING WEIGHT TO U.S. PUBLIC OPINION
Senator Case. I want to express again my appreciation for your coming and I hope you keep talking until I understand better what you feel. But I would put to you this one point—that anything that the people of this country, the United States, feel very deeply about is something that has to be given thoughtful consideration by people like yourself, because the so-called middle class or hard-hat approach is not all bad. I do not say that you say it is. I am saying that there is a kind of a basic common sense in this country and in the West, generally. There is an instinctive reaction against knuckling under to bravado. People perceive us in that role as something we can recognize. At the same time we do not have to say we do not see it in others, too.
Senator Javits. I like what Senator Case has said. I would like to identify myself with that and add this one point.
Americans can be very indignant, which is sometimes a good quality, and can be
very meddlesome in debate, which cannot be a good quality. Without necessarily pulling out of the U.N. or threatening to, should we not be quite so intimidated by the task that we do. We are a spirited people, so are these third world countries; we stand up to them and they stand up to us, but I think the preponderant sentiment is not to pull out but to give them hell, and that is not a bad idea.
Mr. FALK. Well, it may not be a bad idea, Senator, but with all respect that is what I am trying to argue against.
Senator JAVITS. I know you are.
Mr. Falk. I think it is a self-serving kind of posture that achieves no constructive result. I think the consequence would be to confuse the American people as to the genuine character of these issues that are so controversial in the United Nations. After all, if you look at a couple of the specific contexts you find that it is not only the Third World vote which has created America's isolation from world public opinion. The United States is pursuing positions which seem to me to be historically doomed. The positions we have tried to take in recent years with respect to southern Africa are ones that cannot possibly survive, and the longer we hold out as an apparent ally of reactionary forces in the world, the worst the eventual resolution of those issues will be.
I feel the same thing is true with respect to the new international economic order. To give them hell, as you put it. Senator, may bring a momentary sense of relief, but it does not meet the genuine objective