The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
on the World Today
THE United Nations is an imperfect reflection of the political face of the world. But it does mirror the pull and haul of the great conflict of the twentieth century, between democracy and despotism. The current fifteenth session of the General Assembly, dominated by the 25-day visit of Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, has given dramatic evidence of both these facts of modern life. And even more important, this session has foreshadowed the tremendous problem which awaits the new Administration.
The United Nations may not yet be the world’s last hope for survival, but its continuing functioning is essential if nuclear war between the supergiants is to be avoided. It cannot resolve the major Past-West dispute, but it can help to mitigate that dispute and hold it within bounds short of war.
The extraordinary gathering at the United Nations this fall, aptly called the Congress of Manhattan, had no precedent in human history. Every figure of world importance save three — Red China’s Mao Tse-tung, West Germany’s Konrad Adenauer, and France’s Charles de Gaulle was on hand at one time or another, and Mao and Adenauer were absent only because their nations are not members. The effect of this gathering and the impact of Khrushchev’s tirades and tactics were not measurable on any thermometer, let there was evidence of a trend, and that trend is not a happy one. It will take some doing on the part of the new President, the new Congress, and America’s friends around the world to turn the flow of history back toward the cause of democracy m the decade of the 1960s.
The shifting balance of power
In the three years since Sputnik I went into orbit, Soviet military power has increased in relation to that of the United States. And Khrushchev has done his best to make use of this fact. Not until this year did he feel that the altered balance of power would permit him to launch an assault directly on the United Nations itself. By something more than mere coincidence, this also was the year when the United States took the step, in President Eisenhower’s speech to the Assembly, of entrusting to the United Nations the largest role this nation has yet assigned the world organization.
There are two reasons for this new American dependence on the United Nations; our recognition of the political fragmentation of the globe with the emergence of many newly independent nations, a process by no means completed; and our Recognition that the United States can no longer ignore the United Nations to the extent that it often has in the past, especially in the years of the late John Foster Dulles. One reason is a reflection of good judgment; the other, a reflection of the shift in military power which led to Khrushchev’s assault on the United Nations.
In the fifteen years since its founding, the United Nations has been to a large degree an instrument of Western policy. The United States has not always had its way or had it fully, but it has generally overwhelmed the Communist bloc by sheer force of numbers, through a combination of the white nations of Western Europe and North America with the Latin Americans. Cuba represents the first Latin American defection. Western Europe’s force is divided by its own internal economic conflicts, as well as by the French entrapment in the Algerian web; and its power is lessened by the many new Asian and African members.
Naturally enough, the new members want a bigger share in running the club, and it is upon this desire that Khrushchev has played. In Western eyes, the Soviet boss has overplayed his hand especially in his boorishness, his vindictive and even vile language, and his assaults on the parliamentary decorum that generally has marked UN procedure. But it is a foolish American who thinks the rest of the world reacts to these excesses as he does. A majority of the member nations have no real legislative process; verbal assassination is common in the Middle East and Asia and is growing so in Africa; and the veneer of good manners is often paper thin in many quarters of the world, including our own.
Khrushchev rattles his missiles
Far more important for the future is an assessment of Khrushchev’s aims and attitudes. The Khrushchev themes are several: the shifting balance of power, the continuing role of colonialism in parts of Asia and Africa, the deep, abiding hopes of millions around the globe that somehow disarmament can be achieved. On the first, the United States, involved as it has been in a presidential election campaign, refuses to admit any change m its power status. On the second, the United States, because of its NATO commitments to the colonial powers (Britain, France, Portugal especially), often is trapped by what appears to be guilt by association.
On the third, the Soviet talk of total disarmament may be the monstrous fraud most Western diplomats believe it to be, but it has undeniably vast appeal, and the U.S. response to it often seems resitant, obfuscated by demands for inspection and controls. Khrushchev seems to have convinced many that all the United States wants is to control the present level of arms, not really to disarm at all, and that the American demand for inspection is only an excuse for espionage.
Using these themes, Khrushchev rattles his missiles, makes his threats, and does his best to throw fear into all those who do not see his version of the truth. The extent to which this sort of blackmail is effective is difficult to gauge, but it undeniably has a measure of effect. Khrushchev’s assault on the UN role in the Congo, for example, certainly will make it far more difficult for the United Nations not only to resolve that tangled problem but also to move effectively in future cases of like nature, perhaps in Laos or elsewhere. The matter of raw power can be altered only by a change in the American defense posture, and certainly some changes lie ahead under the new Administration. But beyond that problem, where it will take years to bring a major change, the other themes on which Khrushchev plays can be met by a more effective diplomacy. Neither Secretary Dulles nor Secretary Herter put as good a face on his policy as he might have; often the facts have been on the American side, but wide segments of world opinion have thought otherwise. There is a certain style to effective diplomacy. The challenge to the next Secretary of State to create a positive, meaningful style to his action is a very great one indeed.
The Administration on the defensive
The almost wholly negative attitude of the Eisenhower Administration toward the vast gathering at the United Nations is a case in point. Once Khrushchev said he was coming and would bring his satellites, the United States passed the word to its closest friends not to send their Presidents and Prime Ministers. President Eisenhower himself intended to speak at the United Nations only after Khrushchev had left. But Khrushchev not only brought his satellites; he enticed a vast number of important neutrals, including India’s Nehru, to come as well. And so the United States grudgingly began to alter its policy: the President’s speech was moved ahead of Khrushchev’s, and he did meet in his hotel suite, on two trips to New York, with a number of important visitors, and more were later invited to Washington. But neither Egypt’s Nasser nor Yugoslavia’s Tito, firsttime visitors to the United States, were encouraged to see anything but New York City.
When Tito, Nehru, Sukarno, Nasser, and Nkrumah joined in a so-called neutralist resolution urging the two great leaders to renew their contacts broken at the Paris Summit Conference, both Eisenhower and Khrushchev in effect said no. But the United States so badly handled the neutralists effort that Khrushchev was left in a more favorable position than Eisenhower. When Khrushchev demanded a full debate on colonialism and on his resolution to call for immediate freedom for all still unfree, the United States had to join in the favorable vote to avoid isolation.
Neither of these cases reflected impossible positions for the United States. But they were not well handled, chiefly because the Administration had started out in a defensive position. In a world of total conflict between the two major systems, one side cannot dismiss as sheer propaganda a major assault by the other.
Khrushchev has not swerved one iota from the basic Communist aim to make the whole world Communist. But he does recognize that nuclear weapons make war an impossible method of obtaining Communist ends, as long as there is a reasonably even balance of power. It was for this reason that, at the Twentieth Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1956, he reversed previous doctrine and cleared that war with the capitalist odd no longer was inevitable. The and Chinese have been quarreling with Khrushchev because they do not accept that reversal, probably since they do not understand the nature of nuclear weapons as well as the Soviets do.
Part of the American problem is that Americans tend to be idealists and tend to believe that there must be some way to come to terms with the Soviet Union; witness the great hopes at the time of the “Spirit of Camp David" little more than a year ago. These hopes are, of course, widely shared around the globe. This is one reason why Khrushchev’s “complete and total disarmament" has such a wide appeal.
In trying to match the Soviet appeal, the United States has given the impression that total disarmament might even be possible. But in reality, Washington is dubious. Dulles used to say that the very word “disarmament” was a misnomer, which it is, but no one has come up with an acceptable substitute. “Arms control” may be more realistic, but it lacks emotional appeal.
Red China in the UN
The admission of Red China to the United Nations is certain to be a major problem for the new Administration in Washington. This year, for the tenth time, the United States was able to muster the votes to postpone even consideration of the issue, but for the first time it could not muster a majority of the total membership. Only the many abstentions among the Afro-Asian nations prevented the United States from having to face up to the issue itself this time. The fact is that, as bad as many nations believe the Peiping regime to be, they feel that the United Nations should be a universal organization — a stand taken, in fact, by Dulles before he became Secretary of State but reversed when he entered the Cabinet after the Korean War was in progress.
It is possible that there was a time when U.S. leadership at the United Nations might have forced a twohinas solution with an Assembly seat for Taiwan and the Security Council seat provided in the charter for “China” going to the Peiping government along with an Assembly chair. But that day has long passed. To resolve this issue, the new Administration will have to reassess in the broadest terms our policy of isolation of the Peiping government and find a way to alter that policy.
Challenge to the new President
As to the United Nations’ future, much depends on how far the Soviets carry Khrushchev’s denunciation of Mammarskjdld and of the present structural setup. Minor changes to give more representation in the Secreariat to the Asians and Africans are quite probable. There will be no tripartite secretary-generalship, however, for that would require a change in the charter, which the West would veto.
Hammarskjöld has thrown himself on the mercy of the small nations which make up the bulk of the membership in numbers. The question here is how much fear Khrushchev has created. If the United States increases its economic aid and technical assistance through the United Nations, it will help increase the appeal of the world organization. The leaders of smaller nations know that the United Nations is their sole protector against the big powers.
The world is now in a period of rapid change. Khrushchev is doing his best to push it along faster than the pace the United States would like. The United Nations has been a major instrument for peace, and despite the Soviet assault on it, it can continue that role. But it will take more than American words of praise for the organization and for Hammarskjöld; it will take a revitalized policy around the world into which the United Nations is closely fitted. This, then, is the challenge to the new Administration.