Memorandum by the Counselor (Bohlen)

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Consistency of U.S. Policy

American policy, as General Bradley said in a speech a year ago, “must be guided by the stars” and not by the lights of a passing ship. (The exact quote and date can be ascertained from PL.)1

Our foreign policy is based upon the best estimate we possibly can make of the permanent interests of this country, our national security and the well-being of our people, and our responsibilities in the world for the development of conditions of stability and health under which the peace of the world can be made progressively more secure. It must be a wise blend of realism and idealism. Realistic in the sense that it must deal with the world as it is and not with the world as we [Page 278]would like it to be. Idealistic in the sense that its direction must always be towards the furtherance of the goals which represent the aspirations of our people and those of mankind.

In the case of the continent of Europe, our policy has been to assist the free nations of the European community to recover from the damages of the war, to help them to create conditions whereby the free institutions which are their tradition as well as ours can survive and flourish, to help them to create a community that will be in a position to give their people a sense of security and confidence in the future and thereby to make their individual and collective contribution to the maintenance of world peace and security.

If we are to have any hope of achieving these goals our policy must be a calm and consistent pursuit of these aims and not subject to the temporary fluctuations in the international situation. Governments, organizations and even individuals who do not wish to see recovery, stability and tranquility return to the continent of Europe will seek through propaganda and other devices, to deflect the United States and the countries associated with us in this endeavor from these purposes. We must not allow these maneuvers to succeed. We must not be stampeded into unwise or hysterical action because of a “war scare” or other type of crisis deliberately stimulated, nor must we be lulled to sleep by any propaganda “peace offensive”. To do so would be to put our foreign policy at the mercy of foreign-inspired propaganda. If this were to happen, the masters of the greatest propaganda machine in the world could cause American policy to fluctuate as they saw fit. We must pursue the course we have set ourselves, consistently, calmly, and not allow propaganda to mold our foreign policy.

Charles E. Bohlen

Memorandum by the Counselor (Bohlen)

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Charge That Our Policies Are Undermining the United Nations

The charge is frequently made that the measures for the assistance of Europe which the United States Government has undertaken, such as the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Pact and the Arms Assistance Program will tend to undermine and weaken the authority of the United Nations.

It is important to see clearly what is involved in many of these criticisms. While there are undoubtedly many honest people who feel [Page 279]concerned on this point, it is interesting to note that this charge is only directed against those measures which run counter to the designs of the Soviet Government and to the interests of international communism. It is in relation to such measures that the charge was first advanced, assiduously propagated and thereby inevitably affects many people whose interest in the United Nations is wholly genuine and who have no connection whatsoever with any communist-inspired organization.

For example, the charge of bypassing or undermining the United Nations was first raised in the Greek-Turkish aid program.

It was repeated with even greater emphasis in the case of the Marshall Plan.

It is now being directed at the North Atlantic Pact and the Arms Assistance Program.

It has not been raised in anything like the same volume in connection with any agreement—economic, political or military—which the Soviet Union has taken in regard to the countries of Eastern Europe.

It was not raised in the case of the British or French loans which were concluded in 1945.

This, in itself, would indicate that actions in foreign affairs taken outside the United Nations do not in themselves bring forth this charge, but there must be some other element—namely, the fierce opposition of the Soviet Union and international communism.

It is worthwhile pondering this feature of the charge of undermining the United Nations in order to ascertain whether, in effect, the origin of the charge is genuinely one based upon concern for the United Nations or whether it finds its origin and inspiration from totally different considerations.

In relation to the North Atlantic Pact and the Arms Assistance Program there are, however, unquestionably people who are worried on this point and who are motivated solely and genuinely by concern for the United Nations.

In order to understand the relationship of the Pact to the United Nations and its conformity with the purposes of the United Nations organization, it is necessary to have clearly in mind what the United Nations is, and more particularly what it isn’t.

The United Nations is not a thing in itself. It is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The end is progressive development of a peaceful and stable world order where law rather than force and anarchy will govern the conduct of nations in their foreign relations. In addition, it sets forth a guide of international conduct to which all its members solemnly subscribed as one of the means of furthering this end.

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The mechanism established under the Charter was designed to be a further means to the achievement of this end and specifically, in matters of peace and security, to control and, if necessary, punish the would-be disturber of the peace.

No one can deny that four years after the end of hostilities in World War II that security and tranquility have not returned to the world. This is not the fault of the ideal expressed in the Charter of the United Nations which remains as valid as the day it was conceived, nor is it primarily the fault of the mechanism set up under the Charter. The truth is, the United Nations has not been permitted to operate in the manner for which it was designed due to the attitude and policies adopted towards the United Nations on the part of one of the great powers which was given special voting privileges in the Security Council. It is the abuse of the veto, the defiance of the clearly expressed will of the majority of the General Assembly on the part of this great power and the countries it directs which have stalled the machinery of the United Nations.

But, the problem of peace and security remains; and those who have genuine concern, as I think we all do in this country, for the inability up to the present of the United Nations to deal effectively with this problem should recognize where the fault lies.

It is these policies and attitude on the part of one of the great powers—the Soviet Union—that have undermined and frustrated the United Nations. Until those policies and attitude basically change, the United Nations will not be able to function in the manner intended.

Therefore, the United States and the other countries who have genuinely supported in the conduct of their foreign affairs the principles upon which the United Nations was founded were confronted with a condition and not a theory.

It is not the North Atlantic Pact or any other measures undertaken by these likeminded countries with long records of law-abiding and pacific conduct in foreign affairs, with democratic institutions which in themselves preclude calculated plans of aggression, which is damaging the prestige and effectiveness of the United Nations.

It could hardly be expected that they were to stand idly by and see the peace and well-being of their peoples and of the world continually menaced by the abuse of a voting procedure in the Security Council of the United Nations.

Anything that contributes to peace and security in the world contributes to the United Nations. The North Atlantic Pact which twelve [Page 281]nations have signed is a contribution to peace and stability in a vital area of the world and hence to world security as a whole.

No tortuous hair splitting or wording of this or that article of the Charter can obscure that simple fact. Article 51 is unequivocal in its general recognition of the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense—and that is what the sabotage of the machinery of the United Nations has forced the nations signatories to the North Atlantic Pact to invoke.

Because an all-community fire department could not be set up because of the obvious unwillingness of one of the more powerful members of the community to have any fire department, there is certainly no reason why as much protection against fire as is possible should not be developed by those members of the community who do not wish to see any fire started in their neighborhood; or if one should start despite their best efforts, not to be in a position to put it out as quickly as possible.

There is absolutely no valid reason for believing that without the North Atlantic Pact the United Nations was about to be permitted to establish the universal system of security for which it was designed. On the contrary, it is more probable that the determination of the nations associated in the North Atlantic Pact to do what they can to further the peace and security within the general framework of the Charter, by necessity of their own efforts, will materially enhance the possibility of creating in the world the conditions under which the United Nations was designed to function.

It was never in the minds of the framers of the Charter that the organization set up under it should be so distorted as to become an international instrument which paralyzed the pacific nations of the world, the possible victims of aggression, while leaving a would-be aggressor with completely free hands to deal with them one by one.

It is an act of great irony for the country which has consistently sabotaged the function of the United Nations to charge that a Pact composed of the nations which have, done most for the United Nations with bypassing or undermining the United Nations. It is well in considering this aspect of the matter to ask once when the charge “undermining the United Nations” is advanced the old Latin saying “cui prodest”—”Who benefits?”

  1. The substance of the quotation appears in Department of the Army press release entitled, “Notes for an Address by General Omar Bradley, Chief of Staff, United States Army, at the Memorial Day Interment of Corporal Edward G. Wilkin, Medal of Honor, Company ‘C’, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division, Killed in Action in Germany, April 18, 1945, at Longmeadow, Massachusetts, May 30, 1948, at 2:45 P.M. (EDT).”