HickersonMurphyKey files, lot 58 D 33, “Mr. John Ross


Staff Paper Prepared in the Mission to the United Nations ( USUN )2


General Planning Re United Nations Activities and the United States Role in the United Nations


A combination of facts suggest the desirability of our formulating our views on a consistent over-all policy about United Nations activities projecting at least to if not through the next session of the Assembly. [Page 4] A principal unknown quantity in the outline that follows is the substantive development of the Korean case. The following are some of the facts that suggest such a re-examination.

Given the development of the NATO Council, the MSA, Technical Assistance and our Voice of America program, the United Nations is simply one in a series of instrumentalities affecting American multilateral diplomacy. A summary of our foreign policy contained in State Department publication 4466 of March 1952 contains nine pages about our United Nations activities, beginning at page 60.
The United Kingdom, through a letter from the Foreign Office, has asked for high-level US–UK talks on the future of the United Nations and on the divergencies in the US and UK approaches to the United Nations. The State Department has indicated that it would welcome such talks. It is agreed that we should analyze and review our respective approaches and consider what problems the United Nations can and cannot be expected to cope with successfully. Arab-Asian problems were specifically mentioned.
Public opinion, at least as reflected by NGO’s, is in a depressed mood about United Nations activities. For example, the YWCA at its Chicago National Convention will have before it a resolution that the YWCA should no longer support US participation in the UN. This attitude is also reflected in the approach of the Congress to the size of appropriations for US participation.

check list of problems

1. The Role of the United Nations:— The statement that the UN is the cornerstone of our foreign policy needs to be tested against political and economic developments of the last four years, especially the creation of NATO. It is understandable that the British are arguing more strongly for the original Churchillian position that a general international organization should be a loose confederation of strong and powerful regional groupings.3 The French view since before the attack on Korea has been that because Soviet cooperation is lacking the UN should be kept intact as an organization but given no substantive tasks of a serious nature. The French and the British would agree that the US in particular has been guilty of setting in motion a series of projects and creating a series of commissions for purposes that have not stood the test of time with a resulting embarrassment in having in existence various organs with no important purpose or work. In this connection, they are particularly concerned about the Interim Committee and the Collective Measures Committee.4

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The British and French together with the other colonial powers, emphasizing the need for the solidarity of NATO areas, feel that on all issues we and they should stand together. This is consistent with the UK attitude toward the NATOUN relationship.

Vishinsky stated in Paris in 1948 when discussing the veto that UN Assembly sessions pretty generally reflect tensions in the world. He, of course, was speaking of the Soviet-free world tension but it can at least be argued that this generalization is correct and applies also to tensions between members of the free world itself, so that as the free world’s feeling of security grows in relation to the Soviet Union we can expect to see stresses become apparent among members of the free world itself.

A formulation of what our own approach to the UN is today would include its usefulness to us in the event of general war, its usefulness to us during a twenty or thirty year period of a war of nerves and its general psychological importance for the future as the clearing house for planning and thinking about political and international economic and social problems. It may well be that we can be more effective in maintaining a strong and sound relationship among NATO members by being able to take a middle position in the UN in adjusting differences between the British and the French and the Arab-Asian group. Also, we shall need to consider what our attitude should be toward the independence of dependent people. Perhaps we cannot generalize, but there is some thinking in the State Department that while we should stand firm in favor of self-government and home rule, we should stand equally firmly against independence on the theory that more small states create added insecurity in the world.

2. The Role of the General Assembly:— Now that the Uniting for Peace Resolution is two years old, one can conclude from the infrequency of meetings of the Security Council that the Assembly has largely taken over the role of handling political security problems, or one can conclude that they are not finding their way into the UN. Whichever conclusion or combination of them is valid, the result is that the most important work of the UN takes place in the Assembly. On the other hand, there is a large element of dissatisfaction with the time wasted on unimportant questions in the Assembly. Also, since the Assembly must be prepared to meet on twenty-four hours’ notice on urgent questions at any time during the year, the question arises whether it should not have standing machinery for comparatively unimportant housekeeping items throughout the year. The concept of the Uniting for Peace Resolution has largely superseded the real reason for the Interim Committee.

This suggests the whole field of organizational questions involving the Assembly.

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a. Membership:—The trend of opinion in the General Assembly has developed steadily, over our opposition, in favor of admitting all applicants however good or bad and whether or not this involves a deal. Our position has been strongly against this and the opinion of the Court, construing Article 4, supports this point of view. There are certain very great advantages in trying to find a solution to the membership question in which we will not be in the minority and which will make it possible for Japan as well as Italy to join the organization. I consider it would be a serious thing for Japan to be excluded. We have promised the British and the Italians to re-examine this question.

The re-examination must be of a political nature. A proposal to amend Article 4 to exclude the criterion of peace loving would be one means by which in supporting such an amendment we could, pending its adoption, support an arrangement that could admit all applicants upon a two-thirds vote of the Assembly.

b. Chinese Representation:—If there is a truce in Korea, we shall immediately have to consider this issue with the British as well as the large majority of members of the Arab-Asian group.

c. The Proliferation of Committees:—We are committed to discuss with Lie his idea of an inter-sessional committee which is one logical consequence of Secretariat thinking about the growing role of the General Assembly. This will necessarily involve the question of ending the Interim Committee and the Collective Measures Committee. In this connection, the whole question of the development of international law in the UN needs review. There is great and general disappointment with some of the work of the International Law Commission, especially in the field of codification, and the Sixth Committee, not having any real work to do, has not attracted outstanding delegates and has got into various difficulties. We shall have to consider this question in the Ad Hoc Committee which will meet this spring. One solution which the British may suggest is the abolition of both organs and the creation of a standing fifteen member committee to work on legal questions that particularly need the attention of lawyers. Since the General Assembly is fundamentally a political organ, it is difficult if not impossible to separate the legal and political ingredients in any particular resolution or any debate. The British are properly concerned about the-standards of legal draftsmanship. For example, one request to the International Court for an advisory opinion was drafted by Arce in the Delegates Lounge. However, Cordier feels that the informal help of a legislative drafting clerk is more effective than any procedure for having First Committee resolutions passed on by the Sixth Committee.

My conclusion is that the development of international law and its usefulness as a tool to the United Nations is of basic importance and it is being retarded rather than helped.

d. Miscellaneous Devices for Saving Time:—This is probably the time for a re-examination of the question of what General Assembly sessions are for and how long they should be. If we want important political questions considered in the Assembly and, therefore, if we-want Foreign Ministers present, the length of sessions should be shortened and the unimportant or Grade B problems prevented from encumbering them. There are various ways of doing so. It is hard politically to call any question unimportant. However, the other councils, especially ECOSOC, have been offenders in putting on the Assembly agenda items that they found it embarrassing to handle themselves. [Page 7] Therefore, one solution would be to make access to the Assembly agenda more difficult, especially in the non-political field. Another device would be an inter-sessional committee or perhaps a spring session admittedly for matters of minor importance and handled by permanent delegations.

e. Economic, Social and Trusteeship Matters:—These are simply flagged here to be developed later. The Third and Fourth Committees in the general attitudes expressed by their members created a danger in our own sound relations with our friends and to the fabric of the organization. How we meet these problems depends on what our approach to the UN now is. I have mentioned above our attitude toward independence versus home rule. One of the ways of changing this atmosphere is to screen the material that comes into these committees without, of course, attempting to screen any material of substance from UN consideration.

3. Public Relations:—American public attitudes about the United Nations, as about automobiles, develop on a yearly-model theory. The 1945 model was good; the 1951 was bad. We probably over-sold the 1945 model. This subject is being separately studied by our Public Information Office. Some State Department thinking is that in the light of the attitude toward the 1951 model, we should go into the UN in the future and play a comparatively minor role, getting behind one or two issues and simply state our point of view of vote on the others. This, I believe, is inconsistent with our size and our political and financial contribution to the organization. Whether we like it or not, we had a big hand in creating it and as long as it exists or as long as it has any agenda items, we have got to discuss them and negotiate about them.

  1. Files of Assistant Secretaries of State for United Nations Affairs John D. Hickerson, Robert D. Murphy, and David McK. Key in the years 1949–1954.
  2. Forwarded on Apr. 17 to Assistant Secretary Hickerson by John C. Ross, Deputy United States Representative on the Security Council. The paper was used as a basis for discussion in the Department of State.
  3. Such a view was being set forth informally by Sir Gladwyn Jebb, Permanent British Representative at the United Nations, in speeches to American audiences, one of which occurred at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, on Mar. 25, 1952. This effort and point of view are described by Jebb himself in The Memoirs of Lord Gladwyn (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972), pp. 263–266.
  4. For documentation regarding the establishment of the Interim Committee in 1947 by General Assembly Resolution 111 (II), see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. i, pp. 166 ff. For documentation on the establishment of the Collective Measures Committee by General Assembly Resolution 377 (V)—the Uniting for Peace Resolution—in 1950, see ibid., 1950, vol. ii, pp. 303 ff.