22. Draft Report Prepared by Lincoln Bloomfield, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs1
- Report on “Evaluation of Role of US in 10th General Assembly”
To analyze objectively the effect which the 10th Session has had on the international position of the United States, particularly upon the factors of prestige and general reputation in the American role of world leadership, both in and out of the United Nations. To draw appropriate conclusions from the analysis and, where feasible, to suggest possible courses of action for the immediate future.[Page 40]
Note on Method
This analysis involved initially a study of all pertinent documents such as agenda, telegrams between the delegation and Department, resolutions, voting records, written reports where available, press clippings and public opinion analyses for the entire period, and such foreign public and press reactions as have been reported. Interviews were held with the seven committee executive officers, the four geographic liaison officers, press officers, delegation advisers, correspondents, and selected desk officers in the Department.
This study grows out of a sense of official concern at the recent widespread criticism of the American position and performance at the 10th Assembly. It aims at objective self-scrutiny with a view to possible corrective action. At the same time, such an evaluation must be made in proper perspective. For example, caution must be applied to sweeping claims that in the United Nations the United States either wins monumental diplomatic victories or suffers irreparable diplomatic defeats. It is necessary to discriminate between gains or losses which have significant public and foreign impact, as against local episodes in the Assembly setting that may seem equally important to those who lived through them, but have little lasting or widespread effect. Another order of distinction is between difficulties that grow out of the substance of American foreign policies, i.e., strategic, and those caused by the way we execute such policies, i.e., tactical. A final prefatory caution is against viewing all such problems as suddenly acute or suddenly remediable. Often they have persisted over a period of years. Sometimes they grow out of larger conflicts of interest that will produce tensions at other levels so long as the larger conflicts persist. And in some cases they reflect the American constitutional system, or partisan domestic policies, or the [Page 41] free range of public and press criticism in this country—that is to say, the “disabilities” under which diplomacy must labor in a free democratic society.
Sometimes public criticisms tend to cancel each other out or reflect primarily the political bias of the source. On the Chinese Representation issue, for example, the US position is portrayed by some as a victory (e.g. Watertown Times), and by others as increasingly costly to US prestige ( Christian Science Monitor). Hostility toward the UN often colors estimates of US performance (although it may be the other way around in this case, since Gallup polls in the same period reported 80% support of the UN, compared with only 59% a year ago and 55% in 1954).
The effort below is to sort out the various problems for US diplomacy that arose in the 10th Assembly, with these caveats in mind.
1. General evaluation:
The aftermath of the 10th Assembly has produced an unusual degree of generalized criticism of American performance in the UN, coupled with concern about the future effect of current trends on this nation’s role in the organization. Two major external factors significantly affected that role at the 10th Assembly: (a) the increased cohesiveness of the Arab-Asian neutralist, anti-colonial coalition as a result of the Bandung Conference, including noticeable trends away from the US position by such peripheral states as Liberia, along with growing defection of stragglers from the Latin American bloc; and (b) the “softer” attitude of the Soviet Union, at least for a part of the Assembly session. Undoubtedly both the Bandung and “Summit” meetings influenced the situation in New York (although both factors can equally be seen as projections of earlier trends and possibilities, rather than brand-new forces). At the same time, they have not been used by friendly critics to excuse defects in the American position, but rather as reasons why American diplomatic failures can less and less be tolerated. This point of view is often linked to the theme that the 10th General Assembly was simply a landmark along a path of general deterioration in the US position in the UN.
A consensus of the generalized criticism encountered both internally and in the public prints would read somewhat as follows: the United States lost ground at the last Assembly, largely through its own doing. It displayed unusually weak and wavering leadership, particularly on important issues, and often abdicated the leading role to the UK, India or the Soviet Union. It misdirected its energies by [Page 42] expending unbalanced efforts on relatively unimportant points, often succeeding only in irritating its friends. It tended to take rigid stands and seemed to lack adequate flexibility for the necessary diplomatic give-and-take. It beat tactical retreats after such retreats had lost their political value. It does not know how to give in or lose gracefully. It failed to consult or collaborate adequately with its Allies (or, conversely, overwhelmed them with multiple and overly-insistent approaches). It abused its predominant position among, e.g., Latin American states, our usually staunch supporters in that area and in Europe felt keenly the inconsistency and confusion surrounding certain American positions and our failure to give a decisive lead. We firmed up our policies much too late. Our liaison was ineffective and took place at too low levels. Asian representatives still detect a real or imagined sense of American racial superiority. US public relations and propaganda tended to be gauche and counter-productive. Increased numbers of American abstentions suggest to some that bilateral relationships alone give shape to US interests. On the whole, US policy in the UN was characterized as generally negative and aimed almost exclusively at warding off policies and programs we do not support.
On the other hand, some internal views depict the US as having done “not badly” in the face of positions that were unpopular, and having employed skillful tactics on some items where there was a lack of fixed policy.
Generalized public and press criticism pursued variations of some of the same themes, often tinged with partisan attitudes; the US is characteristically “defensive” in its “wavering, quibbling, half-hearted support of the UN…2 ever fearful of doing anything that might look to some nervous right-winger on Capitol Hill as a concession to Moscow” (Cincinnati Enquirer). The US “mechanical majority” has come to an end with the “stunning defeats” we suffered and our “failure of leadership” (New Republic). The US is widely thought to have the power to control the outcome in the UN, but does not ( Christian Science Monitor). We blundered because the “men at the top” did not stop to think about what they were doing (W. Lippmann).3 “The role of absentee is out of character for the US. On every major issue … the US should take a stand. To straddle is to invite contempt” (New York World-Telegram). Small nations are showing a new spirit of independence vis-à-vis the US (Philadelphia Inquirer). American diplomacy was “clumsy …. We shall be missing a bet if we do not view the experience of this fall as a cue to re-examine our tactics for winning friends and influencing [Page 43] people” (Washington Post). The US “has not played a wholly creditable role” in condoning “ward politics” (Lynchburg News).
Abroad, both the London Times and the Indian press agreed that the US has lost control of the small powers, and that its influence in the UN is on the wane.
The prevailing opinion was summed up in the Chicago Daily News: “US prestige took a beating”. Our only victory was in keeping the Chinese Communists out. “US stubborness” is to be condemned. We damaged ourselves on the whole range of issues—colonialism, atomic energy, disarmament, and membership. An echo of this estimate is summed up this way in the Manchester Guardian: “The most important changes, which this Assembly has reflected rather than caused, are a weakening in the guiding force of the United States and the rise of India as a unique arbitrator”. For instance, the Latin American states “no longer leap in on Mr. Lodge’s cues”. Or, according to Tom Hamilton in The New York Times: US failures at the 10th Assembly merely reflected the declining American position due to the growth of neutralism (for which we are responsible), the widespread suspicions our policy toward Chinese representation arouses as to our “reliability” and “good judgment”, and the resentment of anti-colonial powers at our alleged colonial attitudes.
Only a small minority praised the U.S. role: e.g.: the “matchless team” of Lodge-Nutting held the initiative successfully (NY Journal American).
Internal estimates of regional reactions tend to go to the fundamental conflicts of world political interests. Generally speaking, the Near Eastern States had no new or special fault to find with the US voting record, but the entire relationship remains colored by the Arab conviction that the US is still pro-Zionist, and the belief, sharpened at Bandung, that the US is more pro-colonial than ever.
Far Eastern states reportedly have doubts as to the basic course the US is following and the way we meet problems of interest to them at the UN. The 10th Assembly, particularly the membership “deal”, reportedly raised some disturbing questions about the consistency of American anti-communism. On the credit side, to some Far Eastern states, a policy of abstention is apparently a good one for the US to follow, as in the Irian dispute.
Latin Americans feel we are taking them too much for granted, either neglecting them or insensitively trying to command their support. The addition of new members is seen as foreboding a further weakening of Latin solidarity with the US, particularly on economic issues.
European states were reported as sensing that US relations with them are closer in the NATO setting than in the UN. They felt we “overdid it” on most issues, and are increasingly impatient with the [Page 44] test of Chinese representation the US applies to every issue, whatever its merits. Needless to say, they are increasingly concerned with the UN’s anti-colonial bias.
It will be noted that these criticisms summarized on the last few pages are usually directed, not toward the substance of American policies, but far more often toward the tactics of formulating and executing those policies. There was, to be sure, considerable private and public comment on substantive policies. But in the main, the correctives that have been suggested bear either on improved tactics (in the broadest sense), or on broad national postures, such as the overall American attitude toward East-West political warfare in the UN, toward the colonial revolution, and toward the way in which we try to mediate between international and domestic political demands.
These general critiques, while helpful in confirming the existence of overall trends and public moods, need to be evaluated in the light of the concrete issues at the 10th Assembly. Before doing this, however, a glance at the voting record is instructive.
2. Voting Record
The voting record at the 10th Assembly does not have impressive significance as a real measure of parliamentary power, since there were a number of unanimous or top-heavy votes on critical items (e.g., Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, Radiation Effects, SUNFED, etc.) which do not reflect the sizeable differences that actually existed on these subjects. For example, the vote of 56 to 7 on disarmament can be seen variously as a propaganda victory for the US or a “vote against sin”, but in neither event does it reflect the private feelings of 56 other governments regarding the US position on disarmament. The votes on admission of new members took place after the “deal” was arranged and do not show the conflict that previously existed (although the 50 or 51 votes received by the four satellites did not indicate much moral support for the continuing US distaste that was simultaneously being registered).
On East-West issues, the vote to postpone consideration of Communist Chinese representation passed 42–12–6 compared to 43–11–6 in 1954, and 44–11–2 in 1953, suggesting a slight slippage. The motion to delete the “decision in principle” to hold a Charter Review Conference failed 14–35–9; this may be compared to the vote of 15-28-9 in 1953 to delete mention of Article 109. The difference is insignificant, but the resolution as a whole passed 43–6–9, compared to 54–5–0 in 1953.
The US was on the losing side or on the fence on a number of important colonial or related issues. The inscription of the Algerian item was the most significant, representing as it did the overturning [Page 45] of a General Committee recommendation, and an indication of the numerical majority the anti-colonial coalition can muster against strenuous opposition: 27–28–5. On Apartheid, with the US abstaining, the vote was 41–6–8. In 1954 it was 41–10–10, and in 1953 38–11–11. Renewed declarations in favor of trusteeship for Southwest Africa carried 43–2–9 with the US abstaining, an increase of 3 in favor and a loss of one among those opposed compared with 1954 (40–3–11). A sharp example of anti-colonial parliamentary strength was the vote of 34 in favor of transmitting the Rev. Scott’s4 statements to the Committee on Southwest Africa, with 6 opposed and 14 (US) abstaining. Forty-five voted in favor of examining the progress achieved by Non-Self-Governing Territories, with the US and 11 other western states abstaining. And the assertion of General Assembly competence to decide when administering authorities could cease to transmit information passed 33 to 16 (US)–12, little change from the vote of 33–12–5 in 1954. A sharper instance of the fall-off of pro-colonial strength was the vote to approve cessation of reporting on Surinam, which passed 21 (US)–10–33, compared with the vote on Greenland in 1954 (45–1–11).
The 16 additional members are bound to have an important impact at the next session in terms of colonial issues (probably 10 “anti” out of the 16) and on cold war issues (possibly 12 anti-West or neutral out of the 16). But it is difficult to single out the 10th Assembly as signalling a sharp change in the voting pattern in terms of US interests. It can be said that the trends toward neutralism in the East-West conflict, toward greater accretions of anti-colonial strength, and toward anodyne resolutions on important issues that can pass unanimously, continue to follow a consistent pattern.[Page 46]
3. Critique According to Specific Issues
United States policies and/or tactics with respect to several issues at the 10th Assembly have evoked widespread criticism, both internal and external.
It might be pointed out that according to official American expectations prior to the Assembly, the United States would win victories in the sense of gaining maximum credit for taking the initiative on two items: Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, and Information Regarding the Effects of Radiation (see Current Foreign Relations, September 21, 19557). Our expectations as the rest of the agenda were apparently modest, anticipating that we would either steer a middle course, block undesirable results, or appear to be impartial. At the same time, however, such responsible papers as The New York Times had forecast that the 10th Assembly would be “the most momentous in the history of the organization”. The Boston Post said the session would “make or break” the UN, and the same idea was given currency by the Newark News,Washington Post, and Portland Oregonian. Such apocalyptic views of continuing diplomatic operations rarely produce mature public understanding of the process.
a) Membership. The great bulk of public and press criticism was focussed on the membership issue, and the “package deal” that ultimately seated 16 new members.
In general, the American press supported the package deal itself as “realistic” and a major step toward universality: “A good horse trade”, as the Washington Star said. But this country’s role harvested sharp criticism on almost every side. As to policy, a few critics saw us as pusillanimously abandoning principle in another “Munich” (32 of 37 letters received by Department, Scripps Howard papers, Constantine Brown, New Bedford Standard-Times, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, William Meany), while others condemned our fastidiousness over Outer Mongolia as “stiff-necked” (e.g. Providence Journal).
But the vast majority of public criticism had to do with US tactics—the way we handled ourselves and our interests in the bargaining process. The general feeling was that this country “has been out-maneuvered, out-played, and left in a most unhappy position of being neither practical nor principled” (New York Herald Tribune). We were seen as having tried futilely to play it both ways (Washington News), blundering into a Soviet trap because of our “cowardice”, (Washington Post), aimlessly zigging and zagging ( Christian Science Monitor), overreacting to right-wing domestic pressures and overlooking the rule that you can’t beat somebody with nobody (T. [Page 47] Hamilton, NY Times), and falling into the trap we ourselves had dug (W. Lippmann).
The Indianapolis Star wrote “Whoever (was calling the US signals) ought to be benched”. (See also Long Island Newsday, Commonweal, Nation.)
The US representative’s press conference statement that Outer Mongolia could not “make the grade” was viewed as a tactical error, undermining the impression US policy was attempting to convey (Arab Parsons, NY Herald Tribune).
A detailed post-mortem in the Reporter by William Frye8 of the Monitor says the membership issue, while “not a colossal American diplomatic snafu”, showed “inept American leadership”, and failure to settle on either principle or practical politics lost us considerable prestige and credit.
Such disparate voices as the New York Post, George Sokolsky,9 and the Los Angeles Times agreed that Russia was the victor, holding the ace of Japan, and the US, with only the deuce of Outer Mongolia, the loser, Russia taking full credit for the seating of the other sixteen. (See also Boston Herald, Christian Century, Hartford Courant, Norfolk Virginia Pilot, et al.) The Indian press gleefully echoed this judgment. Only the Hearst press felt the US had won a victory.
US Delegation officers generally agree that the US abdicated its leadership on the membership issue by failing to have a timely policy that was clear-cut and consistent, appearing to be paralyzed when flexible action was called for, and underlining what appeared to other nations to be our “righteous hypocrisy” by urging them to dirty their hands to achieve the end we came to share, while trying to keep our own skirts immaculate.
According to FE, some Far Eastern states are concerned at our acquiescence on the four satellites and, by implication, on the dropping of Japan. (Japan is reported as now in doubt as to US ability to achieve Japanese goals, and as contemplating postponement of a new bid until it is “independent of all blocs”.) Near Eastern spokesmen feel no one appreciated the “subtlety” of the US position, seeing only that we were abstaining on the package proposal while the Russians voted in favor, and won the kudos.
On balance, it is hard to recall as disturbed a reaction from so many quarters to the techniques and skill of American diplomacy on a single issue in the UN. It is not uncommon for a policy stand to be widely criticized. But the target here was not primarily policy, but strategy and tactics. Americans apparently hate to see their diplomats flounder in a test of skill.[Page 48]
b) Security Council Elections. Running a close second to the membership issue in terms of the volume and intensity of criticism, was the protracted fight over the Security Council seat involving Poland, the Philippines and Yugoslavia.
Public approval of the US stand as sound in principle, and helpful in showing that we do not dominate our allies, was expressed by The New York Times, Joseph C. Harsh in the Christian Science Monitor, the Lynchburg News, Worcester Telegram and Spokane Spokesman.
But a considerably larger number were critical, usually on the grounds that a great nation was making itself look small by making a mountain out of a molehill, “getting in so deep we can’t get out”, “bulldozing our allies”, and reaping ill-will out of all proportion to the real size of the issue; “Why crack the whip over our wavering allies, when the issue doesn’t really matter?” ( Christian Century). Also Boston Herald, Kansas City Star, Nation, Providence Journal, Washington Post, Kansas City Times, Milwaukee Journal, Philadelphia Bulletin and many others.
The Des Moines Register charged that the US precipitated the deadlock by repudiating the “Gentlemen’s Agreement”. To Barry Brown (Providence Journal) the failure of the US to agree to compromise on Yugoslavia when Poland was dropped signified “an automatic reflex—an expression of a desire to beat the Russians just for the sake of beating them … a dead end into which American policy instinctively runs”. The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote that the US Delegation “has been frittering away its prestige”.
Only Senator Jenner10 was heard to criticize the US for “letting down” the Philippines.
The consensus within the Department was that this was an instance of a policy getting out of hand in that the original commitment did not envisage the US making a do-or-die stand, without the support of its major allies, in opposition, not to a Soviet satellite state, but a friendly power, i.e., Yugoslavia. Apart from the unplanned over-engagement of US prestige, additional criticism arises from the refusal of the US to go along with the majority on the “Eastern European seat”. The UK apparently took a certain relish in proving to us how difficult it is to secure a ⅔ vote without their support. It is felt that we should save our ammunition for important substantive items, and learn to lose gracefully in such procedural issues as elections. The one regional estimate on the credit side represents the Far Eastern states as in complete support of the US stand on the Philippines; FE feels the detachment of Indonesia from India in the voting on this item was of real importance.[Page 49]
c) Disarmament. With this and succeeding issues, the quantity of domestic press comment falls off drastically. Although the resolution11 that passed was officially represented as a victory for the US, the press did not generally share this view. According to the Special PS Report on Disarmament,12 while the majority of the press was favorable to the President’s “open skies” proposal, a majority of the general public is opposed to it. (43% of those polled felt its acceptance would make a surprise attack on the US more likely, while only 13% thought it would make it less likely.)
Delegation officers felt that while US policy was “uncertain” at the 10th Assembly this fact was successfully concealed. Such critics of the US proposal as the Indians and Scandinavians suppressed their private criticisms of what they called the UN “non-disarmament” plan, and in this case a weak position turned out satisfactorily, with credit given the US delegation for skillful handling.
d) Cyprus. Because of its special nature, this issue is isolated from other inscription problems (Algeria and Western New Guinea) and from colonial issues.
Press comment was divided. New York Times applauded the US vote against inscription. The Portland Oregonian, on the other hand, wrote: “The role of the US in the ugly Cyprus question does not arouse our pride. This country has again placed military expediency and old ties with Britain above ethical and legal requirements of the UN Charter”.
Delegation officers feel the US was forthright and emerged relatively unscathed.
Needless to say, Greece was unhappy with our stand. The Netherlands was unable to understand why we could not have taken the same position on the inscription of Western New Guinea. No real criticism has been encountered on US tactics.
e) Algeria. Most newspapers (according to PS Studies #113 12) felt the final vote to inscribe was a violation of the Charter. On the other hand, the Des Moines Register saw US policy as “weak and wobbly … when it should have been clear and fearless”. (This sort of comment is fairly typical of the domestic press on colonial issues where the US appears to it to be “trimming” rather than taking a doctrinaire anti-colonial stand.)[Page 50]
According to some internal estimates, the US did not lose ground with the anti-colonial powers by supporting France, although the French were resentful that our support was not more vigorous. But other officers felt we suffered by contributing to the portrayal of the US as a pro-colonial power. The vote on inscription was also seen as demonstrating the growing authority of small powers in the changing power-patterns of the Assembly. “Most” other delegations reportedly disagreed with our legal stand on the question of competence, and believed that our decision was ad hominem and inconsistent with the stand we have taken on, e.g., South-African items. The sharpest criticism of this nature comes from FE sources, where our abstention on Irian, which was “understood”, could not be reconciled with our negative vote on Algeria.
f) Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. On this and the next two items the opinion has been voiced that the US dissipated the initial strength of its positions by a rigid initial insistence on restrictive and unpopular features such as limiting the participants, requiring us ultimately to swallow changes which were of real prestige significance to other countries, and for which we got no credit and considerable blame.
Again, estimates vary. It was agreed, in retrospect, that we were unrealistic in thinking we could control the formation of the agency, with hand-picked membership. Not only the Indians and Soviets, but also the Scandinavians, Mexicans, Dutch, New Zealanders, Israelis, etc. were unwilling to accept the Statute on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, or the provision that only recipients of materials would be subject to inspection. The final result was that the US had to accept (a) four additional sponsoring powers (Brazil, Czechoslovakia, India and the USSR), (b) provision for the Secretary General to study the agency’s relationship to the UN, and (c) invitations to all governments to a conference to consider the final text.
Some officers felt we were adequately flexible in making timely concessions. According to others, we were overly rigid, grudgingly giving way under pressure from our friends, and as a result, forfeiting the credit and goodwill we deserved for an important lead.
g) Effects of Radiation. This item, also billed in advance as a primary US initiative, was believed by some of those involved to have lost its punch because of US insistence on restricting the membership of the committee. Although our position was defensible on its merits, in retrospect we were seen as honestly mistaken in our concern over the qualifications of participants, since four more were added in a process of “log-rolling” in which the US again had to appear to be blocking a role for others which they felt important to their prestige. While we were able to defeat a Syrian-Indonesian amendment to ban nuclear tests and a Russian amendment to [Page 51] include the Chinese Communists, the Latin Americans, for instance, were particularly indignant at the narrowness of the participation we had proposed.
h) Charter Review. This was the third instance of the US having to give way under pressure for enlarged participation of a committee, based on prestige considerations in the minds of friendly states. However, despite the lukewarm attitude of the Assembly as a whole to the US interest in a Review Conference, it was believed that by minimizing the US tactical role and eventually accommodating US policy to the prevailing atmosphere, we came out “not badly”.
i) Economic Development. Ninety percent of the Committee II discussion centered on the question of economic development of underdeveloped countries. According to Current Economic Developments (Dec. 2013) the Soviet bloc “continued to exhibit apparent reasonableness in their analysis of international economic problems and at the same time strongly emphasized their concern for the problems of the under-developed countries, particularly their efforts at industralization”.
The US, while well-equipped on Technical Assistance and actively supporting the International Finance Corporation, had planned to continue its opposition to SUNFED “pending savings from disarmament”, and there has been some internal criticism of the way the US handled this item. It was felt that we were constantly on the defensive, largely because of our “weak”, “vacillating” or “fuzzy” position. In ECOSOC the US had abstained on setting up an Ad Hoc Committee to study the question, a proposal which is considered by delegation officers to have been innocuous. But the Assembly delegation was given the same position to take, because of Treasury opposition. The delegation was thus felt to be “forced” to make its own decision to support the Ad Hoc Committee. US indecision was apparently obvious to others, and of course the internal effect of having the delegation override its instructions is harmful. There is agreement that the Department should have taken a firmer stand with Treasury at the time the instructions were drafted. As it was, this is considered another instance of US half-heartedness and foot-dragging on a highly popular item.
j) Racial Issues. As with several other items, the UK played a far more active role on Apartheid than the US. The same was true with [Page 52] respect to Indians in South Africa, although the US reportedly reaped some credit for voting in favor of the Indian resolution.14
k) Korea. Delegation staff estimates no losses and no gains. We had intended to minimize debate as unhelpful at this time, and apparently invited the skepticism of e.g., India by standing pat on anodyne reaffirmations of principle. (It is difficult to see what else we could have done.)
l) ECOSOC Elections. According to delegation officers, the US policy of holding back until the last minute before making a commitment to a candidate irritated both the potential candidates, and the US’ final choice. We vacillated between Indonesia and Afghanistan and also between Brazil and Costa Rica, even though Brazil was much the better candidate, and even after we knew that a majority of the Latin American nations favored her candidacy.
m) Self-Determination. The US delegation was able to bring a number of the have-not nations to agree to an amendment to paragraph 3 of Article I of the draft covenant that might have satisfied US overseas business interests. However, the US neither introduced nor voted for it, and even though it embodied changes we had sought, it was adopted over US opposition 33–12–13. In this case, as in other cases where the US eventually votes against humanitarian measures on such subjects as slavery, forced labor, etc., because they are in convention or treaty form, some officers feel important foreign policy considerations are being sacrificed to domestic policy at a net loss to the national interest. (But the Legal Adviser’s Office, for example, considers that our opposition to the self-determination draft language was based on dissatisfaction with the text, and uncertainty whether it would indeed be satisfactory to the business community.)
n) Administrative Tribunal. The debate to amend the Statute to provide for judicial review was conducted on a rational level and the ammunition used on both sides was largely restricted to legal arguments. The US position was reasonable and based on precedent, but there was stiff resistance on all sides largely because of the remaining emotional undercurrents created by the past history of this issue. Majority support was, however, mustered for the US position as a result of strong US political pressure behind the scenes, and the active support and lobbying of the UK. While the results seemed to leave no hard feelings, there was a general feeling among delegation [Page 53] advisers that success on this item sapped the support for US positions on other administrative issues, such as the level of the budget.
o) Other Administrative Items. While the US position on numerous other items in the Fifth Committee, notably on salary and budget increases, did not command majority support, this appeared to be due less to sharp governmental differences than to the increasingly strong position of the Secretary-General with the majority and his willingness to put it to a test regardless of whether his proposals had the support of the larger contributors, notably the UK and the US. The United States did not appear to enjoy the previous privileged position of a confidant of the SYG and his staff on important issues. While the old relationship did not eliminate public disagreement it did minimize unnecessary public divergencies and friction. While some initiative on US part to re-establish more effective relations can help, one of the basic problems is that, while the Secretary-General appears to want to keep administrative matters under close review and supervision, he is not himself accessible enough to the Fifth Committee because of other demands on his time, and the officers who represent him in Fifth Committee matters often cannot speak authoritatively for him and do not seem to have much latitude for independent action.
4. “Internal” Problems.
Among both departmental and public critics of the US performance at the 10th Assembly, there was agreement that our participation was handicapped by one or more administrative shortcomings that do not bear on the substance of our policies or on our diplomatic tactics.
a) Timing of US preparations. A perennial difficulty that underlay much criticism of the US role in the 10th Assembly was the repeated lateness in determining our positions and communicating them to friendly governments in good time. Many difficulties in liaison, such as the multiplicity of US approaches to foreign capitals, waste of diplomatic effort and ammunition, and irritation of other delegations and governments, would be obviated or lessened if the US could come up with timely positions and consult with other nations at the time they are formulating instructions to their own delegations. Unfortunately (though often understandably) it is frequently on the most sensitive issues that the US appears unable to make up its mind in sufficient time to accumulate needful international understanding and support. (The Department apparently realized in advance that restricting the composition of the peaceful uses negotiating group, for instance, would not succeed in New York, and would thus have to be changed on the ground, always a painful process.)[Page 54]
This general problem of timing is too well known to require further elaboration.
b) Multiplicity of Diplomatic Representations. Several regional sources complained of unnecessary multiplication of approaches to other nations. In several cases we made representations to delegations in New York, embassies in Washington, and to the foreign offices as well, resulting in over-use of pressure, causing resentment and loss of good-will, and implying lack of trust of the particular General Assembly delegation, the foreign embassy in Washington, or the US Embassy in the country concerned.
Both EUR and ARA felt we had squandered diplomatic efforts in repeated approaches to other nations for support on UN questions that were of relatively minor importance. This tended to inflate the UN problems out of proportion and used up our limited stock of ammunition, at times on questions where nothing could have been accomplished regardless of the pressure we brought to bear. Sometimes this tactic forced friendly delegations to stiffen their positions on matters on which they had not felt strongly at first.
c) Liaison. There was, as has often been the case before, some dissatisfaction with the arrangements within the US delegation on communicating with other delegations. The regional advisers felt it was a mistake to assign liaison officers on the basis of subject rather than area. On the other hand, staffs of some committees who claim they rarely see the liaison officers, were pleased to have the use of one.
Some officers in this Bureau deplore IO’s inability to select the liaison officers and “having to take whoever is free”. And at least one of the senior regional advisers has complained that he was used, in effect, as an “errand boy”, thus losing the confidence of senior members of his “client” delegations who were quick to note his lack of participation at high levels in the US Delegation.
1. Of 11 basic substantive issues at the 10th Assembly, in 9 cases the substance of US policy did not command wide approbation: (a) Membership, i.e., previous US opposition to “package” deal, and continuing US opposition to Outer Mongolia; (b) Security Council elections, i.e., US rejection of the so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement; (c) Disarmament, i.e., the feeling on the part of some members that our inspection proposal, while good, is insufficiently pointed to disarmament; (d) Algeria, and colonial issues generally, where we are usually damned by both sides; (e) Charter Review; (f)SUNFED; (g) Self-Determination and US abstention from treaty-drafting involving human rights; (h) the Administrative Tribunal; and (i) the perennial [Page 55] issue of Chinese representation, where our supporters increasingly chafe under the US position and deplore the overriding importance we attach to it.
But in 5 of the 9 cases in which US policy itself was criticized, the most intense criticism was actually directed toward the tactics this Government employed in executing its policy: Membership, Security Council elections, SUNFED, Self-Determination and Algeria.
In the other four cases where US policy was something less than universally popular, adequate tactics seem to have done much to preserve our standing: Disarmament, Charter Review, Administrative Tribunal and Chinese Representation.
Conversely, while US policy on two other issues—Peaceful Uses and the Effects of Radiation—were generally applauded, US tactics appear to have caused loss of credit and prestige.
The ideal is of course sound policy and effective tactics. If policies are unpopular or difficult to put across, sovereign importance attaches to tactics.
From the record of the 10th Assembly one might conclude that efficient, consistent and mature tactics can offset the disadvantages inherent in an unpopular policy. But one can also conclude that no tactical approach, however skillful, can compensate for policies which are unattractive to a significant number of other governments. Probably the truth lies somewhere between the two.
2. There are two underlying causes of US “unpopularity” in the UN at the present time which do not grow out of specific American policies, attitudes or tactics:
- A primary psychological factor that is always present is resentment at the power, wealth and predominant position of this nation. It affects the attitudes of enemies, neutrals and allies alike. This is an inescapable consequence of the world power situation. It is a “built in” characteristic of such relationships, and little can be done about it other than on the surface. The sooner we accept this fact of life, the less handicapped we will be by a sense of chronic uneasiness and guilt that we are not smaller, or that we are not “loved”.
- Another persistent cause of difficulty for the US in the UN stems from the demands of the cold war, i.e., the necessity for the US to maintain a firm position vis-à-vis the force of world communism. So long as that force threatens our values and, at times, our existence, we will not be able to minimize it to the extent desired by those who would prefer we not assume a posture of vigorous resistance. Under these circumstances we cannot have the unqualified support of neutralist nations. We can, however, decide whether certain emphases in the UN setting on the cold war are fruitful for US interests, or whether they are counter-productive. Our purposes are [Page 56] not well served by choices based on other than a rational evaluation of the net loss or gain to the national interest of such tactics.
3. Other causes of US “unpopularity” do relate to specific American policies which do not command wide and ungrudging support in the UN:
- is the complex of cold war policies referred to above.
- Colonial policy. The US could probably pick up large-scale support in the UN, and ease its troubled national conscience in the bargain, if it adopted a doctrinaire anti-colonial position across the board. To do so would, of course, be to abdicate the bulk of our other responsibilities and commitments, not to mention our judgment. Thus, we will doubtless have to continue to maneuver precariously and thanklessly between two conflicting forces in the UN. It might be that we could find a way to reconcile our verbal policies, which tend to alienate the colonial powers, with our action policies, which tend to alienate the anti-colonial powers. But there is not much real latitude for American policy here under present conditions, and it would be wise to realize that we are not going to win any popularity contests on the colonial issue within the framework of our present overall policy structure.
- Economic development. Unless the US is prepared to commit significantly larger sums of money than at present, the underdeveloped countries will probably remain generally dissatisfied with our performance. Even within the limits imposed by an election year, it would be desirable to explore new avenues for US leadership in this field, with particular reference to the joint statement of December 9, 1955, by the members of the US Assembly Delegation. It must be remembered, however, that even if we raise the ante appreciably, it will not necessarily buy us the affection and respect of the recipients or their support in the cold war. It might increase their stability and viability, and we should perhaps be content with that important objective when and if we can raise our bid. In this connection it is well to keep in mind that a significant increase in the French standard of living over the past few years seems to have made no real dent in the Communist vote. The uncomplicated notion of “belly communism” may contain a fallacy, and the US should devote more thought to the ideological and prestige issues of passionate concern to the under-developed countries which may be equally important in fixing their political orientation.
- Self-Determination, Human Rights, etc. This area involves a whole set of symbols which in the UN tend to evoke emotional responses from the non-Western world. It is quite true that the West gave those symbols whatever meaning they possess today, and that the Communists repudiate the real values that underlie them. Nevertheless the argument in the UN is not always a rational one. There, [Page 57] these symbols are imbedded in the concrete human rights issues on which countries stand up to be counted: Self-determination, Apartheid, Human Rights Covenant, etc. So long as the US appears to oppose such symbolic affirmations, however good our reasons, we are not going to look good either to doctrinaire libertarians, or to the non-Western countries to whom they are of such acute concern.
- [sic] Chinese Representation. It has become quite clear that in demanding support on this generally unpopular issue, we are draining the reserves of goodwill and solidarity which we would like to have available to us on other matters. The US cannot tamper with its present policy on this subject, but we should recognize clearly its underlying effect as a chronic irritant and factor for divisiveness.
4. Thus, there is a hard core of US policies which encounter strong opposition in the UN on political, strategic, economic and ideological grounds. If the policies designed to advance our grand strategy are based on sound principles, or at least on realistic balancing of domestic and international political imperatives, there is obviously little room for change in them, and certainly they should not be changed for the sake of popularity alone. At the same time, it must be understood that, barring such substantial change, it is fruitless to search for miracles, or rabbits that can be pulled out of a hat to offset the basic impact of these policies on other nations.
It may be, however, that in the realm of tactics and the handling of procedural issues, there is more room for maneuver in the American position.
Elections. At least twice in recent years (1951, 1955) we have become involved in extraordinary difficulties in Assembly sessions because of our unwillingness to countenance the election of an Eastern European state to a non-permanent Security Council seat. The validity of the US position rested on principle—the manifest inability of a Soviet satellite to satisfy the requirements of Article 23, Paragraph 1; and on expediency—the desire to keep a second Soviet vote off the Council. These arguments were weakened by the fact of Security Council impotence, the inconsistency with election of Soviet satellites to other posts, and above all by the understanding of many other states that this particular seat was to go to an Eastern European state. Unfortunately, in both cases the fight turned out to be with our closest allies rather than primarily with our enemies.
The fact that the US has now tacitly approved the election of four more satellites to the UN, in combination with the above considerations, suggests that our interests might be best served in the future if a new agreement is reached with respect to the election [Page 58] of non-permanent seats, possibly in connection with a move to expand the Security Council’s membership, so that in the future we can be guided on this prestige-laden procedural issue by the legitimate wishes of each recognized grouping, rather than pressing for an independent candidate against the opinion of the majority.
(Any future decision to vote in favor of a Soviet bloc candidate for the Security Council will have to be taken in conjunction with present US policy not to vote for Soviet candidates for any UN post whatever, a policy that strikes some observers as “toughness” at a minor level of diplomatic courtesy which is not necessarily matched at the level of major policies.)
Inscription. Questions of inscription usually represent policy rather than procedural decisions, but if they are considered at least partly procedural it might help to clarify our problem. Inscription on the agenda usually relates to the question of domestic jurisdiction, most commonly in the colonial field. Neither the US nor, for that matter, the UN as a whole has ever decided on legal grounds whether the threshold of Article 2(7) is crossed at the point of inscription, debate, or recommendation. The US has modified its earlier insistence on the freedom of the Assembly to discuss, by voting against inscription of such issues as Algeria and Cyprus. It is right and proper that political rather than legal considerations should guide us in making what are essentially political decisions of this nature. However, Asian countries, for example, saw our vote against inscribing the Algerian item as contradicting the neutrality we proclaimed when we abstained on inscribing the Irian item. On the other hand, our vote against inscribing the Cyprus item was generally understood, except by Greece, as based on genuine concern for the pacification of the problem.
An announced policy of favoring or at least not opposing inscription of any item that is at least arguably of an international nature, and then dealing with it on the merits, might have the advantage of restoring consistency to the moral position first enunciated by Senator Vandenberg, and might undercut the special pressures that are always applied to us on close questions of jurisdiction. This would also enable us to maintain our pragmatic position, which avoids rigid and restrictive interpretation of Article 2(7), but retains flexibility to decide on Assembly action in each case on its merits.
This comes in two parts:
The presence of the cold war in the UN runs directly athwart another powerful set of currents which involve the neutralist movement, the economic and human rights drives, and the motif of anti-colonialism which seems to be the dominant trend in the UN today.[Page 59]
In this context, a growing majority of countries entertain a set of expectations about the US which would probably require us, as suggested earlier, to dispense with the cold war, satisfy economic and social demands to a far greater extent, and support the anti-colonial coalition on colonial issues. Our inability to do these things automatically detracts from our leadership position in the present parliamentary setting of the UN. But it is still possible to win support for issues of importance to us, as we have demonstrated in the past, by the use of tactics which imply that we view our relations with other countries as co-equal, respectful, conciliatory, and friendly, yet vigorous enough, when appropriate, to give the necessary lead.
So far as the cold war is concerned, while the bulk of the membership wishes us to subdue our anti-communism, we have compelling national reasons for emphasizing it on appropriate occasions. When we do so purposefully it is because it serves our larger interests, only remembering that the price we pay is to annoy a significant number of other governments. But when we do so unnecessarily or gratuitously it apparently seems petty and childish to our friends, and exacerbates relations with the neutrals. We cannot have it both ways, at least not in the UN.
- In the realm of detailed tactics there may be significant room for improvement. Numerous criticisms have been noted regarding the failure of the US: to prepare its positions on important issues in time to undertake advance negotiations with friendly governments with either adequacy or timeliness, to conform our public statements to the immediate ends we are pursuing, to conduct liaison with other delegations in ways which are productive rather than counterproductive, to improve our press relations, to prepare the delegation on each item in sufficient time, to limit and aim our diplomatic representations with accuracy rather than using the shotgun method involving three centers of negotiation, to distinguish between matters of little and major importance to us and of little and major importance to other governments, to execute our policies on the ground with skill, consistency, and self-confidence, and to learn to give up, give in, or lose on relatively unimportant matters, with any degree of grace. At least some of these seem to be within the range of rational and purposeful control by the Department, and might well be intensively re-examined in order to improve our posture before the next General Assembly.
Summary of Conclusion
Barring basic changes in major contemporary US policies in the UN, this country is going to be the target of a certain amount of [Page 60] resentment and dissatisfaction. If the strategy reflected in those policies is sound, it would be wise for us to forget about winning popularity contests (which is a questionable desire for a great power anyway) and concentrate a great deal harder on procedural and tactical improvements. If it is important to our vital interests to appear tough and unyielding in pursuing our ends, the only sensible course is to stop worrying about the affection of others, and concentrate on maintaining our prestige in the sense of reputation for power, as the British did when the Royal Navy rather than the US Strategic Air Command kept the peace.
If this is unacceptable, as it undoubtedly is in the light of our national temperament, then we must either give way on some of the basic “core” issues, or extract every ounce of profit we can from the field of tactics. As suggested, there seem to be many opportunities available for offsetting tactics in the areas of elections, diplomatic consultations, press relations, attentiveness to the wishes of others, magnanimity, hospitality, and all the other lubricants and amenities of diplomatic (and human) relationships.
It is beyond the scope of this paper to recommend remedial action in detail, but it is suggested that early attention be given to the following possibilities:
- We should take the initiative without delay to sponsor an agenda item for the next Assembly session to expand the membership of the Security Council and ECOSOC in order to account for the increased membership. We should not allow this bid, which aims importantly at Asia, to go by default to the USSR. We are aware of the difficult political problems involved, but the inevitability of this action suggests that the US plan now to get full credit for taking the initiative.
- Perhaps as part of the expanded Council membership, we should support a clear understanding of geographic allocation on the non-permanent Security Council seats, putting a stop to the perennial squabble over the Eastern European seat. This might be done informally, or possibly through a declaration or resolution. Our policy should then be to accept the candidate of each bloc for the appropriate seat, as a general rule.
- We should consider whether a larger allocation of the current and projected US economic aid appropriation could not be channeled to multi-lateral programs (on the assumption that, particularly in an election year, a significant increase in the appropriation is unrealistic). We might meanwhile be blueprinting new economic programs that the US could at some other time advance in the UN, as well as [Page 61] new approaches in the social and human rights fields which would represent American values and concepts most meaningfully to those countries which misread our purposes.
- We should re-examine the consistency of our position regarding Article 2(7) and perhaps undertake consultations looking to a more satisfactory consensus, before the 11th Session.
- We should revive earlier programs for intensive advance diplomatic consultations, and utilize all existing intra-departmental and intra-governmental machinery to ensure that US policies are determined sufficiently in advance so that they can be executed intelligently and with profit to this country.
- We should take steps to improve drastically the state of press relations in New York, possibly by assigning the Department’s top press officer to the next General Assembly delegation.
- Source: Department of State, IO Files: Lot 60 D 113, Studies US Policy re UN. Confidential. The source text is undated, but was subsequently identified as having been drafted on February 9; see footnote 2, Document 24. Sent to Niles Bond, Director of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs; John E. Fobes, Director of the Office of International Administration; D. Vernon McKay, Acting Deputy Director of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs; James F. Green, Deputy Director of the Office of International Economic and Social Affairs; and Harold G. Kissick, Director of the Office of International Conferences, all of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. In a covering note, dated February 15, Bloomfield wrote: “The attached report, which is slightly revised from the earlier draft, has been reproduced in anticipation of a meeting which Messrs. Wilcox and Phillips plan to call to discuss its contents and its implications for future action. You will be notified of the time of the meeting. No distribution of the report is being made outside this Bureau for the present.” No record of the proposed meeting hereunder reference has been found. An earlier draft of this report, dated January 31, 1956, and sent by Bloomfield to Wilcox is in Department of State, IO Files: Lot 60 D 113, Studies US Policy re UN.↩
- All ellipses are in the source text.↩
- Walter Lippmann, nationally syndicated political columnist.↩
- The Reverend Michael Scott was Director of the Africa Bureau in London and frequently testified before various U.N. committees on South West African tribal matters.↩
- Reference is presumably to Resolution 957 (X), “Procedure for Review of United Nations Administrative Tribunal Judgements … ,” adopted at the 541st plenary meeting of the General Assembly on November 8, 1955. For text, see United Nations General Assembly Official Records, Tenth Session, Supplement No. 19 (A–3116), Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly during its Tenth Session from 20 September to 20 December, 1955, pp. 30–31.↩
- For documentation on U.S. interest in the U.N. Administrative Tribunal in 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. III, pp. 312 ff.↩
- Current Foreign Relations was a weekly classified publication circulated by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State to bureaus, offices, and posts abroad for policy guidance and information.↩
- Reference is to the Christian Science Monitor.↩
- Syndicated national columnist.↩
- William Jenner, (R.–Ind.).↩
- Reference is presumably to Resolution 914 (X), “Regulation, Limitation, and Balanced Reduction of all Armed Forces and all Armaments … ,” adopted at the 559th plenary meeting of the General Assembly on December 16, 1955. For text, see United Nations General Assembly Official Records, Tenth Session, Supplement No. 19 (A–3116), Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly during its Tenth Session from 20 September to 20 December, 1955, pp. 5–6.↩
- Presumably a report prepared by the Political Studies Division of the Bureau of Public Affairs.↩
- Presumably a report prepared by the Political Studies Division of the Bureau of Public Affairs.↩
- Current Economic Developments was a classified internal publication of the Department of State. Published semimonthly between 1945 and 1974, it was circulated to various Bureaus and offices as a policy and information guide. (Washington National Records Center, Current Economic Developments: FRC 72 A 6248) This collection of reports was released in Foreign Relations, Current Economic Developments, 1945–1954, microfiche publication.↩
- Reference is to Resolution No. 917 (X), “Question of Race Conflict in South Africa Resulting from the Policies of Apartheid … ,” adopted at the 551st plenary meeting of the General Assembly on December 6, 1955. For text, see United Nations General Assembly Official Records, Tenth Session, Supplement No. 19 (A–3116), Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly during its Tenth Session from 20 September to 20 December, 1955, pp. 5–6.↩