337. Memorandum From Gordon Chase of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Article 19, Harlan Cleveland, and Meeting with President

Early this week I went over to State to meet Harlan Cleveland. We talked at some length about Article 19. I think the following represents the bare-bones of his present thinking on the subject, which, in general, still seems to be quite fluid.

If there were a confrontation at the UN, we could get our 2/3 majority and win it. It is, of course, debatable whether we “win” if we take away the Soviet Union’s vote.
The important point, however, is that a confrontation will never take place. The GA will simply not give us the majority of votes we need to get to the point of having one. (Dick Gardner, to whom I spoke later in the week, disagrees. He feels that, by September, the Afro-Asians will see that the GA is being hamstrung indefinitely, and will probably be willing to face a confrontation.)
Interminable postponements suit the Russians just fine. In effect, it makes the General Assembly a “no power” unit and leaves all the power with the Security Council; this, of course, is what the Russians have wanted all along. On the other hand, interminable postponements don’t suit us—we want the GA to have a peace-keeping function.
How do we get out of our dilemma? One possibility—we let the present impasse continue for a while and then make a unilateral statement to the effect that if the GA is not willing to enforce compulsory contributions from its reluctant members, then we, too, will have to work on a voluntary contribution basis. While we would say this in sadness, in fact, this voluntary system, once achieved, has a distinct silver lining. First, a voluntary system will make it easier for international development and international peace-keeping operations to be undertaken; put another way, getting everybody to participate in UN operations is possible only at the costs of drastically limiting the size and scope of UN operations and of limiting such operations to those which the Soviets are prepared to back. Second, a voluntary system will allow us to avoid paying for a UN operation to which we fundamentally object.
If we decide to go ahead on this tack, we are faced with some tactical problems. For example:

Won’t the Hill say that we’ve caved to the Russians? Probably—but there would be several mitigating factors. First, there is a strong feeling on the Hill that no one wants to see the UN bust up for “a lousy $20 million bucks.” Second, a system of voluntary contributions will be very appealing to some. Senator Lauche, for instance, is always throwing up the bugaboo that the UN, some fine day, is going to force us into some peace-keeping venture to which we fundamentally object.

These built-in mitigating factors plus a series of strong consultations with appropriate Congressmen to argue the logic of points 1–4 above could make the Hill problem a tolerable one.

What about the American public? We would probably have to begin quietly playing a somewhat different tune than we have been playing (no more—“put the Russians’ feet to the fire”). It is pertinent to note that the same built-in factors which will tend to mitigate Congressional reaction against a caving on Article 19 and a system of voluntary contributions will also mitigate the public’s reaction to it.
In closing, Harlan indicated that a meeting with the President on this subject and on other basic UN subjects might be useful. For one thing, it might be good to expose the President to some of the above-type argumentation; this has not yet been done. For another thing, with his long parliamentary experience, the President might have a real contribution to make on this problem, which involves a parliament in New York and a parliament on the Hill.
My view—From a couple talks that I have had in IO, I get the sense that the people there feel that the UN is at an important crossroads (e.g. power of the GA vis-à-vis the SC; the balance of power in the UN between little and big nations); that the President is not entirely up on these issues; and that, in general, he is not being exposed enough to non-Adlai-type UN thinking.

While I have no real way of knowing the state of the President’s UN education, I am persuaded that there are in the air some important basic UN issues and that it might be well for the President to put aside an hour, sometime during the next couple weeks, to hear about these issues and the possible U.S. options for dealing with them. If you agree, I think the first step is to get informally from State a clear idea of exactly what the substance of such a meeting with the President would be. We can then decide whether or not we want to go through with it.

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Talk to Cleveland informally about exact nature of possible meeting with President but, at this point, making no firm commitment on such a meeting.2

Let’s leave it alone for now.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 1. Confidential; Eyes Only. Pages 2 and 3 of the memorandum are dated February 13.
  2. Bundy checked this option.