Why So Much Gloom?
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Mar 1962, p. 208-212

Woodside, Wilson, Speaker
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Item Type:
Why so much gloom over the United Nations? Various problems or crises recently faced by the UN. The speaker's belief that the UN came out of all of these crises stronger than it went in. The UN going through a "change of life." The UN's influence over peace in the world today. Gloom that is perhaps not justified. How things have changed in the Soviet Union. Communism as a wave of the past, not the future. Arms reduction and some effects that might have.
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8 Mar 1962
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Full Text
An Address by WILSON WOODSIDE National Director, United Nations Association in Canada
Thursday, March 8th, 1962
CHAIRMAN: The First Vice-President, Mr. J. Palmer Kent.

MR. KENT: Gentlemen. Dr. Phimister, our President, is in Montreal this week attending the National Convention on Education, and he has asked me to take his place. I am delighted to do so particularly because a friend of mine of many years is the speaker. I believe this is the eleventh time that Mr. Wilson Woodside has addressed us, and I do not know anyone who has been invited more often. I remember him as one of the leading spirits of S.P.S. at the University here. Yes, he trained as an engineer, became a traveller and a student of Foreign Affairs and then a writer and a commentator. He warned us first about Hitler and later about Stalin and Khrushchev.

Mr. Woodside was born in Portage la Prairie and raised in Saskatoon and Calgary. He is happily married and has five children. He has been a Foreign Editor and Associate Editor of Saturday Night. He was a delegate to the Bruges Conference on the Atlantic Community, sponsored by the Ford Foundation in 1957, and the Atlantic Congress in London, England, in 1959. He is best known to us through his writings and his commentaries on radio and television. Since 1958 he has been the National Director of the United Nations Association in Canada. As one of Canada's most famous news analysts, Mr. Wilson Woodside will address us on the subject "WHY SO MUCH GLOOM?"

MR. WOODSIDE: Why so much gloom over the UN? A few months ago it was supposed to be in dire danger of paralysis through the Soviet "Troika" plan for abolishing the Secretary-General's office and installing a trio, each with veto. The UN Assembly didn't put on any satisfying show of heroics in choosing a successor. But when the votes were counted in November, it was found that not one of those poor, weak, inexperienced, uncommitted nations had deserted Hammarskjold's kind of UN and gone over to the Soviet plan.

A new Secretary-General was installed, with full powers of office, and at once began to act with the same quiet decisiveness Hammarskjold had shown, and made such a good start I believe he will be re-elected a year from now.

Then we had the gloom about the UN being bankrupt. An insurance company is said to be bidding for the big glass building. True, the UN has nothing to be proud of in the way it has allowed members to dodge paying their assessments. If nations are to have a UN they will have to pay for it. At present only 14 members are paying for the Congo and 28 for the Suez force.

This problem arises from the failure of the General Assembly to put all the expenses in one budget. All members, except Nationalist China, have paid their assessment for the regular budget until lately. Four of the smallest Latin members are now in arrears. But many members, led by the Soviets, have argued that the secretary's operations should not go into the regular budget. The Assembly has now asked the International Court of Justice for a ruling. In the meantime, the Assembly has floated a bond issue which all members have guaranteed to repay, by assessment.

Since the bond issue is mainly to cover past expenses of the Congo, this sets a precedent. I think the InternationalCourt will decide there should be only one budget and that all members should contribute.

Then there was a lot of gloom over Goa. Now, I don't approve of the way India took over Goa. I think she should have referred the case to the International Court of Justice long ago. She might have offered a UN-supervised plebiscite after the liberation. She might have promised that all Goans who wanted to go to Portugal could leave, and take their property with them.

Nor do I approve of the action of the three non-Soviet members of the Security Council in refusing to censure India for using force as she did. Nevertheless I believe that India and the ex-colonial countries have a strong case when they claim that the Portugese were using force to hold a part of Indian territory, and for fourteen years had refused all bids to negotiate, whereas the British and French had negotiated and left.

It is preposterous to suggest, as Mr. Stevenson did-at 1:00 a.m., after a long, frustrating debate-that the Goan crisis may lead to the death of the UN. The UN has survived much worse crises than Goa. Shortly after it was born it was plunged into the long and difficult Palestine crisis. It went from that almost immediately into the even longer, more divisive Korean crisis. Then, after a couple of years of respite came the dangerous Suez crisis, followed by the Lebanese crisis. The UN, I believe, came out of all of these crises stronger than it went in.

In the last few months of Mr. Hammarskjold's life, it looked as if his persistence and his quiet, skilful diplomacy would pull a success out of the immensely difficult Congo crisis, despite the ferocious onslaught of the Soviets. Now, after a period of uncertainly during the changeover, it appears as if U Thant is going to secure a modest success. And if failure would have severely damaged the UN's prestige and its usefulness in further such situations, one must concede that a success will strengthen it.

The UN is going through what might be called a "change of life". In this time of change, the world could not live at peace-or in as much peace as we have-without the UN. As Dag Hammarskjold said, "The United Nations is the mould which keeps the hot metal from spilling over. If they tear down the United Nations, why, they would just have to build it up again."

Why so much gloom over the Berlin crisis, the world situation, or the Communist threat? The Berlin situation was very critical last September and October. Khrushchev pushed it right to the edge of war, believing we would crack. But we didn't crack; in particular, President Kennedy faced him down. And, you see, we have won a respite, whereas if we had given in we would be involved in a continuing crisis, surrendering West Germany after West Berlin, and Western Europe after West Germany.

Kennedy's decision may rank with Truman's great decisions, in upholding Greece and Turkey in 1947, defying the Berlin Blockade in 1948, forming NATO in 1949, and resisting in Korea in 1950.

We can see now, as I argued last summer, that Khrushchev would not actually go to war, risking all that had been built up in Russia since the Revolution and leaving Russia so weakened, even in the case of victory, that China would be able to take over leadership of the Communist worldand move into Soviet Central Asia. We can also see that he is not ready to place the East Germans in a position where they could involve the Soviet Union in war, by handing over to them control of the access routes to Berlin.

We can see that he tried to use the resumption of nuclear testing, demanded by his military people, as a last great psychological wallop which was to frighten our people so that they would make our governments surrender. But it didn't come off.

Now, isn't it reasonable to think that there are people attending the Central Committee meeting in Moscow this week who don't think that Khrushchev has managed so well in this latest cold war bout? They may be thinking that in view of the splitting of the Communist world bloc it is time to take a narrower view of the interests of the Soviet Union, and that carrying on the cold war indefinitely does not best serve these interests.

After all, consider the change in Soviet Russia's position in recent years. Not so very long ago she had a weak and ruined Europe on one flank and a dependable ally on the, other. Her European satellites were docile, and Communist parties all over the world looked to Moscow for leadership.

How all this has changed! On the one side the Soviet Union has a prosperous Western Europe, uniting to become a new world power, her economy growing faster than that of the Soviet Union, her people incomparably more prosperous. On the other side is a China which openly rejects the leadership of Moscow and is splitting the Communist world. And within the Soviet Union the university students and intelligentsia are in a state of ferment, which Khrushchev's Government cannot suppress as Stalin did.

For this generation Communism is the wave of the past, not the future. What they want is what people everywhere want: the better life. Khrushchev himself has just admitted that Communism has failed, after forty-five years, to feed the Soviet people adequately. While Gagarin and Titov orbitted the earth, their people were lined up in food queues in Moscow.

What I am arguing is that times change and that the day is coming when Soviet leaders will recognize that the cold war does not serve the best interests of the Soviet Union. What has it done for them in recent years but build a United Europe, which may pull away their satellites? If they keep it up they will almost certainly build an Atlantic Union. Also, it would be impossible to negotiate or carry on disarmament and institute arms control while insisting on provoking trouble everywhere in the world. Arms reduction is going to require a genuine lessening of tension, and the Soviets have the same compelling reasons to seek arms reduction as we have.

These are some of the reasons why I ask, "Why so much gloom?"

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. John W. Griffin.

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Why So Much Gloom?

Why so much gloom over the United Nations? Various problems or crises recently faced by the UN. The speaker's belief that the UN came out of all of these crises stronger than it went in. The UN going through a "change of life." The UN's influence over peace in the world today. Gloom that is perhaps not justified. How things have changed in the Soviet Union. Communism as a wave of the past, not the future. Arms reduction and some effects that might have.