"IS DIPLOMACY REALLY NECESSARY?"
An Address by CHARLES B. LYNCH, C.B.C. Correspondent, United Nations Headquarters, New York
Thursday, October 24th, 1957
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. W. H. Montague.
LT.-COL. MONTAGUE: While today's guest speaker, Mr. Charles B. Lynch, was actually born in Massachusetts on December 3rd, 1919, his Canadian parents came back to Canada soon enough for him to grow up in Saint John, New Brunswick, where his grandfather had been well and favourably known as a builder of wooden sailing ships.
Joining the staff of the Saint John Citizen in 1936 as a cub reporter, Mr. Lynch began his career in news work and journalism at the early age of seventeen, and after three years of reporting in Saint John and Halifax he joined the Halifax Bureau of the Canadian Press. Shortly thereafter he moved to the British United Press and by 1943 had gained three years' experience in Vancouver and Toronto. He then joined Reuters, who soon assigned him to Normandy, from D-Day to 1944 to the conclusion of the campaign in northwest Europe.
He covered the first four months of the Nuremberg war crimes trial; spent eighteen months in Brazil; was Reuters' chief Canadian correspondent from 1947 to 1950, and was then appointed as Editor of Reuters' North American service, with Headquarters in New York.
Just about one year ago, November 1st, 1956, he joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and became C.B.C. correspondent at United Nations Headquarters in New York, from whence he has come to address us today.
His first big assignment as a C.B.C. correspondent was as a member of the team covering the U.S. presidential election on November 6th, 1956.
He is familiar to most of us who have heard him on C.B.C. News; C.B.C. T.V. News; Capital Report; Press Conference; Byline; Assignment; This Week and MidWeek Review. Many will recall his excellent C.B.C. T.V. work on the eventful night of June 10th last.
After twenty-one years of reporting, analyzing and interpreting important events, his observations will be authoritative and we are delighted that today he has undertaken to give his views in reply to the question, "Is Diplomacy Really Necessary?"
Gentlemen, I have great pleasure in introducing Mr. Charles B. Lynch, C.B.C. correspondent at United Nations, New York.
MR. LYNCH: When I received a hurry-up call the other day from Royd Beamish, asking if I could fill in for Max Freedman, who was too busy to come, I said "Yes". Mr. Beamish said something like "Thank heaven for that", and hung up.
A little later he wired me for the title of my talk. His wire arrived at an unfortunate time. American policy on the Middle East had just gone off the rails again. The Canadian delegation said it was taking the initiative in the situation, but wouldn't say what it was. Andrei Gromyko of the Soviet Union was roaring like a bull, in the General Assembly, and word came in that Mr. Krishna Menon of India was going to make another speech. On top of all that, the sad remnants of the Canadian press party that had been covering the Royal visit could be found in various corners of my office at the United Nations, in several stages of disrepair. Thus it was that I advised Mr. Beamish that the title of the talk would be: "Is Diplomacy Really Necessary?"
When I told some of the members of the Canadian delegation to the Assembly that I'd be speaking on this topic, their reaction was, "Oh, Lord, haven't we enough to contend with already?" They made me promise that whatever I might say in the body of this speech, I would end with the conclusion that we couldn't get along without the diplomats.
Thus do I commit the sin of tipping off my ending, but before we reach that stage, I hope to give you some sort of insight into what's happening just now at the U.N., plus one man's opinion on some of the issues.
I am sorry, in a way, that I come before you on United Nations Day. I don't think your programme committee planned it that way and I certainly didn't. This is the day when speakers say only kind things about the United Nations. To speak objectively about the United Nations, not to mention speaking critically, is a bit like coming out against Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. So I hope you will forgive me if I speak both objectively and critically about the United Nations on its own day. Perhaps many of you didn't know before noon that this was United Nations Day. I didn't until a pile of press handouts this high arrived on my desk two days ago.
Another anniversary that I didn't forget occurred yesterday--the first anniversary of the outbreak of fighting in Budapest, the freedom fighting. A lot of people at the United Nations didn't forget that anniversary, or what followed the outbreak of the fighting; what the Russians did; and what the U.N. did not do. Hungary is still technically a live issue before the General Assembly. Actually it is dead, for there is nothing anyone can do. The Russians have never paid the slightest heed to anything the U.N. did or said about Hungary. The strongest words were used by a majority of the assembly to no avail. Nobody was disposed to try anything stronger than words to try to persuade the Russians that they were in the wrong.
Some three months ago, Mr. James W. Barco of the United States delegation to the U.N. said that the Assembly's resolutions on Hungary marked the start of Russia's decline as a world power. With due respect to Mr. Barco, and scant respect for many of the policies of the Soviet Union, I can detect no evidence of Russia's decline. On the contrary, I would say that Russia's influence, as seen at the United Nations, is increasing. I think that the Russians are playing on the Arabs, the Africans and the Asians in a more skilful way than the United States. If this trend continues you will be reading some surprising and perhaps unpleasant news from this because the United Nations, now that it has 82 member nations, now that it has so many delegates whose skins are not white in colour, no longer is a place where the Western nations can be sure of a majority for their proposals. The West has always negotiated from a position of strength in the General Assembly. Those days are fast disappearing.
Nobody knows that better than the Russians, and they are doing everything they can to cash in on it. The present dispute between Syria and Turkey is a current case in point. Early U.S. criticism of what has been happening inside Syria, and American concern over the growing power of Syrian left-wing elements, gave the Russians a chance to jump in. Once all the other Arab states had declared at the U.N., that they would stand behind Syria, come what may, the Russians hastened to declare themselves, with all the bluster at their command, as the guardian angels of the Arabs, not to mention the Asians, the Africans, and all victims of the western imperialists everywhere.
What a stand for the Russians to take on the first anniversary of Hungary, as Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge of the United States was quick to point out in the Assembly on Tuesday. But the trouble was that harking back to Hungary was not the most effective way to counter the latest Russian strategy in the Middle East.
What was called for, surely, was some sort of proposal from the West that the Arabs could conceivably accept--that would not have the effect of making them and their eastern friends think that their only friend among the Great Powers was the Soviet Union.
Among the nations trying to persuade the United States to see things in this light has been Canada. What work she has done has been behind the scenes, for an open break with the United States on this issue would no doubt do more harm than good. The Canadian feeling appears to be that since the United States is directly involved in the dispute, having been accused by Syria of being in league with Turkey to attack Syria, then the western lead should come from the United States.
In this view, the most the allies of the United States can do is try to influence American policy before it is announced, and then support it once it has been made public. This is the more true so far as Canada is concerned, since it appears that the United Kingdom is--advocating a firm line in this situation--strong support for Turkey, scant respect for Syria, and let the chips fall where they may.
So it is that Canada is speaking in muted tones, publicly if not privately. There is no question of selling Turkey down the river, or forgetting the NATO alliance or the Baghdad Pact, both of which number Turkey among their members. The idea is to avoid a cleavage between east and west, from which only the Russians could derive benefit.
There has been some moderation in recent American statements. The problem at this moment is to get some cohesion into the western position. A firm lead from the United States in the right direction is badly needed. That means something that we have yet to see, a firm long-range policy by the United States in the Middle East.
One can sympathize with the United States in her difficulties. It's easy to say that her officials are naive, or that Mr. Dulles has his shortcomings, or that Mr. Eisenhower is more interested in golf. The making of United States policy in the Middle East is tremendously complicated--much harder than it is for the Russians. Russia has written off Israel, the United States has not. Russia wants nothing more than to break up NATO and the Baghdad Pact. The United States is a mainstay of those alliances. Russia has no crucial interest in Middle Eastern oil. The United States has, and so has Europe. Russia can wallop away at the history of the so-called colonial powers in the Middle East in a way that makes sweet music to the ears of Arabs, Asians and Africans. The United States must always take into account the feelings and the present-day interests of the United Kingdom and of France.
Perhaps not even Solomon himself could evolve a workable Middle Eastern policy for the United Nations. If that is so, then it is the Russians' good fortune and our bad fortune. Never has this been so apparent as in the General Assembly this very week. Syria complained that she was in danger of being attacked by Turkey, and proposed that the U.N. send an impartial commission to the border area to investigate. Russia--and the Russians may very well have put the Syrians up to this in the first place--bellowed for action. The United States denied that she was encouraging Turkey to attack Syria, and of the conflicting views on this point, the American one seems much to be preferred.
The United States went on to say that she approved, in principle, the Syrian idea of sending an impartial commission to the area.
The way seemed to be clear for the west to get behind the commission idea, and it could have been a western initiative to make this happen in a proper way.
But then things started to come unstuck. Difficulties began to appear. The United Kingdom was at best lukewarm toward the commission idea, and the Turks, who are holding a general election on Sunday, became extremely withdrawn on the subject. At this point, King Saud of Saudi Arabia made an offer to mediate between Syria and Turkey. The United States, needing time to think things through, and to map a course that its friends and allies could follow, seized on the mediation offer as grounds for suggesting that General Assembly debate on the Syrian complaint be postponed indefinitely.
Syria said the debate should proceed. Russia backed her up. And so it was that on Tuesday night of this week, after a long procedural wrangle, Syria proposed a three-day postponement--that is, until tomorrow. It sounded reasonable--but there was no time for consultation, and when the votes were counted, the Russian-backed Syrian proposal had passed by 33 votes to 32, with the United States, Britain and Canada voting on the losing side. Nobody could remember a previous occasion when the U.S. had lost such a vote in the Assembly. It was interesting to note that four Latin American nations, including such old friends of the United States as Mexico and Brazil, voted on the Syrian side.
The soul-searching over that one is still going on today at the U.N. It is being played down as an unimportant procedural matter, something that would never have happened had the Assembly President, Sir Leslie Munro stalled the vote for a few moments to permit some consultation among the delegates.
That may be. But it may also be that the vote was a sign of other things. Certainly it was a sign of the potency of the Afro-Asian bloc of nations. Almost certainly, it was a sign that many non-Communist nations at the U.N. don't go along with the idea that because something has Russian support, it must necessarily be without merit. It might even be a sign that the Russians have made some headway with the idea that they are anybody's equal--that it is they who are now bidding from strength--that sputnik and the intercontinental ballistics missile are great equalizers.
The next act in this production comes tomorrow. I say production because I do not believe the peace is really threatened in the Middle East, as the Russians say it is. I believe that the Russians are playing a propaganda game, as the British say--though I haven't forgotten that the British said the same thing about Hitler in 1939. There's good reason to believe that it is a propaganda game, but it's one that the Russians are playing extremely well. They are after increased stature with the Arabs and their friends, and they are out to disrupt NATO, and the Baghdad Pact, and to diminish the prestige and influence of the United States. And they are on their way to accomplishing at least part of all those objectives, unless the West pulls itself together.
This certainly is a case where diplomacy is really necessary. Whether it is necessarily the United Nations kind of diplomacy we need is another matter. So far, it has been a case in which the United Nations involvement has been to the liking of the Russians. By playing this one at the U.N., they have been able to turn at least a temporary profit, at the expense of the United States and the West. To that extent, it's a sign that the U.N. is not a western show--and that is a fact with which we are going to have to live.
What is the United Nations? Could we do without it? Does it provide a forum that exaggerates the importance of the newer nations of the world, that takes no account of what we in the west regard as the great traditions, the great contributions to the welfare of mankind? Is the Assembly a distorted mirror, distorting the world at the expense of Europe and of the Americans? Ask an Asian or an African, and you will get a hot reply. It's a true mirror, they'll say; it's beginning to reflect truly the distribution of populations in the world. They'll tell you that the U.N. charter is the greatest document ever written.
Ask the Secretary General, Mr. Dag Hammarskjold, and he'll tell you that the U.N. is nothing more than a place where 82 sovereign nations meet to do business. It has no identity and no substance of itself; it is just what the member nations want it to be.
It is, says Mr. Hammarskjold, the best we can do in these troubled times, and if there were no U.N., somebody would have to invent one.
But there is something missing from this analysis of the U.N.'s make-up. It is a denial that any chemical change takes place when you toss 82 nations into a pot and whirl them around. It is to say that when you take an orange, a banana, an apple and slice them into a dish with a sprinkling of nuts and raisins, you haven't deprived them of their identity; you haven't created a new substance. And yet, when you taste it, it comes out fruit salad--something quite unlike oranges or bananas or the other things; though containing something of each.
The U.N. by its existence assumes an identity. Nations and groups of nations can do things there that they couldn't do anywhere else. Among other things it serves as an encouragement to bloc thinking, to the business of choosing up sides, of seeking majorities for resolutions, sometimes at the expense of workable solutions. This is the danger in the disarmament debate that is now going on in the shadow of the latest Middle Eastern crisis of hard and fast positions from which no nation can retreat, and from which no agreement can ensue. It was this danger that Canada's External Affairs Minister, Mr. Sidney Smith, warned against in his disarmament speech yesterday. He tried to leave the door open a crack, to leave room for some negotiation toward at least a partial agreement, since in disarmament there can be no imposed solution.
The problem is to follow through with an idea or a formula that will be acceptable, without losing face or being branded a waverer. A partial agreement on disarmament means coming up with something that will be acceptable to the Russians as well as to everybody else.
A fairly widespread reaction to the Canadian speech of yesterday was that it was "very kind to India"--presumably a reference to Mr. Smith's mention of a couple of Indian proposals as being worthy of study. That sort of thing can get you a label at the U.N. very quickly.
Somebody has to be found who will take an initiative on disarmament, just as on the crisis in the Middle East. Everybody in the General Assembly agrees that progress must be made; public opinion in every nation wants a start on disarmament; every voice agrees that the place to start is to end the testing of nuclear weapons, to prevent the fouling of the atmosphere. Nobody wants to become radio-active. The question is how to accomplish an agreement when there is so much mistrust around. We mistrust the Russians, so we insist upon adequate safeguards and inspection in any agreement that is made. Also, we want to go beyond the ending of nuclear tests into real disarmament; an end to the production of nuclear weapons; elimination of nuclear stockpiles and the cutting down of conventional armaments. The western proposals are complex, but they are sound. They are the work of honest men seeking an honest solution to a problem that is as old as mankind. Only now it is of crucial importance that a solution be found, for the weapons we are dealing with are capable of destroying life on this planet.
The Russians are playing a waiting game; at least, we can only hope it's a game. Only they themselves know the answer to our worst suspicions, which are that they may well be plotting toward the day when they can conquer the world. I prefer to believe that this is not true; that an explanation for their attitude can be found as much as anything else in the fact that they are just as suspicious of us as we are of them; that they are genuinely disturbed by the ring of western bases around them; that their hearts sink when they read and hear pronouncements in western publications, and especially American publications, that we should get the war with Russia over with before she gets any stronger. I prefer to think that she will be content to be treated as an equal; that she is as horrified at the prospect of hydrogen war as we are; and that she has no intention of starting such a war to achieve world mastery. She knows that from such a war no nation would emerge as master. To be wrong in this would be a terrible and final piece of misjudgment. It is our doubt on this score, and Russian doubts about our intent, that bring the deadlock--the inflexible position of which the Honourable Mr. Smith warned us yesterday.
Who dares to give a little in this situation? Prospects for agreement seem to be fading rather than growing, especially in view of the tough talk from the Russians since their Sputnik achievement, and the growing evidence that they have indeed the intercontinental ballistic missile, and with it a longer lead in the rocket race than most Western officials are prepared to admit.
The Western proposals on disarmament are good, right, and worth working for. Unlike the current western policy in the Middle East, or the lack of it, they are widely supported and they represent the product of our best thinking. There remains a chance for some sort of preliminary agreement in the current debate at the United Nations. Every man of good will must pray that it will come.
If it does come, the investment in money, time and effort that has been put into the United Nations will be repaid a thousandfold. I don't like harping on what's wrong with the U.N., and I doubt that many audiences on this United Nations Day have heard the kind of speech you are getting from me. If I speak as I do, it is because I doubt that pious platitudes serve the cause of peace, or in the long run the cause of the United Nations.
We all know the United Nations isn't perfect, and that it can't, as Mr. Hammarskjold says, be any better than the nations who belong want it to be. There is no magic force at work at U.N. Headquarters, making angels of us all and helping to see that everything turns out for the best. There is a man who tries to do something of the sort, that same Mr. Hammarskjold--a modest man and something of a philosopher. If this were not so, he couldn't last very long in his job, which is one of the most frustrating in the world, since he has so many masters to please. All of us have to compromise some. time in our every day lives, but Mr. Hammarskjold has to do it on an heroic scale. He is the master of the gentle phrase that turneth away wrath in a dozen languages, the phrase so vague sometimes that nobody can understand him in any language.
Sometimes you would like to stick a pin in this unemotional Swede just to see if he'd yelp--but most times when you watch him at work you have to admire him, and be glad that a man of his calibre was found for the job. When the time came to reappoint him for another five years, just a few days ago, the decision was unanimous; nobody loves him, but all respect him, and at the U.N. of today, that is a rare achievement in itself.
Mr. Hammarskjold believes that interest in world affairs has lagged behind science and technology; that bodies such as the United Nations haven't kept pace with technical developments such as H-bombs, rockets and sputniks; that the scientists are doing their stuff better than the politicians and the statesmen.
He adds that the politicians and statesmen do, have to give a direct accounting to the people of their home countries, whereas the scientists are not so hedged in. They can invent something new and hair-raising without the general public having to have any great knowledge of the principles involved. But statesmen, at least in the democracies, cannot long pursue policies that do not have popular support at home.
For policies to have support, for initiative to be kept, they must first be understood. Understanding of what the United Nations is doing, and of what Canada should and should not do there, starts with people like you. Only in that way can you have a foreign policy that is truly a reflection of our national thinking--not only on the big crises that force themselves into the public attention, but in all the projects of the United Nations.
I spoke earlier about the increasing influence and prestige of the Russians at the United Nations, and there is a moral in that for Canada. The Russians say they welcome competition. It is up to the west to see that they get it--not only on the technical side, but in the realm of ideas as well. We are a small country, but we occupy a very special place at the U.N. There is nobody else quite like us, and the Soviets certainly have no nation in their camp with credentials such as Canada possesses.
Arabs, Asians and Africans are disposed to listen to Canada and to consult Canada, sometimes at times when they might not be talking to Britain or the United States. The Latin American countries are very well disposed toward the Canadian point of view. Our geographical position as a new world country, and our unusual ties with the United Kingdom and the United States, give Canada a position that goes beyond any building up of our own ego. It makes us valuable to the world community as a voice that can be heard and can, perhaps, do some good. It is up to us to decide how to use that position; whether to take initiatives at the U.N. in things that may not affect us directly, but are in the larger interests of world peace and harmony. Some people might call it sticking our noses into things that do not concern us. I would call it enlightened self-interest. We should send to the U.N. General Assembly the best people we can find, with knowledge of world events and a thorough knowledge of Canada and where her best interests lie. Anything less than that on Canada's part will leave a vacuum in the Western camp that we can ill-afford with the other side getting stronger all the time.
But there is no pot of gold at the end of the international rainbow; there will be no sudden and dramatic turn for the better in world affairs. The talking, the arguing, will go on. Conference after conference will be held on disarmament and other vital matters, and there will be speeches we don't like, and votes we don't like.
The speeches yet to be made, at the United Nations and out of it, will total a staggering number of words. You would be able to walk to the moon on the paper from the duplicating machines.
Some of it will sound like the whole truth to some people, and like a pack of lies to others, for that is the kind of world in which we live. The United Nations has imperfections galore, and no doubt many more to come for people like ourselves, who see and think as Westerners and whites.
It is perhaps a poor thing, and we of the West can no longer call it our own. But it does seem to be better than fighting it out with bombs, and up to now in its short life--it is only twelve years old--it has helped to make possible a world in which Canada can develop, as she has, into an exciting place in which to live; and so can Ghana, and so can all the rest, including Russia.
I think I can discharge my promise to the anxious members of the Canadian delegation at the United Nations--diplomacy is really necessary; it does help keep the world habitable; it does call for the best and most representative Canadians we can find; and it does start with you.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Royd Beamish.