"THE UNITED NATIONS AS A FORCE FOR PEACE AND PROSPERITY"
An Address by SIR GLADWYN JEBB, K.C.M.G.
United Kingdom Representative to the United Nations
Joint Meeting with The Canadian Club of Toronto
Monday, August 13th 1951
CHAIRMAN: The President of The Canadian Club of
Toronto, Mr. R. M. Barbour.
SIR GLADWYN JEBB: It is a real pleasure for me to make my first (though I hope not my last) speech in Canada because I am one of the world's greatest admirers of Canadians and of the Canadian political system. It has always seemed to me--and I have been in a position to observe these matters during the last ten years or so that Canada is particularly blessed by having both first rate political leaders and first-rate professional advisers who are able to work together in complete harmony and with great efficiency. To function properly, a parliamentary democracy must be founded on a system like this; and there is no doubt whatever that Canada is in the front rank of parliamentary democracies. When one thinks of the problems that Canada has had to solve during the course of her history, her success in constructing such a political system is all the more remarkable. Vast distances, a sometimes all too bracing climate, the difference in traditions and religions all these were circumstances which might have prevented the creation of the strong nation which has in fact emerged. This seems to suggest that there may well be some particular virtue in the political system established in Canada and largely, I am proud to say, borrowed from Britain. Although today you want me to talk on the larger subject of the United Nations, perhaps I can, right at the beginning, take comfort from the fact that if Canadians of varying races have developed a wilderness and formed this flourishing community within a comparatively short space of time, so may the international community of the future gradually be formed-for it might well be based on some of the principles which have led to the triumph of Canadian civilization.
Now when I speak, as I often have to do, on the United Nations, I try in advance to clear my own mind about what the United Nations really is. Someone remarked some time ago-and I wish I could remember who-that in political matters it is essential, if possible, to "clear one's mind of cant". There is no doubt that the United Nations is a subject which especially lends itself to cant, that is to say to the use of rhetorical and rather meaningless phrases expressive of pious intentions without much regard for realities.
For instance, you have asked me today, more specifically, to speak about the "United Nations as a Force for Peace and Prosperity". How far can it really be said that the United Nations is itself a force? Is it not perhaps the Governments which compose it that are the force? Or even certain of those Governments? Is there, in other words, some really concrete entity called the United Nations which does things on its own and which therefore can be considered to be a "person" in the Roman sense, such as, for instance, Canada or Great Britain? In the popular mind there often seem to be two extreme personifications of the United Nations. One is an angelic, but not wildly intelligent, figure (sometimes labelled "Peace") that constantly appears in Low's cartoons where she is usually being assaulted by some brutal uniformed aggressor. The other (which tends to appear in such papers as the Chicago Tribune) is of a bald and middle-aged gentleman of dubious and obviously foreign appearance who is plotting with another gentleman of the same type over a green baize table. For some reason he always wears a frock coat and quite often a top hat as well. One picture suggests a kind of duly constituted, but supine international authority always being thwarted by the wicked manoeuvres of politicians: the other suggests a kind of international plot against national sovereignty.
As is usual, neither of these extreme conceptions is the true one. Though it may come in the end, a World State is not now even a remote possibility and it was, of course, nothing of the kind which was established by the Charter of the United Nations. After all, if it ever did come about, a World State could only come about in two ways: either one Great Power would, as a result of a World War, exert authority over the rest of the world, or a central World Government would be established by common consent. The first possibility is not presumably something which we should wish to happen or that we should work for. If it ever were accomplished it would all too probably take the form of a World Dictatorship. If the other possibility is to come about, it can only be either by the abolition of nations and the organisation of the world into constituencies of equal size which would elect representatives to a central parliament or by some arrangement, voluntarily entered into, whereby each country had a vote in some central World Government proportionate to its real importance in the world. The first of these two last possibilities can for practical purposes be ruled out. It is in the highest degree unlikely that nations will agree voluntarily to abolish themselves. The second, which embodies a conception known as "weighted voting", may conceivably come about one day, but one has only to consider all it implies to realise how difficult it is. Should we, for instance, agree that a national quota should be established simply on population basis? If not, should we take into consideration such factors as national income, foreign trade, industrialisation, standard of education and so on? And if we did, what likelihood is there that the nations with a small national income would agree to some extent to be dominated by those with higher national incomes? The basis therefore of the present United Nations is clearly the only practicable one. We all known what it is. Essentially it is that no Member can in the last resort be compelled to do anything against its will except by a vote of the Security Council which is concurred in by the Five Permanent Members.
Now even though this may be an arbitrary solution, it at least represents a certain reality. If we had agreed, for instance, that the Security Council could compel any nation, even a Great Power, to do something against its will by a vote of any seven Members, we might well have produced situations which were, politically speaking, completely unreal and which would certainly not have advanced the cause of peace. Equally if we had laid down that the Assembly, by say a two-thirds majority, could compel any nation to do anything it liked, we might have found that the necessary majority represented, in practice, only a fairly small minority of the population of the world.
For these reasons it was frankly recognised by most people at the Conference at San Francisco that no World Organisation, which really was a World Organisation in the sense of including all the greater nations, could possibly function satisfactorily in practice unless the Great Powers discovered some way of working together in moderate harmony and were prepared for a certain minimum of give and take in their political relationships.
It was moreover assumed--quite wrongly as it turned out--that the United Nations would only really begin functioning properly when the various Peace Treaties had been concluded. For this reason problems connected with the Peace Treaties were deliberately, under the Charter, excluded from its jurisdiction. As we all know, on the political side the United Nations has not functioned as it was intended to function and, to speak frankly, is not at the moment and on its present performance, any positive guarantee against a recurrence of general hostilities. Politically speaking its chief failures have been of course in the direction of the control of armaments and more particularly of atomic armaments; while the injection of purely ideological arguments into the consideration of purely political problems has often vitiated the discussion of these from the start. One result of the failure to agree on the control of armaments has inevitably been failure to agree on the provisions of the Charter for some kind of a force, internationally controlled, which could be used to quell aggression.
And yet there have of course been successes as well. Though I suppose that in theory it could be argued that the disputes regarding Palestine, Indonesia, Greece, Iran and even Kashmir could somehow have been settled even if there had been no United Nations, I think it would be generally agreed that action taken by the United Nations in all these instances either prevented hostilities from breaking out or succeeded once they had broken out in stopping them after what was really a very short period.
Finally, among the successes I myself would unhesitatingly place Korea. The more one looks back on it, the clearer it becomes that the invasion of South Korea by North Korea was a result of miscalculation, and incidentally a miscalculation which must almost certainly have been made in the Kremlin. Looked at from the other side of the fence it must indeed have seemed very probable, to say the least, that no real and decisive support would be given to the South Koreans by what the Soviet Government always refers to as the Imperialists. President Truman's historic gesture and the meeting of the Security Council on that famous Sunday must therefore have come as a complete surprise to the Soviet authorities, and I have little doubt also that confusion was so great that they failed to send what, from their point of view, were the obvious instructions to M. Malik, namely to attend the Security Council meeting and veto any action which the majority wished to take.
We all know the result--how the United Nations forces were formed, how they got to Korea, how they were forced by overwhelming odds back to the coast and how they eventually drove the aggressor over the 38th Parallel for the second time, and held him there, and how consequently a lesson was given to aggressors which may well be heeded all over the world. But it may still be said that this is not exactly the kind of United Nations action foreseen by the Charter. That is so. Owing to the Soviet attitude it was indeed a kind of gratuitous and unforeseen success from the point of view of the United Nations-though no doubt if the Security Council had been frustrated by the misuse of the Soviet veto, the Assembly would eventually have recommended similar action on the lines of what afterwards came to be known as the resolution "Uniting for Peace". We cannot be sure that if similar aggression took place elsewhere in the world, the United Nations would at once be able successfully to cope with it as in Korea, but we do at least know much better than we did the technique which could be employed. As I have already said the mere fact of our successful resistance is of enormous significance from the point of view of promoting general peace.
It is quite true that, as regards Korea, the major credit for this great success must go to the United States which supplied a great majority of troops and most of the money for the campaign. All honour is due to this great nation for the leadership she gave and sacrifices which that leadership entailed. But I think that no one can seriously criticise the part played also in the field by the soldiers of the Countries of the British Commonwealth now organised in the First (U.N.) Commonwealth Division. Given the size of the Commonwealth countries concerned and (in the case of the United Kingdom) her already very great military commitments overseas, I think that we can take credit for putting our whole available weight behind this common and successful effort to repulse the aggressor. In doing so, we have, I suggest, also emphasised to the world that, independent nations as we are, there is such a thing as a Commonwealth spirit, sentimental if you like, but disciplined, forceful, unaggressive and civilised, which is at all times prepared to reinforce any general effort to cope with those who break the international law. After all, though the machinery which it sought to establish may be quite imperfect, the Charter of the United Nations does at least make one thing quite clear--that aggression is a crime which cannot be excused and which somehow or other must be resisted. It is no good pleading that conditions are intolerable; that your neighbour is very wicked; that you were given a raw deal in some past treaty that you once concluded; that your public opinion cannot be resisted; and then claim that all or any of these factors, perfectly valid though they may be, justify you in going to war. If any country does effectively go to war, it is the plain duty of all Members of the United Nations to go to the assistance of the victim.
This does not mean that in the event of aggression all Members of the United Nations must go to war with the aggressor. They would only be legally bound to do so of course if the. Security Council, by a vote which included all the Permanent Members, decided that warlike measures must be taken. Failing this, and if the necessary action by the Security Council were made impossible by the improper use of the veto, then, as you all know, under the resolution "Uniting for Peace", it would be possible for the Assembly to make the necessary recommendations. But these would remain recommendations and would not be binding on all members of the United Nations, though they would be at least morally binding on all those Members of the United Nations who had voted for them.
In any case there happily exist organisations other than the United Nations for dealing with overt and flagrant aggression should it suddenly occur. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, based firmly as it is on Article 51 of the Charter, lays down in effect that all Members of the Organisation will be at war with an aggressor if any one of its Members is the victim of aggression. The same applies substantially (though the wording is not so explicit) to the recently concluded pact between the United States, New Zealand and Australia. In addition we have the Treaty of Rio, which covers the entire Western Hemisphere, and those other impalpable though nevertheless strong moral obligations which bind together the Members of the British Commonwealth. It will at once be observed therefore that, if you take in Greece and Turkey, whose early accession to the Atlantic Pact is devoutly to be desired, a very large part of the world is already covered by strong guarantees of support in the event of aggression, over and above the support which ought in theory to be immediately forthcoming from the United Nations itself but which in present circumstances might quite likely only take the form of partial and perhaps not immediate support as a result of recommendations by the General Assembly.
But perhaps in future, and more especially when the Western World redresses the balance in armaments which at present tilts so heavily against it when compared with the armaments of the Soviet bloc, things will not work out quite in this way. It seems much more probable that then we may be increasingly faced with the problem of "indirect aggression". Conditions in small country X may be really bad economically: the internal political situation may be equally rotten: some coup. may then be effected which brings it under the control of neighbouring big country Y.
If we are to avoid a situation like this from developing into a World War-and of course there is no denying that it very well might-the United Nations could be very useful in two ways. In the first place, a debate in the Security Council at the right moment might make those responsible hesitate before taking any irrevocable step. In the second place, and more importantly, the United Nations may, over the coming years, successfully insist on something being done to improve the economic situation in small country X. In this, they would be providing the complement to the work already being undertaken in, for instance, the Colombo Plan and President Truman's Point Four.
Now here the Western World finds itself in a dilemma. The so-called under-developed countries, and more particularly those in Asia where the food supply can only with difficulty keep pace with the perpetual increase in population, are often chary of accepting assistance offered by the West. They may fear that this implies an alignment with the West politically, which they wish to avoid, preferring neutrality between the two blocs; and they are highly sensitive to any attempt to supervise the way in which the proffered assistance is used, suspecting a threat to their often newly-won independence. Here the United Nations have a great contribution to make. Under its auspices, it may be possible to overcome the hesitations of the East, to create that new sense of partnership between the industrialised West and the unindustrialised East which could be of such inestimable benefit to both.
But for a partnership of this sort large-scale funds will be needed, which, though they may well give great yields in the long run, at the moment only represent a heavy burden on the pocket of the Western taxpayers. How can such payments be reconciled with the admitted necessity of arming the West so that it need no longer be under the physical threat of domination by the Soviet Union?
From the United Nations' point of view it can only be said that the dilemma must be solved somehow. At one extreme it is obvious that there is no object in both sides piling up armaments beyond a certain point; for that would result in economic collapse, unless indeed there is a world war when the same result might ultimately be expected. [Moreover, whatever else armaments can do, they cannot solve the problem of what to do with a society which is in a state of dissolution.] At the same time, it is only too clear that in the Western world, expenditure on armaments must have priority if we are to survive as free countries.
To the faint-hearted the sort of problems connected with the underdeveloped countries which I have been alluding to must seem so baffling and insoluble that they may be tempted, as Pitt was after Austerlitz, to say "Roll up the Map" and turn their face to the wall. Others may take the line that the only thing to do is to arm feverishly and at the right moment stage a show-down which will either result in war or in a retreat by the other side that will enable us to live happily ever afterwards. Others again (few I hope) will say "No more armaments; let us trust. Uncle Joe; he can't want to strain his economy any more than we do". Others again, however, may well turn to the United Nations, not as a cure-all, not as a potential World Government or World Dictatorship, but as a forum where the burning questions of our time can at least be aired and debated. And not only that: for in the United Nations there does exist a code of conduct and a set of rules governing international intercourse: and even if the two sides are so far apart that they can hardly understand -however wonderful the system of interpretation-what the other says, at least the fact that they have to go through certain formalities and obey certain rules does suggest that they will be forced as it were into a common posture. And that at least is something.
This leads up to the more specific point that I should like to make today. One often hears people say "What is the use of trying to preserve the universality of the United Nations when the Communist bloc, which countenances both direct and indirect aggression, is obviously not prepared genuinely to subscribe to the principles and purposes of the Charter?" Such people proceed to argue that for these reasons the mere existence of the United Nations is a snare and a delusion and that far the best thing would be, by one means or another, to expel the Communist States and in fact limit the membership to such states as are really democratic or at any rate are not actively working against what we conceive of as democratic principles. This attitude is comprehensible, more especially perhaps when the troops of many loyal Members of the United Nations are actively engaged in resisting Communist aggression. But I really do not think it is wise and I will try to explain why.
In the first place there is a purely legal argument. I would not wish to attach undue importance to this, but it is a fact that no Permanent Member of the Security Council can be expelled from the United Nations except with his own consent and no other Member can be expelled except with the unanimous consent of the Five Permanent Members. Legally, therefore, no member of the Communist bloc can be expelled though it is of course true that any Member can resign if he so wishes, and it is quite conceivable that the Communists may one day leave of their own accord. Of course, devices could be employed to circumvent this legal disability. I suppose that in theory some decision might be taken to wind up the United Nations altogether and then start again with a new Membership; but besides being very complicated and of doubtful legal validity, this would no doubt in practice mean having to agree on a new Charter, and one can well imagine the difficulties standing in the way of this, even if a Conference was held between States with a wholly similar political philosophy.
But supposing that by one means or another the Communists were excluded, or indeed that they left of their own accord, the purely practical question remains-would this really be to our benefit? It has become clear over the past year that there are a number of countries, including a large part of the world's population, who are very reluctant to take sides at this particular time in the general conflict of ideas between the Soviet bloc and the democratic world. It may be that they are waiting to see whether what Stalin calls "peaceful co-operation" between Communist and non-Communist states is or is not a real possibility. At any rate many of them were reluctant to follow the lead given by the Security Council in connection with the aggression in Korea. I suggest that in the circumstances we are contemplating few if any members of this group would be likely to stay on for long in a United Nations which, in the nature of things, would become in effect nothing more than an anti-Communist alliance.
If these states left the United Nations Organisation there would be left as Members only countries which are already committed and in varying degrees organised to resist aggression on the part of the Communist bloc, in such bodies as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Thus it appears that developments tending to make the United Nations an anti-Communist organisation are not in fact tending to contribute to the strength of the resistance to Communism. So far as the major political problems are concerned, therefore, we should certainly not be any better off and we might indeed be considerably worse off since there would not be even any moral compulsion on the seceding non-Communist States to abide by the decisions or recommendations of the United Nations.
My argument so far has been somewhat negative--it has tried to show that efforts to turn the United Nations into an anti-Communist organisation would to some extent defeat their own object. I should now like to turn to some positive considerations in favour of an alternative course, i.e., in favour of developing the United Nations on the lines which have been followed in the past. With threats of aggression in the air it is natural that we should give a good deal of attention to the United Nations as an organisation for dealing with aggression. But we must not forget that this was by no means the only purpose for which the United Nations was created. It was also created, in the words of the Charter, "to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations". It was intended just as much to be a forum of conciliation where all view-points could be heard and discussed. In this way it was hoped to promote an atmosphere in international affairs which would itself contribute to making aggression less likely. It is true that this role of the United Nations has not been fulfilled to the extent that we would all have wished, but it nevertheless remains true that it is a role which the Organisation has played and is still capable of playing. It is far too early to say, and indeed it is our earnest hope that the time will never come to say it, that this is a role which cannot be fulfilled. Even if aggression occurs in one part of the world, as it has done in Korea, the United Nations can continue to fulfil its function with respect to the numerous disputes and issues that arise between nations in all the rest of the globe.
There is also a further and more precise consideration that I think we should take account of. As and when the balance of armaments tends to level out, and if a general war is to be avoided, there must be some kind of political settlement or perhaps a series of political arrangements. Though its existence might not be essential for such operations, their successful conclusion would almost certainly be facilitated by a United Nations which was still "universal" in the sense of including both Communist and non- Communist powers. And apart from this, it is, perhaps, in the long run even more important that the new nations of Asia should use the United Nations to the full, both on the political and on the economic side, in order to emerge from the revolutionary situation which at present confronts all or most of them by achieving that general synthesis between Western technique and Eastern civilisation which would seem to be essential if society is not going positively to disintegrate in large sections of the World.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by the First Vice-President, Brig. Colin Campbell.