The United Nations After 40 Years: Original Signers Speak Out
Gene H Hogberg
Conferences are being held to assess the role of the U.N. III its first 40 years.
ON OCTOBER 24, political leaders from around the world will assemble at the United Nations headquarters in New York to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the official beginning of the world body. The celebration is part of an ongoing series of events being held in 1985 to assess the condition of the U.N. in the modern world. Earlier this year a major review conference was held in San Francisco from June 23 through 26. Plain Truth representatives were in attendance. It was in San Francisco in 1945 that delegates from 50 nations convened to design the Charter of the United Nations. The delegates deliberated for two months, April 25 through June 26. On that June 26, the Charter was signed in the Herbst Theater, near the War Memorial Opera House where the plenary sessions took place. To commemorate that historic event 40 years ago, the representatives of about 100 countries accredited to the U.N. accepted invitations to this year's San Francisco conference entitled "Assessing the U.N. After Forty Years: Why This Retreat From Internationalism and Multilateralism?" * U. N. Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar addressed delegates, civic dignitaries and newsmen on June 26, as did U.S.
* The conference was jointly sponsored by the United Nations Association of San Francisco, the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Secretary of State George Shultz. The representatives to the U.N. from all five permanent members of the Security Council — the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China — all spoke, as did the ambassadors from several other member states. Three of the original participants in the 1945 Charter signing also addressed the participants. These were General Carlos P. Romulo, chairman of the Philippine delegation, Harold E. Stassen, member of the U.S. delegation, and Dr. Charles Habib Malik, member of the delegation of Lebanon.
High Ideals, Grim Reality
All the delegates to this review conference praised the idealism that inspired the thoughts of the designers of the U.N. Charter. But most agreed that idealism soon was swallowed up by the realities of the world's power struggles. The original "goals and purposes of the United Nations," U.S. Secretary of State Shultz stated, "were lofty goals and noble purposes.... Today, few of the goals proclaimed here 40 years ago have been realized. The birth of the United Nations certainly did not transform the world into a paradise. "Divisions among nations and peoples persisted," continued Mr. Shultz, so that we continue to live in "a world of sovereign nations, of competing interests and clashing philosophies." Speaker after speaker in San Francisco praised the world body for its part in preventing the ultimate disaster, an all-out nuclear war. But the U.N.'s chief goal, as expressed at the very beginning of the preamble to the Charter — "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" — has not been realized. According to Canada's permanent representative, Stephen Lewis, the world — "this lunatic world," he called it — has been wracked by 154 conventional wars since 1945, affecting 71 countries and resulting in 20 million casualties! Looking back from today's reality, it is indeed difficult to comprehend how much hope was pinned upon the United Nations in 1945. But one must understand the setting for what one author called "the cosmic overselling of the U.N." The worst war in human history was drawing to a close, leaving 60 million dead in its wake. Further, the memory of the rejection by the United States Senate of the Versailles Treaty — which rejection kept the United States out of the first world body, the League of Nations — was still fresh in the minds of many. There was a certain amount of guilt expressed that had the United States played a role in the failed League, perhaps, just perhaps, the second global conflict could have been prevented.
The United Nations, however, quickly became a very different creation than the one its most idealistic supporters had hoped it would be. From the onset the burgeoning big-power rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, embracing two competing visions of world order, dominated the affairs of the United Nations, especially the Security Council. The only time the United Nations was able to marshal an effective collective security force to counter aggression — by North Korea against South Korea in 1950 — occurred while the Soviet Union had taken temporary leave of its seat in the Security Council. Moscow learned its lesson and has stayed put ever since, ready to cast a veto — as do the United States and the other three of the "big five" — to thwart any move considered to be against its own interest. The U.S. — Soviet rivalry exists to this day and was evident in the San Francisco assessment conference. The new U.S. permanent representative (ambassador) to the U.N., Vernon A. Walters, delivered a blistering attack against what he charged was a blatant disregard for human rights on the part of the Soviet world. The Soviet delegate, Deputy Permanent Representative 'Vsevolod L. Oleandrov, defended his country's role in the United Nations. The Soviet Union, he said, since 1970, has used the veto in the Security Council far less than the Western powers. Mr. Oleandrov praised the development of the U.N. and especially its growth (up from 51 charter members to 159 states today). "The United Nations," he said, is called "ineffective in the West, never in the East." He claimed the General Assembly "is in good hands" because of the role played by the developing nations. He took great exception to an earlier U.S. contention that the U.N. had become nothing but a "theater of the absurd." The Soviet Union, of course, has worked diligently, all admit, to find favor among the many poorer, new Third World members. Moscow quite obviously likes the United Nations of today — far more than when the U.S.S.R. was outnumbered in the early days when the United Nations was an organ essentially promoting liberal U.S. and Western values. And, as far as human rights were concerned, said Mr. Oleandrov, "the Soviet Union has a very good record." The most important human rights, he claimed, are those guaranteed by the Soviet constitution — the right to work ("no one is unemployed in the Soviet Union"), the right to a home ("no one is homeless in the Soviet Union") and the right not to be hungry ("there are no hungry people in the Soviet Union"). Secretary of State Shultz, in his remarks, promised in so many words that the United States will do more "politicking" of its own from now on. The United States, he said, had "failed to take part in the 'party system' that was developing inside the United Nations. While others worked hard to organize and influence voting blocs to further their interests and promote their ideologies, the United States did not make similar exertions on behalf of our values and ideals.... "Politicking is a fact of life in the United Nations..." Secretary of State Shultz continued. "We have no choice but to respond in kind." Result: yet more strife and contention. After one session, both Mr. Oleandrov and Mr. Walters rode up to their rooms in the Fairmont Hotel in the same elevator. I happened by chance to ride with them. Even though the two delegates chatted amiably (in Russian — Mr. Walters speaks eight languages fluently), it most certainly was "small talk." Being able to speak the same language doesn't overcome deeply held ideological positions. In San Francisco, several delegates from the smaller nations expressed, to one degree or another, the frustrations of being pressed between the two superpowers on various political and economic matters. Life for them at the U.N. may not be easy; th«y have their own individual concerns — and fears — too. The issue of human rights is especially sensitive to the many countries in the developing world. While Idi Amin ruled Uganda, for example, he was generally protected from criticism in the U.N. by other nations not wishing their own records to be too closely scrutinized. And now we hear reports of almost unspeakable new atrocities from that area. Will these, too, be covered up? So, while the superpowers are roundly criticized, the principle of Romans 3:23 holds true, that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Revised Authorized Version throughout).
Original Signers Speak Out
Overall, the United Nations, while it may have contributed to lessening the possibility of an all-out global war, has not been able to deal with the causes of war and conflict. General Carlos P. Romulo, one of the original signers of the Charter, was invited to say a few words preceding the main luncheon address on June 26. He chose to address this issue: "We have yet to accept the challenge to deal with the basic causes of war," said this highly decorated international diplomat. The peoples of the world, he added, have been unable to cross "the great bridge from unfettered national sovereignty to a workable world order." Still lacking, General Romulo said, is the means to bring "the rule of law to bear on nations themselves. The absence of law by definition is anarchy." While the U.N. has made considerable progress in dealing with problems of health, hunger and international development, efforts in these areas cannot be effective, Dr. Romulo said, "in the context of world crisis and tensions." The most urgent need now, continued Dr. Romulo, is for a world organization capable of "defining and enforcing acceptable standards of human behavior [and] capable of defining and enforcing peace in the common interest." It remained for another Charter signatory, Dr. Charles H. Malik of Lebanon, to place the U.N. of 1945 and 1985 in the proper perspective. The energetic Dr. Malik forcefully told the collected U.N. representatives and conference attendees that "our world order is one of sovereign nation states.... The United Nations is not a world government and can never become one." Dr. Malik then rehearsed what he had said on April 28, 1945, at the original San Francisco Conference: "When we look ahead to the years of peace, we find that distressingly little is being contemplated to be done in this Conference in the realm of the mind and spirit. For the most part, we are dealing with means and instruments and machinery and mere framework and form, but certainly the fundamental thing is the spirit that fills and justifies that form.... "It is to the spirit and mind of man, to his ideas and his attitudes, that we must devote considerable attention if the peace is going to be truly won. Unless we secure the right conditions for spiritual and intellectual health and unless we determine the right positive ideas for which man should live, I am afraid all our work in this Conference may prove to have been in vain." Dr. Malik expanded on his words of 40 years ago, in an interview with members of the Plain Truth staff. Asked whether his assessment of the United Nations in 1945 was as applicable today, he responded: "Certainly. Every word there is applicable.... That's the weakness of the United Nations. It cannot deal with fundamental issues of human mind, and heart, and thought, and intention, and will." Dr. Malik then drew upon traditions in his own culture to explain a "missing ingredient" in understanding world problems. "There's an old wisdom in the Middle East with which we are fully acquainted.... One of the basic things that you find everybody believes in. Everybody without exception in every village in Lebanon, in every village in Egypt, everyone.... "Now you... [in the Western world] have outgrown this old wisdom of the Middle East.... We believe that the devil is at work in the midst of all these events. And while the devil is at work and has not yet been completely conquered, vanquished, we will never have peace. We will never have peace. "You think the United Nations is going to bring about peace so long as the devil is around? We had 1,000 people today at lunch, more than 1,000, maybe 1,500. I was sitting down and thinking — all the time... what is going on in the minds of these people... with all their schemes, and ideas, and emotions, and aspirations, and plannings, and all kinds of things. The devil is at work." True words! The contemporary Western Christian world almost completely overlooks the reality of Satan, the great spirit being clearly labeled in Scripture as the — "adversary" of all mankind. He is the "prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). How many politicians and world leaders today recognize this reality in world affairs?
Another individual was present in San Francisco during those formative days of the United Nations. Herbert W. Armstrong, founder and editor in chief of The Plain Truth, was in attendance then, as he was at this year's review conference. In the December 1948 issue of The Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong divulged some notes he had taken on April 29, 1945, four days into the San Francisco Conference: "I have just returned from a significant special meeting.... This historic San Francisco Conference is the world's effort to prevent [World War III] and bring in World Peace. 'The world's last chance,' says Anthony Eden of this Conference.... "Here I have talked with world statesmen. Here I have been seeing power politics in action. Here I have witnessed something of the subtle yet fateful arts, skill, and strategy called statecraft and diplomacy — in living action as instruments for selfish national advantage. "In the plenary sessions of the Conference we hear beautiful oratory enunciating lofty aims of altruism and world peace — to be printed in newspapers throughout the world for public consumption. But the real sessions are behind locked doors of committee council chambers, and there the savage battle for national interests rages fiercely. "Already I see the clouds of World War III gathering at this Conference. I saw it first as it was injected indirectly into every press conference. We learn of it in private talks with delegates in hotel lobbies. The nations can have peace — if they want it. But they don't want it. They want gain at the expense of others." Those are just a few of Mr. Armstrong's firsthand comments. In an earlier issue of The Plain Truth. January-February 1945, Mr. Armstrong wrote of the then soon-to-be-launched United Nations organization: Americans, especially, he said, "look only to an altruistic and rather vague peace which we trustingly believe will be achieved by some international organization composed of what we like to term the peace — loving United Nations.... "Perhaps it is better that we become disillusioned here and now!... The plain truth is that the United Nations never will be able to give the world any permanent world peace! Of course we want peace. But we want it our way — and our way simply isn't the way to peace!"
By the Year 2025
Several delegates this year expressed the hope that San Francisco might be host to another and more hopeful review conference 40 years from now. By the year 2025, surmised Canada's Mr. Lewis, "maybe sanity [will have] intervened and we can convene a conference on plowshares and pruning hooks." This reference to Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 was undoubtedly made in light manner, but this prophecy surely will come to pass. Only when the government of God is established over warring nations will it be possible to eliminate, once and for all, international strife and conflict. Satan the devil, moreover, will be put away, no longer allowed to influence the nations (Rev. 20:2). God's law will be enforced — the "rule of law" that world leaders admit is lacking and the absence of which is the cause of world anarchy. The government of God, administering and enforcing the law of God, will be that world organization, to use Dr. Romulo's words, that is "capable of defining and enforcing peace in the common interest." But this will not occur until mankind achieves a false sense of unity at the close of this age. This was inadvertently referred to by Brian Urquhart, U.N. Undersecretary-General for special political affairs. In a rather reflective moment, this top U.N. official opined: "There are moments when I feel that the only thing that will restore the unanimity of the Security Council might be an invasion from outer space." The fact is, Jesus Christ will come back from "outer space" — heaven to establish the kingdom of God to finally bring world peace. The nations will be angry. For a brief moment they will submerge their differences in order to fight who they believe to be the common foe (Rev. 16:14; 19:19). But God will prevail. And the peace men say they want will at last be ushered in.