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Revising the Charter

Is It Possible? Is It Wise?

Roosevelt and Churchill aboard HMS Prince of Wales.

THE American people were not pushed into the United Nations, and they did not stumble into it. Most of them believed that they owed it to themselves as well as to all mankind, following the most devastating of world wars, to join the influence and idealism of the United States to those of other nations to establish at long last an effective organization to maintain peace and security.

The Charter of the United Nations, adopted at San Francisco June 26, 1945,[i] undertook to define "international order" and to establish certain institutions pertaining thereto. It was, of course, never supposed--and is even less to be supposed now--that these were to be the sole and preëmptive institutions of international order. Indeed, as was said by Dr. Leo Pasvolsky, a leading authority on the Charter:

The truth of the matter was that by establishing the United Nations, the peace-seeking nations of the world were providing themselves with a new and important mechanism for the conduct of international relations, but one that was to be supplementary to all the other machinery of international relations, rather than one that would entirely supplant the latter.[ii]

The American tradition is that the general welfare is best promoted through cooperative, rather than dictated, effort. The Charter of the United Nations realistically interprets "general welfare" by counting among its enemies not only violence, aggression and imperialisms, large and small, but also those other ancient enemies of man: disease, poverty, ignorance and slavery. "Collective security" both as a means and an end depends upon a general agreement: (a) that these dangers to society are clear, present and common; and (b) that the burdens of collective defense against them should be shared as equitably as possible.

The Charter has two specific and interrelated purposes: 1, as set forth in Article I, the maintenance of "international peace and security;" and, 2, as set forth in Article 55, the promotion of "conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations" (italics added).

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