Biden Doesn’t Need a New Middle East Policy
The Trump Administration Got the Region Right
Twenty-five years after the League of Nations was born a successor organization was being formed at San Francisco. This fate, at least, has been spared the United Nations. The United Nations is not dead. But it certainly is ill. It is suffering, even supporters admit, from "a crisis of confidence," a "decline in credibility," and "creeping irrelevance." However we define it, the fact is that the world organization is being increasingly bypassed by its members as they confront the central problems of the time.
To be sure, a negative diagnosis of the patient's condition requires some qualification. One can argue that the important thing to say about the United Nations is not that it has fulfilled so few of its ambitious mandates, but that it has accomplished so much in the face of all the difficulties inherent in the international situation. The achievements of the organization are real and are worth recalling even though we may tire of hearing them recited at U.N. Day celebrations. The United Nations has helped prevent or contain violence in Cyprus, the Middle East, the Congo, Kashmir and other trouble spots through peacekeeping and peacemaking missions. It has launched an unprecedented effort to raise living standards in the less developed countries through its network of Specialized Agencies and special programs. It has speeded the process of decolonization and eased the transition to independence for over a billion people. It has done an impressive amount of lawmaking, not only in the field of human rights, but in such areas as outer space and the oceans. Before we yield to the temptation to write the United Nations off as wholly ineffective, we might ask ourselves what the world would have been like during the last 25 years without it.
The twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, however, is an opportunity not just to celebrate past achievements, but to launch a continuing process of renewal and reform. If this process is to begin, we must pull no punches in analyzing the current state of the world organization. The United Nations today probably enjoys less confidence on the part of its members and the public at large than at any previous time in its history. The obvious reason is its demonstrated inability to deal with the central problems of war and peace in the world. It is hard to explain to people in most countries why the organization cannot do something to bring peace to Vietnam. It is hard to explain to Arab and Israeli opinion why it cannot assure a just settlement in the Middle East. It is hard to explain to African opinion why it does not implement its innumerable resolutions calling for an end to colonialism and racial discrimination in Rhodesia, South West Africa, South Africa and the Portuguese territories. It is hard to explain to American opinion why the United Nations does nothing to prevent the Soviet Union from suppressing liberty in Czechoslovakia or stop communist support for "wars of national liberation." It may even be hard to explain to opinion in communist countries—and elsewhere too—why the United Nations is silent in the face of unilateral U.S. actions in the Dominican Republic and Southeast Asia.
The decline of the United Nations is particularly notable in the United States, the country which took the leading role in its formation and provided far and away its greatest single source of support. Relations between Washington and the world organization turned sour during the Article 19 crisis and became increasingly abrasive during the late Johnson years over Vietnam and the U.N. role in the Arab-Israeli crisis. The Secretary-General's abrupt withdrawal of UNEF and the pro-Arab bias of certain U.N. resolutions alienated opinion in the administration, Congress and the public at large. The present American attitude toward the organization, however, is less irritation than indifference. The Nixon administration pays little attention to it in the conduct of foreign policy, and American leadership in the world body has declined to an all-time low. Despite the noble efforts of a revitalized United Nations Association and other nongovernmental organizations, the American people seem less interested in the United Nations than ever before-as may be verified by the empty galleries at U.N. meetings and the decline in coverage even by papers like The New York Times.
Can anything be done to revive the United Nations from this low estate? It is easy enough to assemble a shopping list of reform proposals, but such an exercise is sterile unless it is related at the outset to the political context in which the organization has to operate and to the fundamental causes of its illness. Moreover, proposals are worth making only if they are likely to yield significant benefits and have some reasonable prospect of approval from those members whose support is constitutionally and politically indispensable.
In a fundamental sense, the United Nations' problems are not so very different from those that afflict the political institutions of its members. There is a crisis of authority—a trend toward lawlessness and violence—between as well as within nations. It is said of international as well as domestic institutions that they are insufficiently responsive to the times, that they have failed to promote change by peaceful means, and that their failure to act upon real grievances and real needs leaves no recourse but self-help. For many young people around the world, the United Nations is an ossified "establishment" just like many institutions of domestic government.
The analogy between the U.N.'s afflictions and those of national political institutions may help us come to grips with the central problem. If the institutions of domestic government do not work, we are quick to recognize that the fault lies with the people who have the responsibility to make them work. The responsibility in the United Nations lies with 126 governments. As one U.N. ambassador likes to say: "There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the United Nations—except perhaps its members." Virtually all members pay lip service to the United Nations while at the same time pursuing their short-term national interests, often at its expense. Virtually all members take a largely instrumental approach to the organization, citing Charter principles when they seem to yield a short-term advantage, ignoring them when they do not. This has always been true of the Soviet Union. What is profoundly disquieting, however, is that it is becoming increasingly true of other countries, including the United States. For example, the United States only asked itself how the United Nations could help it to do what it wanted to do in Vietnam—it never seriously asked itself how it should conform its Vietnam policy to its U.N. commitments. With few exceptions, U.N. members ask what the United Nations can do for them, not what they can do for the United Nations—or for the building of a civilized system of collective security and world order.
It is this attitude which explains the demoralization at U.N. headquarters today. Rules of procedure and past decisions of the organization are frequently ignored by members because they are temporarily inconvenient. References to Charter principles or other sources of international law are regarded with increasing cynicism. There has been a marked decline in third-party attitudes and a marked increase in the tendency to vote, not on the merits of a question, but with regard to bloc affiliations and the protection of other interests. If a clear and unambiguous case of aggression came before the Security Council or General Assembly today, there would be little confidence that a majority of the members would treat it as such and come to the aid of the victim.
Of course, the United Nations is a political institution. It is natural that members should seek to pursue their national interests through it. The question, however, is how they define those interests. The link between law and politics in the United Nations, as in any institution, is the expectation of reciprocity, the fear of reprisal, and the recognition that in the common interest of saving the community one cannot have one's way on every issue. For the world organization to work more effectively, its members will have to give greater priority to their long-term interest in building a civilized system of world order than to short-term considerations of national, ideological or racial advantage.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations recently said its members have 10 years left in which to subordinate their quarrels and launch a global partnership to curb the arms race, to improve the human environment, to defuse the population explosion and to supply the required momentum to world development efforts. After that, he warned, these problems would be out of control. U.N. delegates have repeatedly cited this ominous forecast in connection with the twenty-fifth anniversary. What is required, however, is for their governments to act as if they believe it. Each member, for example, might ask what changes in its own policies—not just in the policies of others—are necessary to revive the United Nations and save humanity from self-destruction. Only in such a spirit of self-criticism and open-mindedness could proposals for reviving the United Nations have any serious possibility of success.
The central contribution of the twenty-fifth anniversary, therefore, must be in helping U.N. members to redefine their national interests in the organization. Surprising as it may seem, few members have a clear idea of just what they want it to become. At a recent meeting organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), most of the delegates admitted that the present structure of international society was unsatisfactory and that by 1995—the fiftieth anniversary year—major changes would have to be made if the human race is to survive. Yet none of the delegates was in a position to present a preferred model of the future.
It is often said that politics is the art of the possible, but it is forgotten that politics is also the art of making possible tomorrow what seems impossible today. Even if few fundamental reforms in the United Nations prove possible on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary, the organization could launch some ventures that might make reforms more likely by 1995, or better still, by 1985 or 1975. This suggests that particular attention should be given now to such consensus-building activities as the seminars, studies and training activities of UNITAR, the strengthening of the public information area (with particular attention to the use of communications satellites and other new technology), the creation of a U.N. University and the establishment of a U.N. Service Corps in which volunteers from many U.N. member states could work side by side in U.N. programs.
There are 10 specific areas in which steps could be taken in the next few years, commencing with the twenty-fifth General Assembly, to make the United Nations a more effective instrument for the performance of its tasks. I believe they would serve the enlightened self-interest of all members, even though they would require almost every member to modify one or more of its present positions.
First, the United Nations should move as rapidly as possible toward universality of membership. This would mean offering admission to East and West Germany, North and South Korea, and North and South Vietnam, and it would mean acknowledging the People's Republic of China and Taiwan as successors to the membership of the Republic of China, with the Security Council seat assigned to the People's Republic. Agreement by the Permanent Members of the Security Council would be needed to secure the admission of the first three divided states, but the seating of Communist China and Taiwan under a successor state theory could be achieved by a vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly and by the procedural majority of nine in the Security Council, thus bypassing a possible veto by the Taiwan régime. The seating of all these régimes could be done in a way which did not prejudice the possibility of unification by peaceful means. While it is true that the problems of the two Germanys, the two Koreas, the two Vietnams and the two Chinas are all different, a "package deal" on all of them would make it easier for many countries to swallow their opposition to the seating of one or more. Such a bold step would give the United Nations opportunities it now lacks for assisting peaceful settlements in Indochina and Korea, as well as elsewhere, would open new channels of communication between the two halves of these divided states, and would enhance the long-term potential of the organization for dealing with such global problems as development, population and environmental defense. New steps should also be taken to encourage Switzerland to seek membership, in recognition of the diplomatic as well as financial resources which the Swiss could make available. If the twenty-fifth General Assembly is not prepared to seat these states immediately, it could at least appoint a committee to study how universality of membership might be achieved. The committee could provide an opportunity for key members like the United States and the Soviet Union to reassess their positions. It could also recommend interim steps toward universality—the adherence of all states to multilateral conventions and invitations to all states to participate in such U.N. meetings as the 1972 Stockholm conference on the environment.
Second, a special effort should be launched to streamline and improve the procedures of the General Assembly. Some of the reforms would be relatively modest—starting meetings on time, organizing the debate around groups of items, enforcing the rules against repetitive or irrelevant interventions, encouraging delegates to limit their remarks and submit more detailed statements for the record. The Assembly could also consider a more fundamental reform: it could eliminate the time-consuming general debate. In its place governments could submit written statements on the world situation in advance of each Assembly, on the basis of which the General Committee, with the help of an analytic summary by the Secretariat, could draw up a provisional agenda. Any member could insist on adding an item to this agenda, but it would have to take a special initiative to do so, and this might reduce the number of "hardy perennials" that are debated each year to no advantage. Under a reform of this kind, heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers could gather at the end of each Assembly rather than at the beginning to resolve major issues, assess the results and agree on measures to follow up the General Assembly's decisions. Consideration should also be given to ways of changing the Assembly's main committees from committees of the whole to committees of 45 members or so, even though the political obstacles to doing this are obviously great.
Third, a beginning should be made at reducing the gap between voting power and real power in the world organization. One measure already under consideration would be to offer "ministates" associate membership in the organization with the privilege of circulating documents and addressing meetings, but without the privilege of voting and the burden of paying a share of U.N. expenses. Hopefully some of the ministates already in the United Nations as well as those that are expected to apply for membership could be persuaded to accept this new status. Even with such an arrangement, however, there would still be a great disparity between voting power and real responsibility for implementing U.N. decisions. This problem exists even in the Security Council where, despite the Charter stipulation that members be chosen with regard to their contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security, six of the 10 elected members currently pay the minimum .04 percent toward the expenses of the organization. The members might well consider some formula under which five of the 10 elective seats could be reserved for 10 middle powers (e.g. Japan, India, Italy, Brazil and the U.A.R.), which would thus be guaranteed a place on the Council for two out of every four years. In the General Assembly, where the disparity between voting power and real power is even greater, more use could be made of small committees (e.g. a Peacekeeping Finance Committee of 21) in which the large and middle powers would have a greater proportion of places than they have in the Assembly as a whole. To make such a committee system fully effective the Assembly would have to agree that resolutions could be adopted only when they had been approved both by the small committee and the General Assembly—in effect a bicameral arrangement. More fundamental—and probably incapable of adoption in the short run—would be a system of dual voting (double majorities), under which certain kinds of resolutions would be considered adopted only when approved by the regular two-thirds majority including a majority of the large and middle powers. It is frequently argued that no reforms along these lines will be possible, since they require the approval of the small countries which now have the voting majority. Certainly such reforms will not be easy. But they may not be impossible if the small countries can be convinced that reforms would result in a United Nations more effective on matters of interest to them—and that in the absence of such reforms the major powers will increasingly bypass the organization on matters of substance.
Fourth, concrete steps can be taken to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping machinery. All member states have a long-term interest in strengthening this machinery. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have experienced the perils of unilateral involvement. Both the superpowers, and the world as a whole, would benefit from a policy of reciprocal abstention by the superpowers from local conflicts and a strengthened U.N. capacity to patrol borders, supervise elections and verify compliance with nonintervention norms. Since the Soviet Union has now conceded that peacekeeping operations may be validly authorized outside of Articles 42 and 43, it may be possible to agree on guidelines for wholly voluntary operations when undertaken by the Security Council. These guidelines could provide for a committee of the Council consisting of the Big Four and troop-supplying countries to advise the Secretary-General on the conduct of each peacekeeping operation, although the Secretary-General would maintain sufficient operational control to assure peacekeeping effectiveness. Members of the Council could also agree to support financially operations carried forward in accordance with these guidelines. The question of the residual powers of the General Assembly to launch peacekeeping operations where the Council is unable to act can best be left open, in anticipation of the day when Peking may be occupying a Security Council seat. Beyond all this, the membership could make its most tangible contribution to peacekeeping by establishing a peace fund of $100 million or more, with substantial contributions from both the United States and the U.S.S.R., to liquidate the organization's deficit, retire the U.N. bonds and provide a modest amount for future peacekeeping emergencies.
Fifth, new measures can be taken to strengthen procedures for peaceful settlement and peaceful change. The United Nations was intended to be an instrument for the settlement of disputes, not merely a forum where they could manifest themselves. There is need for new methods for settling disputes that can provide a cooling-off period for the fever of controversy to subside, that can mobilize opinion behind a reasonable settlement, and that can enable international agencies to take responsibility for outcomes for which the parties themselves cannot take responsibility. To this end, regular closed meetings of the Security Council could be held at the Foreign Minister level to discuss international problems. Greater use could be made of individuals or small committees of the Council to meet with the parties to disputes and explore possibilities of settlement. A panel could be created of persons available for fact-finding and mediation, and U.N. members could be requested to agree in advance to accept the use of the panel in disputes to which they were parties, even though they might reserve the right to challenge the facts found or settlements recommended by the panel members. New efforts could be made to encourage the Security Council to recommend terms of settlement in particular disputes, and the Permanent Members could agree not to employ the veto to prevent the Council from discharging its responsibilities in this way under Chapter VI of the Charter.
Sixth, the U.N. system should begin a step-by-step program of institutional reform to put it in a position to handle a much larger volume of technical assistance and preinvestment aid. The case for carrying on this work on a multilateral basis, and for channelling a much larger share of development capital through the World Bank and regional banks, is increasingly understood in most of the aid-giving and aid-receiving countries. But if the volume of U.N. technical assistance and preinvestment aid is to rise in the next decade, as it should, from the present level of approximately $200 million a year to something like $500 million, the system for delivering that aid will need further improvement. New efforts are needed at headquarters and in the field to assure a more unified effort between the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies in support of country development plans. The measures needed to achieve this end are now under discussion-having the Governing Council of the U.N. Development Program approve three to five-year programs of assistance to particular countries rather than individual projects, and increasing the quality and authority of the U.N. resident representatives. Studies should also be launched of more fundamental and long-term reforms, such as the creation of a Director-General for Economic and Social Affairs at U.N. headquarters, with the power to direct the work of the headquarters institutions, semi-autonomous bodies and Specialized Agencies (except for the Bank and Fund). The pressing problems of development, population growth and the environment transcend the old-fashioned functional categories of agriculture, health, labor and the like. The United Nations cannot be effective in dealing with these problems unless its institutional pattern is revised in recognition of this fact.
Seventh, the United Nations should put itself in a position to respond to the important new challenges which science and technology have thrust upon it. The phrase "science and technology" appears nowhere in the U.N. Charter, yet the new tasks the organization will be called on to perform in this area, little dreamed of at San Francisco, may prove to be among its most important. The time has come for the United Nations to deal with science-related questions, including outer space, seabed and other resources, population and the environment, in a more unified and professional way. To this end the General Assembly should establish a new committee on Science, Resources and Environment in place of the Special Political Committee (whose few items could be transferred to other committees). The Secretariat should establish a new Department for this same work headed by an Under-Secretary or Assistant Secretary. The present Advisory Committee on the Application of Science and Technology for Development could be given a broader mandate and become an expert committee advising on scientific questions in this broader sense, not only as they affect developing countries, but as they affect developed countries as well. If reforms of this kind were undertaken, it might be possible to attract outstanding scientists to work in the U.N. Secretariat and serve on national delegations as members of the new General Assembly Committee, thus adding an expertise currently lacking in U.N. science work. These reforms would make it possible for the organization to stimulate and carry out new measures for global coöperation in outer space, the seabed, the environment and population control which could, of course, serve the interests of all members.[i]
Eighth, special attention should be paid to a largely underdeveloped area of the Charter—the implementation of human rights. For most of its first quarter-century, the United Nations has focused on the rights of peoples to self-determination, but has paid less attention to the rights of individuals within nations, whose dignity and worth are affirmed in the opening lines of the U.N. Charter. True, the organization has developed an impressive body of human rights law in the form of Conventions and the two broad human rights Covenants. Further efforts to secure wider adherence to these instruments would be useful (the United States, which has one of the least impressive records in this regard, could ratify the Genocide Convention as well as the other instruments before the Senate). But what is most needed in the human rights area now is not more law, but a more effective system for implementing the law we already have. The establishment of a High Commissioner for Human Rights, discussed at recent General Assemblies, would represent a major step forward. Although he would have no enforcement powers, he could make regular reports on the performance of member states in meeting their human rights obligations and lend his good offices to the Secretary-General, the Human Rights Commission and the General Assembly in dealing with specific human rights problems.
Ninth, a sustained program should be undertaken to revitalize the U.N. Secretariat. Even sympathetic observers have noted the progressive deterioration in the quality of staff and perhaps even in fidelity to principles of objectivity and impartiality. A comprehensive, high-level study of the Secretariat should be undertaken with a view to reversing this trend. The study should explore in particular certain remedial measures that now seem called for—a substantial raising of the U.N. salary scale, which has slipped seriously in the last decade relative to salary scales in member nations; increasing the number of fixed-term as opposed to career appointments, so that outstanding and independent-minded professionals and scientists who might be unwilling to serve with the United Nations for a lifetime can take leave of their national careers for three to five-year periods; and easing the excessive requirements of anonymity now imposed on civil servants, so that they may publish material under their own names. In addition, we need to explore ways of providing income supplements for citizens from developed countries like the United States, to match the difference between an employee's salary at the United Nations and the salary he would earn in his normal employment. This might be paid in the form of deferred compensation by the national employer, or it might be paid on a current basis by the organization itself from funds provided by a private foundation. One final point: It represents no lack of appreciation for the outstanding services of the Secretary-General and his Cabinet to note that most of them have served the United Nations for a decade or more at great personal sacrifice and that their average age is over 60. New leaders will be needed at the top of the U.N. pyramid in the 1970s to provide the dynamic leadership the organization needs.
Tenth, a major overhaul is needed in the United Nations' system of budget preparation and financial management. The world organization has lagged behind most of its major members by its failure to develop a modern planning, programing and budget system. Neither the Secretary-General nor any central group in the Secretariat shapes the U.N. budget with a view to overall priorities. The budget is shaped from the bottom up rather than from the top down—the result of a series of uncoördinated decisions by Secretariat units and specialized committees. It is still presented in the form of "inputs" (travel expenses, conference costs, salaries, etc.) rather than "outputs" (the delivery of specific services to members in the form of peacekeeping, human rights and development programs). New measures are also needed to deal with the problem of "taxation without adequate representation"—the five permanent members plus Japan pay 2/3 of the United Nations' costs, yet members whose total contributions equal 4-1/2 percent of the budget control 2/3 of the votes. The principal contributors to the U.N. budget, who have concentrated recently on joint representations to the Secretary-General and other agency heads, might pay more attention to building alliances with those less developed countries which share a common interest in reducing unnecessary U.N. costs. Further attention should also be paid to strengthening the work of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), and keeping it in virtually permanent session to analyze not merely the headquarters budget but also the budgets of the special programs and Specialized Agencies.
No program to revive the United Nations can possibly succeed without strong leadership from the United States. To say this is not to minimize the responsibility or the contribution of other countries. Obviously, the United States cannot and should not do the job alone. But the facts of life are that the U.S. input into the system—political, intellectual and financial—has been essential to every successful U.N. action in the last 25 years. For obvious reasons, this is likely to continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
All this makes the present U.S. attitude toward the United Nations particularly distressing. The trauma of Vietnam and the preoccupation with domestic problems has reduced the role of the world organization in official and public opinion. This should not be the case. Our disenchantment with unilateral action should enhance our commitment to multilateral coöperation. We ought to recognize that our domestic problems cannot be dealt with effectively if the international ones are ignored. Yet at the present time the "low profile" of the Nixon Administration is even more evident in the United Nations than in some regions of the world. Presidential and other high-level statements about the organization have been notable for their blandness and lack of any forward motion on matters of substance. In both the U.S. Mission and in the State Department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs the emphasis is on damage-limitation rather than institution-building. The commendable objective stated in the "Nixon doctrine"—that the United States should do less by itself and more in partnership with others—has yet to be given substantive expression so far as the United Nations is concerned.
The absence of any policy for strengthening the United Nations has been accompanied by increasing evidence of penny-wise pound-foolishness on U.N. budgetary matters. Congress has cut U.S. contributions to the U.N. Development Program to the point where the nation can no longer put in its traditional 40 percent of the total. Congress has even required that $2.5 million of the U.S. assessed share of the assessed budgets of U.N. agencies be paid in nonconvertible foreign currencies—a requirement which may well put us in violation of the U.N. financial regulations if implemented in full. The United States, which has rightly complained in the past of the failure of other U.N. members to meet their financial responsibilities, is now in danger of slipping into default itself. Although the principal responsibility for these actions rests with the Congress, it must be noted that the administration made no major effort to prevent them.
Everyone agrees, of course, that in the face of rising costs and pressing domestic needs every effort must be made to reduce unnecessary expenditures in the United Nations as well as elsewhere. What is inadmissible, however, is the assumption widely prevalent in the Appropriations Committees and in parts of the administration that increases in U.S. contributions to international organizations must be limited in proportion to limitations placed on the other parts of the federal budget. Total U.S. contributions to the U.N. system in 1969, including the Specialized Agencies and the voluntary programs, amounted to $250 million—less than the cost of the New York City Fire Department and less than one week's cost of the Vietnam war. This is for an enterprise we once called "man's last, best hope for peace."
The implications of this budgetary attitude for attempts to revive the world organization are obvious. American delegates are in the anomalous position of saying they favor U.N. initiatives in environment and population matters, for example, provided they don't cost money. (If we are serious in what we say about the urgency of the world's population problem, the U.N. Population Commission ought to meet annually, not just every two years, but under present directives U.S. delegates would have to oppose this on the ground of increased costs!) Obviously, so long as the current financial attitude persists, the United Nations will not be able to respond as it should to the new challenges confronting it. Moreover, and this is a point frequently overlooked in Washington, the United States will be in a poor position to press for needed reforms in the organization—for better coördination of assistance efforts, for a higher quality Secretariat or for more rational methods of making decisions—if it is disengaging from its financial responsibilities and narrowly circumscribing the conditions of its participation.
The revival of the United Nations, therefore, depends more than anything else on a new approach by its most important member. That approach can be summed up in a single sentence: the central preoccupation of U.S. foreign policy in the 30 years remaining in this century should be the building of effective international machinery to manage mankind's common problems. Such a policy of peace through partnership would mean a totally new emphasis on the United Nations as well as on regional agencies.
The implementation of such a policy would be assisted by a number of changes in the way the United States handles its participation in the organization. At the present time the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the officials backstopping him in the State Department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs are all career foreign service officers. They are dedicated and highly competent people, but they do not possess the political "clout" to assert the multilateral interest at the highest level of decision making. If the United Nations is to play a central part in U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. Ambassador should be a national figure who can telephone the President at will and command headlines in the press with his statements on world affairs. By way of reinforcing this kind of influence, the U.S. Ambassador should be made a regular participating member of the National Security Council, sitting with the Council at all times and not merely when it thinks it is discussing a "U.N. issue," since everything the Council does is relevant to how the United States is carrying out its responsibility under the Charter.
To support the Ambassador in this new role, the NSC staff should include a top U.N. specialist with direct access to the President—someone it does not now have. In addition, the Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs might be raised to the rank of Under Secretary, with responsibility not only for U.S. policy in the United Nations but also for handling the Department's responsibilities in financial and technical aid. There is understandable resistance to increasing the number of Under Secretaries in the Department, but this particular proposal would have the important benefit of strengthening the Department's multilateralists in relation to its regional bureaus and to competing interests in other agencies of the federal government.
Other changes would be necessary if the United States were really serious about the importance of the United Nations. It should upgrade and revitalize its mission in Geneva at the European headquarters of the organization and its missions to U.N. agencies located elsewhere, placing them under the leadership of qualified U.N. experts. Too often these posts have been treated as second-rate foreign service assignments or, even worse, as rewards for the politically deserving. How the United States chooses its public members for its General Assembly delegations is also a measure of how seriously it takes the United Nations. When the President's senior domestic adviser deals with the environment in NATO and a former child movie star deals with it in the General Assembly, foreign governments as well as the American people draw the logical conclusions as to the relative importance of the two institutions.
A new approach is also needed in the recruitment of Americans for the U.N. Secretariat. It is doubtful whether any U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has spent as much time on this question in an entire year as on a major speech in the General Assembly. Yet the long-term consequence of U.S. policy toward staffing the organization is vastly more important. The Soviet Union, France and Britain all understand this, as is reflected in the attention their permanent representatives devote to Secretariat matters. In the period immediately ahead, the United States will be faced not merely with the problem of replacing Paul Hoffman and Ralph Bunche, but also with finding qualified persons to replace a whole generation of Americans who joined the United Nations in the early years and are now approaching retirement. What is needed is a major effort, supervised at the top levels of the U.S. Mission and the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, to identify those key positions where vacancies will occur and the qualified persons from the academic, professional and business worlds who can step into these assignments. Preparation for filling these vacancies needs to be undertaken months and even years in advance, unless the United States is to become increasingly dependent on assigning foreign service officers to fill such posts. Greater reliance on fixed-term appointments, the institution of special compensation for income losses by Americans in these posts, and relaxation of requirements of anonymity in the Secretariat, as suggested earlier, would be particularly helpful to U.S. recruitment efforts.
If the United States accords central importance in its foreign policy to the United Nations, it will adopt a more affirmative attitude toward its financial contributions. One important step in the right direction would be to remove the U.S. assessed contributions to the United Nations from the State Department budget, where they have grown as a proportion of the total from 1/6 to 1/3 over the last 15 years. It is absurd to have contributions to the United Nations competing with the jobs of foreign service officers and subject to the same standards of budgetary restraint as are applied to the budget of the foreign service establishment. The budgetary problem would be made more manageable, too, if Congress could eliminate the seniority system, so that the key Appropriations Committees could be chaired by men whose view of U.S. participation in the United Nations is at least as favorable as that of the Congressional leadership. A forthcoming U.S. attitude is needed, too, on expansion of the headquarters site in New York. Unless we are generous in meeting our responsibilities as hosts to the world organization pressure to locate additional U.N. functions overseas will be irresistible, and U.N. efficiency and U.S. influence will both suffer.
These measures to upgrade the level of U.S. participation in the United Nations and finance the world organization more generously do not mean that the United States should passively accept whatever seems to be the view of the U.N. majority or defer automatically to Secretariat leadership. On the contrary, a genuine commitment to strengthen world order would imply lobbying hard for peacekeeping, economic or budgetary reforms where we believe they serve the general interest. We have become unpopular enough in a number of bad causes; we should not be afraid to be unpopular in some good ones.
The most basic division in the world today is not between communists and non-communists, between blacks and whites, between rich and poor or even between young and old. It is between those who see only the interests of a limited group and those who are capable of seeing the interests of the broader community of mankind as a whole. The United Nations' twenty-fifth anniversary provides a special opportunity to speak for these broader interests.
Man's ability to transform the world is only limited, as Lester Pearson recently reminded us, by "faintness of heart and narrowness of vision." It is only these qualities, in the last analysis, that can prevent the members of the United Nations from restoring their organization to the central place it was intended to play in world affairs.
[i] For specific proposals for new U.N. programs in these fields, see the author's statement, "New Tasks for the United Nations," in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Organizations and Movements, Hearings on the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations, March 1970, p. 258.