The power center of American foreign policy has seldom taken the United Nations very seriously. It has used the organization when convenient as an instrument for the pursuit of traditional foreign policy goals. Pursuing a global policy, U.S. officials may even have been surprised at the number of times they found a global body of use. Nevertheless, their resort to the United Nations was episodic, and they continued to regard it as marginal to the conduct of international relations.

That attitude is now changing. Slowly, a realization is spreading among U.S. policymakers that even a debating society-and the United Nations is more than that-can have a very significant impact on international relations depending on the subject debated and whether those speaking have influence on actions outside the forum of discussion. U.S. officials increasingly realize that U.N. debates do have this impact. As a result, whatever their private feelings or public statements, American officials are taking the United Nations much more seriously than in the past.

All of which poses a dilemma for the United States: we are taking the United Nations more seriously precisely at a time when our prestige there has never been lower. Thus, what we need to do is to develop a strategy for increasing U.S. influence in an organization that will continue to affect American foreign policy.

To begin with, Washington must make an effort to understand an apparent contradiction in American attitudes toward the United Nations, a body we dismiss in one breath as powerless and denounce in the next as dangerous. An explanation for these conflicting attitudes can be found if we face up to the fact that on some subjects the United States now has no choice but to take the United Nations much more seriously whereas on other subjects it still has considerable discretion. The difference between disarmament issues on the one hand and economic issues on the other illustrates this point.

In the disarmament field, U.N. debates continue to have little impact outside the United Nations, principally because the superpowers maintain a virtually unchallenged monopoly of real power. It is a relatively futile exercise for the smaller powers to denounce the major powers, because the latter, if offended, will simply refuse to take the views of smaller states into account in their own bilateral negotiations. Everyone understands that U.N. debates have little leverage in the "real world" of disarmament talks. No one, therefore, gets terribly excited about "irresponsible" resolutions or debates in the General Assembly.

If we turn to economic issues, the United States is faced with a completely different reality. There, because of increased resource dependence, the rise of multinational corporations (now vulnerable to expropriation), and much greater interdependence in trade, the former economic hegemony enjoyed by Western countries like the United States has been significantly weakened (though not destroyed). The gap between U.N. rhetoric and the "real world" has significantly narrowed as a result. American policymakers are increasingly aware that U.N. debates can have a major impact on negotiations and foreign policy matters outside the world body. This awareness explains more than anything the recent U.S. willingness at the United Nations to enter into serious discussions with Third World countries regarding economic subjects. The United Nations is probably the forum we prefer least for such discussions; and one has to be frank in admitting the grave disabilities of such organs as the General Assembly or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as negotiating forums. But we now understand that too negative a position in them gives rise to very negative repercussions elsewhere.

This altered relationship between U.N. rhetoric and outside reality, particularly on economic issues, helps to explain why American policymakers have become so disturbed by decisions which an allegedly unimportant organization is taking. Yet the United States is also on the defensive in the United Nations with respect to political issues, particularly in the last two years. To understand why U.N. decisions are suddenly having a much greater impact on the United States in the political field as well as the economic field, we need to go beyond the usual statement that the United Nations is now dominated by Third World countries-that, after all, has been true since the early 1960s-and to introduce two important psychological considerations which help to explain our recent U.N. difficulties.

The first can be best explained by a phenomenon most of us-anxious to close the Vietnam chapter-prefer not to discuss: namely, that throughout the postwar period, it now seems clear, there was a rather large gap between American power as perceived by others and American power as actually projected by us in terms of raw military and economic resources. We never could really police the world, and our willingness to make important economic sacrifices through trade and aid for foreign objectives has been declining since the late 1950s. These realities notwithstanding, others continued to believe we had more power than we really did have; they structured their diplomacy accordingly, and Americans benefited from the much greater respect their views were accorded. This was true multilaterally and bilaterally, inside the United Nations and outside. Not the least of the destructive effects of our disastrous involvement in Indochina was to end a psychological advantage we were able to exploit for years within the United Nations and long after the "tyrannous majority" was in charge.

A remark once made by Lenin about the British underscores how others at certain periods in their history have benefited from a similar gap between perception and reality. To Lenin-and now to the British-it was ridiculous that England with a handful of troops could dominate a country as large as India, which had only to understand its true strength to drive the British out. But because the Indians thought the British had more power than they really did, they acted accordingly. (So did the Indonesians toward the Dutch; millions of Africans adopted a similar attitude toward the French.) When World War II exposed the extreme vulnerability of the British position in India, independence quickly followed. It is perhaps no accident that it took a war to close the gap between perception and reality for both Britain and the United States.

The second development that obviously has dealt a psychological blow to our political position inside the United Nations is Watergate. Today, American power is probably perceived by foreigners and ourselves to be significantly lower than it actually is. The public image of a weak President altering his foreign policy on détente and the Panama Canal according to the latest speech of his main challenger, the cascade of domestic scandal, the Administration's foolish decision (after years of neglecting Africa) to make Angola a test case of our ability to stand up to the Soviets, the cacophony of policy-level voices in the Administration on defense and international economic questions, the spectacle of press reports quickly confirming that the President is taking no moves in Congress to indicate his support for the Secretary of State's major shift in policy toward Rhodesia-all convince the world that America is a confused and troubled giant. It is no accident, in other words, that our worst period in the United Nations has coincided with our worst postwar domestic trauma.

All of which might make one despair since the trauma has been so far-reaching. Yet, it is an indication of the basic health of the country that already we see signs of a turn for the better. Those currently in contention for the presidency, for example, can hardly be described as adherents of a weak foreign policy. (On the contrary, the danger lies in the other direction. As this country picks itself off the mat psychologically, it may overreact to Soviet power and lose some of the gains in Soviet-American relations carefully achieved over four presidencies.) Already, in other words, the nation's approach to the 1976 elections, which will end the crippling anomaly of an appointed President, is placing the impact of Watergate on our international position behind us.

Once the election takes place, we should be able to avoid undue emphasis on the sorry record of recent years. Rather, we will perceive that America today is much like France in 1957, on the eve of General de Gaulle's accession to office. Our current international position, like France's then, reflects certain long-run adverse trends; and these we must analyze and react against. But our position reflects what will surely turn out to be a temporary collapse of national will and leadership. With time, our pessimism will recede, our adversaries' confidence will decline. Like France's influence then, America's influence will be reestablished in the world because the real strength of the nation has not been lost. We have only to regain our composure and retrieve our common sense for this to happen.

Restored American confidence will provide a solid basis on which to reexamine American foreign policy in the United Nations. But even with that confidence restored, there is a new mood in the Third World which we must comprehend if we are to place American policy in the United Nations in its proper framework.


Many post-1973 accounts of the U.N. confrontation between the Third World and industrialized societies assume that the outstanding issues are essentially economic or financial in nature, since so many of our disagreements with the Third World have centered around the so-called New International Economic Order. Third World demands are seen as a collective ultimatum for higher levels of resource transfer from the developed world to the developing world. This view, however, is not an adequate picture of Third World objectives, which remain more political than economic.

In fact, the current North-South confrontation is part of a continuing process in this century to widen the circle of international decision-making. As such, it represents the third major attempt to integrate dissatisfied powers into the central management of the international system. The first attempt involved Germany and Japan. Although the conflict with Germany and Japan obviously had several dimensions, a key element of their challenge to others was a demand that they no longer be treated as second-class members of the international system. It took 50 years of struggle and negotiation before their true integration into the management of that system (along with a curbing of their ambitions) was accomplished. The second attempt concerned the communist states, particularly the Soviet Union and China. It has taken another lengthy period to arrive at a point where we can finally accord China her seat on the Security Council and can acknowledge that the Soviet Union has become a global power with legitimate interests which reach far beyond Eastern Europe. Today we are faced with the third effort of this century to enlarge the circle of those who have a determining voice in the conduct of international affairs.

Once we look at Third World goals in this light, we begin to understand the ability of developing countries to maintain unity under very adverse economic circumstances. Unlike Germany and Japan or the Soviet Union, few countries of the Third World have the national power base to compel acceptance or integration into the central management of the international system. Only through unity can they gain the role they seek. Consequently, unity persists for fundamental political reasons even when the economic costs of continuing the unity remain very high. Although, as Tom Farer has pointed out in this journal,1 a common hatred of the colonial heritage is another cementing bond among many Third World states, only recognition of this drive for international acceptance and for an assured voice at the critical negotiating table allows us to understand a phenomenon which can link colonial with non-colonial (Yugoslavia with Burundi); free market with socialist (Thailand with Algeria); significantly developed with barely touched (Argentina with Nepal); pro-American with anti-American (Brazil with Iraq).

Third World countries have experienced colonialism in different degrees and at different times. Since independence, however, they have all experienced in roughly equal measure a common feeling of marginality and irrelevance regarding their role in the international system. In this regard, developing countries, no less so than industrialized countries, recognize that with the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the rise of new global challenges we have entered an era of international rule-drawing-in Secretary Kissinger's words the "most extensive series" of international economic negotiations in history. In such a period a place at the negotiating table tomorrow is becoming much more important than a lower price for oil today. The example of OPEC is electrifying, in other words, not simply because the oil-producing countries have more money but because they now have a commanding voice in international affairs.

Viewing Third World demands from this standpoint makes it possible to relate more coherently other features of the current U.N. confrontation between the United States and the Third World. It is almost commonplace for anyone following U.N. affairs to observe that the United States is isolated in the world body primarily because of three issues: the Middle East, southern Africa, and the New International Economic Order. (The Panama Canal, though not as central to our U.N. problem, should also be mentioned because, after more than ten years of negotiation, our failure to arrive at a settlement increasingly tends to rally Latin American states to anti-American positions in the United Nations.) On all three, Washington has allowed a cross-regional, hostile alliance to develop which has alternately embarrassed and outraged the American government and its people.

At first glance, it would seem that the three issues have few real links (except those which Arab money and African poverty can establish). In fact, they are closely joined by one common element: all are viewed by the Third World as symbols of its powerlessness in the international system. In all three cases, the industrialized world is seen as interposing itself either to prevent change or to control developments. Moreover, in the eyes of the Third World, the interposition itself, almost more than the formal Western position, is highly objectionable.

Since October 1973, euphoria has developed in the Third World precisely because developing countries have concluded that the West may no longer be able to interpose itself with its former effectiveness in any of these three central U.N. issues. In this perception, the oil weapon may have forced a new caution in the U.S. support of Israel; after Vietnam the unwillingness of the United States to become involved in civil conflicts abroad may have resulted in a new American reluctance to continue to encourage either a blocking or a slowing of the unfolding liberation of southern Africa; and Third World unity, coupled with the needs of growing interdependence, may have compelled the West to take much more seriously than in the past the economic demands of the world's poor.


One stark formulation of the basic choices open to the United States in the face of a united Third World appeared in the London Financial Times: "Do the Americans wish to split the Third World, or negotiate with it or, conceivably, do both? From Dr. Kissinger's statements, it is impossible to tell." A central explanation for our weak position in the United Nations is that the Administration has no answer to this question. In his famous telegram to the Department of State, printed in The New York Times, former U.N. Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan categorically asserted that it was a "basic foreign policy goal" to break up "the massive blocs of nations, mostly new nations, which for so long have been arrayed against us in diplomatic forums and in diplomatic encounters generally." Secretary Kissinger himself has repeatedly denounced the "alignment of the nonaligned." Yet, as at UNCTAD IV in Nairobi this May, he has also called for cooperation, not confrontation, and in concrete situations he has shown a willingness to work with a united Third World.

It will be clear from the argument thus far that I think it is a mistake to attempt, certainly in self-defeating rhetoric but also in policy practice, to split the Third World. The record since October 1973 suggests why. For much of that period Washington attempted both with words and actions to divide the Third World, and the result was a spectacular diplomatic failure. Repeatedly Washington predicted what month after month failed to happen. Then, when we reversed course at the Seventh Special Session and attempted to encourage the emergence of moderate leadership within a united Third World, we ended up with a significant diplomatic success. By coming forward at that session with a major policy statement which indicated that on basic principles America remained firm but that within the boundaries set by those principles we would honestly attempt to meet the legitimate grievances of the developing world, we sent an important signal to the developing countries: moderation can pay. The response of Third World countries was instructive. There was no split. No one left the caucus. But the leadership role passed from the radicals to the moderates. In the coming months and in the next Administration, Washington must continue to send this kind of signal-one of firmness on principles and of accommodation on problems consistent with those principles.

The alternative is the "union-busting" tactics endorsed by Ambassador Moynihan. These tactics, however, are likely to fail and may not even serve our interests. Can we expect some Third World countries to side with us regarding economic issues on a regular and predictable basis against the majority of developing countries? In fact, it would be against their own national interests since their leverage with us derives precisely from that unity. Even State Department Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt has acknowledged in his secret address to U.S. Ambassadors to European countries-in conformity with current practice subsequently published-that "dwarf states" can achieve real power internationally through unity.

But there is an additional consideration. We must begin asking ourselves more carefully whether such union-busting tactics, even if successful, would serve American interests. The world, after all, is entering a period of great economic uncertainty. With a total breakdown in the postwar economic framework, states are free to strike out independently, engaging in the international equivalent of wildcat strikes by arbitrary expropriations, sudden cutoffs of critical supplies, and refusal to honor earlier agreements. No state has a greater interest than the United States-a relatively satisfied and dominant power economically-in increasing the degree of collective pressure which can be brought to bear against states tempted to break the rules even as Washington negotiates a new set of them. Just as a sense of common interests in the European Community recently led to group pressure on France to rescind the new tax suddenly imposed on Italian wine imports, so members of a Third World bloc will have an interest in making certain that the actions of some temporarily dissatisfied state do not jeopardize future economic arrangements that benefit the vast majority. The American goal, therefore, should not be to break up the Third World but to structure its diplomatic approach in such a manner as to encourage the rise of moderate leadership within a bloc that probably should not be split in any event.

The same approach is also relevant to the other two key issues in the United Nations which isolate America so totally. In the Middle East we cannot expect Egypt to abandon the Arab world; nor in southern Africa can we expect Zambia to separate itself from other African states. The United States can work for the creation of a negotiating atmosphere which permits Egypt and Zambia to argue persuasively with other Arab and African states that moderation pays. Like the moderate leadership in the American civil rights movement in the late 1960s, however, the moderate elements in the Third World have gone years without victories and urgently require some to prove that a moderate course can produce results. Otherwise, we can expect the extremists of international politics to take over. But if America's general strategy should be to pursue a policy which enables leaders in the Third World to outflank the radicals with the argument that moderation pays and extremism does not, what specific steps should be taken in the United Nations?


Here, the United States must adopt a strategy of tough diplomacy on the one hand and practical accommodation on the other. Tough diplomacy is essential primarily to trace clearly those limits beyond which it would be unwise to push the United States because fundamental principles or vital national interests are involved. The Zionism resolution and Cuban-inspired actions on Puerto Rico are examples. On such issues, Ambassador Moynihan was right, and the United States must press its views on such subjects earlier, more vigorously, and at a much higher level than in the past.

At the same time, Washington must press for accommodation in those areas where changes in our policy are entirely consistent with our long-term interests. On these issues and others we have more influence than we often believe. For years the United States followed a narrow damage-limitation strategy in the United Nations, in part because America needed a low international profile as long as the Vietnam War continued. Yet the past two years-which have been the low point of U.S. influence in the United Nations-demonstrate that when the United States takes the initiative, it can, precisely because it remains so important and so powerful, have greater influence than perhaps any other U.N. member in determining the shape of the international agenda. The U.S. initiative on food in Secretary Kissinger's maiden speech to the General Assembly in 1973 and his major address to the Seventh Special Session last fall contained elements of concrete benefit to everyone (although they did not ensure follow-through); at the same time, they preempted initiatives which would have been much less to our taste. Washington should attempt to launch similar initiatives in the future. Indeed, the United States should begin to think of its objective at the United Nations itself as much in terms of shaping the agenda for action there and elsewhere as in settling the problems themselves in the world body.

While the United States no longer has the potential in the United Nations to advance final formulations and expect blind acceptance by others, the alternative is not powerlessness. On any power continuum, the United States remains close to where it was. Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves because of the power we have lost, we should focus on the power we retain and determine to use it skillfully and with worthy purpose.

Opportunities to do this are various in the U.N. system, particularly in the technical fields. In the late 1970s, the United Nations will hold a major international conference on technology, a field both of American strength and of great political sensitivity to the Third World, which is aware that the weakest section of the consensus resolution at the Seventh Special Session centered around this issue. The United States should begin now with a vigorous interagency effort designed to develop a stream of proposals specifying steps that can both improve the terms of current technology flows to the Third World and assist Third World countries in developing new technology more suited to their own development requirements. Secretary Kissinger's recent Nairobi speech makes an excellent beginning in this process which the next Administration should accelerate. The U.N. Water Conference will take place in 1977. In this field, unlike most, the American government, as opposed to private industry, plays a major role in the development of new technology. Washington has, therefore, a unique opportunity to make pledges of assistance which do not depend on subsequent compliance in the private sector. In short, in all these major conferences, America's goal must be to place the United States at the cutting edge of international reform.

Consistent with the overall strategy of firmness and accommodation, the United States should take the following specific steps, both procedural and substantive. To begin with, if it is to maximize its influence within the United Nations, the United States must find ways to work with others in a regular caucus arrangement, accepting as a corollary that participation in a group entails a willingness to compromise in an effort to arrive at a common position. In Geneva the United States operates as part of a developed-world caucus. In New York it does not. It should press for the creation of such a New York grouping. Though some of our allies might resist this (since at times it is politically expedient for them to set themselves apart from the United States), Washington should be able to overcome this opposition if it can honestly argue that its purpose is to unite with its allies in order to work out a realistic program of cooperation, not confrontation, with the Third World. If our allies, in turn, are genuinely concerned about the U.N.'s future, they should agree to such a caucus since the alternative of U.S. isolation in New York is likely to lead to one of two results, each undesirable: renewed U.S. negativism or final U.S. disillusionment.

The executive branch must accept that with the increased prominence of international economic issues in the United Nations the role of the Congress in the formulation of our U.N. policy is totally changed. The problem is no longer simply stern congressional reactions to unpopular U.N. decisions. It is also congressional understanding of and agreement to the kinds of specific commitments (usually involving follow-up legislation) that are essential to effective American participation in international economic negotiations. With this in mind the Administration should commit itself to executive-session presentation of our U.N. strategy to the relevant committees of Congress well before each session of the General Assembly.

A major effort should also be made in the General Assembly to correct the destructive effects of current voting practices there. Some have argued that one way to accomplish this would be to eliminate voting altogether. But to function, any parliamentary body needs to vote on some issues. Moreover, an isolated American decision to cease all voting would look like an act of pique, brought about only because we are no longer able to take advantage of our own former automatic majority.

There is, however, good reason for drawing sharp distinctions between General Assembly treatment of political issues and economic issues. In the case of political issues, voting is often an end in itself because it serves as a benchmark of diplomatic strength or of international feeling. In the case of economic issues, however, the objective should not be to win diplomatic victories but to reach consensus on concrete programs of action that governments will carry out long after the initial U.N. vote has been forgotten. Two courses of action therefore seem open to the United States. It could simply refuse to vote on all economic issues in the future. Alternatively, it could announce its intention to regard as invalid any General Assembly vote on an economic issue where a clear majority of key developed countries had indicated their opposition. In that event, Washington would refuse to cast a ballot. Either way, the United States would be emphasizing that U.N. General Assembly decisions in the economic area are not meaningful unless they enjoy the support of countries with the resources to put them into practice.

The United States should boycott U.N. technical meetings that are being twisted for political purposes. In December 1975, the United States and ten Western states pulled out of a minor UNESCO committee meeting after Arab and communist states voted to inject the General Assembly's "Zionism equals racism" resolution into proposed guidelines for mass media. Although the United States should not hesitate to act alone, its goal should be to develop blocs of states which will join with it in protecting the organization's integrity, as was the case at the UNESCO meeting. This can be done with a good conscience because there is a difference between today's politicization of U.N. specialized agencies and yesterday's over the Chinese representation issue. Then the debate was over an up-or-down vote on admission. The United States did not attempt to twist the technical programs of the agencies in pursuit of a campaign against Communist China.

There exists the question of an appropriate American response to countries that take a consistently hostile attitude in the United Nations toward U.S. positions. It has been proposed that we strike back by means of the American aid program. No proposal is less likely to accomplish its objective. The Yugoslavs almost starved in 1949 rather than bow to Soviet economic pressure. The Cubans accepted enormous dislocation rather than accept American conditions for accommodation. Countries are not likely to change their general voting pattern in the United Nations for more foreign aid (particularly since we give so little). This is not to deny that the overall relationship between the United States and a particular country may deteriorate to the point where any aid relationship is unthinkable. Uganda is an example. Nevertheless, the best response to provocation in the United Nations is surely to reply in kind in the specific area of the confrontation.

If countries practice a double standard in the field of human rights, the United States and its allies should speak more forcefully of the human rights violations of those states that practice the double standard. If the Soviet Union assists in anti-American actions at the United Nations regarding Puerto Rico, which is in free association with the United States, Washington should make clear that it will raise the issue of the Baltic states, which are in forced association with the Soviet Union. If the United States is dissatisfied by economic positions taken by some countries in U.N. debates, then and only then should the United States make it clear that its overall economic relationship with those countries-on aid, Export-Import Bank credits, investment policy, trade promotion-will be that much more limited.

The foreign aid program itself should be used primarily affirmatively in the context of international economic negotiations both in the United Nations and elsewhere. Today, out of 18 members on the OECD Development Assistance Committee, the U.S. is one of four members-embarrassingly enough, the other three are Austria, Italy, and Switzerland-which have not accepted the target of 0.7 percent of gross national product for official development assistance. Even West Germany, our ally on virtually all international economic issues, has seen the negotiating advantages of accepting this target without a specific date of implementation. The next Administration should accept the 0.7 percent target (along with a determination to rebuild our aid program as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy), as part of a strategy to defuse extreme and destabilizing Third World economic demands.

Finally, there remains the question of the highly sensitive and largely U.N.-created linkage between the issues of southern Africa and the Middle East. For both diplomatic and domestic reasons, decoupling these two issues should be a key foreign policy objective of the next Administration. Given the intractability of the Middle East problem, the only possible way for the United States to do this is to move to the forefront of Western powers pressing for racial justice in southern Africa.

Secretary Kissinger's April 1976 speech on Africa represented a welcome break from the past and marked the beginning of a sensible policy toward Rhodesia. But it did not go nearly far enough on the key U.N. issues of Namibia or South Africa itself; far more effective would be for the United States to join others in applying rapidly escalating economic and political pressure on South Africa to end its illegal occupation of Africa's last major colony. Regarding South Africa itself, the next Administration should declare that it will not recognize any partition of South Africa, as with the Transkei, unless a much more equitable distribution of land between blacks and whites is provided and until an impartial internationally monitored referendum of the native populations affected is carried out. The May 1976 success of black African states in blocking an Algerian-led effort to link Zionism with racism in two resolutions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) suggests rather eloquently that a strategy of tough diplomacy coupled with honest accommodation-e.g., Moynihan's earlier protests over the Zionism resolution, Kissinger's subsequent shift on our Rhodesian policy-does bring dividends and may enable us to break the explosive linkage between the Middle East and southern African problems.


There is a last and critical building block in a strategy for restoring U.S. influence in international organizations. Pressing hard for America's rightful role in U.N. bodies entails a need not only to accommodate legitimate policy interests of the Third World but also to think repeatedly of new ways to address constructively its desire for a recognized and larger voice in the management of the international system. Here several possibilities are open outside the formal U.N. framework.

The ongoing 27-nation Conference on International Economic Cooperation in Paris offers a unique opportunity for structured policy discussion between developed and developing countries on the future of the world economy. Yet, already signs are developing that the momentum of the Seventh Special Session is being lost. The Third World countries have collectively and publicly complained of a lack of progress. Perhaps the thought of significant steps forward prior to the next election is too much to expect. It is important, however, to be ready to move quickly as soon as the electoral scene is clarified. The key point is to persuade the Third World that the industrialized societies intend to work with them seriously.

In framing her economic proposals toward the Third World, America must accord much greater recognition than she has to the belief among developing countries that their drive for acceptance as full partners in the international system requires industrialization. The recent American tendency to place almost exclusive stress on the agricultural sector or raw materials in Third World development helps to persuade the Group of 77 that we are not in favor of their industrialization and thus of their full integration into the international system. There is no doubt that our current emphasis on agriculture and minerals is quite realistic in terms of the primary economic needs and opportunities of Third World countries. But the point is precisely that Third World goals reach beyond economics into the realm of politics. This is why the Third World desire to industrialize is so intense, and U.S. economic proposals and statements must begin to reflect that fact.

As to the problem of giving Third World countries a greater share in international economic institutions, some further progress is needed. But there may be other means of giving the developing nations more of a feeling that they control their own fate. At the time of the Marshall Plan, the U.S. government delegated to the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC)-the agency set up by the West European aid recipients-much of the task of allocating American aid. The result was a system encouraging the Europeans to work together, developing among them a sense that American aid did not mean excessive American influence, bringing about a general feeling of regional responsibility and participation.

By analogy, a significant portion of Western aid to the Third World might be directed away from bilateral programs or multilateral institutions to regional institutions under the control of states in the area which could then assume the responsibility for insisting on higher standards of performance. Donor states are bound to insist increasingly on such standards in allocating aid, yet the sensitive issue of outside interference or "neocolonialism" is at the same time raised. One way to solve this dilemma is to ask developing states, as we did the Europeans earlier, either to form special institutions like the OEEC or use existing institutions to shoulder the political burden of insisting on firm standards. Like the Europeans in the 1940s, one could hope they will press for enforcement of these standards because they would not like to see any one of their number waste precious aid resources that could be better used by someone else. The principle is important, and periodic audits could indicate whether the experiment should be encouraged.

In the same vein, the United States might withdraw from some organizations where its presence may be perceived as an effort at domination. Before joining this Administration, our current Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and former Assistant Secretary for Latin American Affairs publicly urged that we leave the Organization of American States (OAS). He or his successor should carry out this policy. Although Latin American states declare that they do not want the United States to leave the OAS, American officials involved with the subject concede that the statement is made without passion. The United States should also look at other regional organizations with a view to possible withdrawal; conversely, Washington could consider the admission of important Third World states to, or their association with, key bodies such as the OECD, traditionally regarded as closed to all but the rich.

Finally, the next Administration should also recognize that one important source of Third World discontent is the belief of its leaders that under the joint impact of détente and the highly personalized conduct of U.S. foreign policy since 1969 the United States increasingly treats small powers as marginal to the conduct of world affairs. This lack of attention at the top echelons of the U.S. government has extended even to the most important countries in the Third World, and the disastrous results are apparent in the United Nations and elsewhere. The next Administration should quickly institutionalize formal contact with key Third World countries bilaterally or in a regional or subregional context.


The foregoing strategy clearly will not end our problems at the United Nations. The world organization took controversial decisions even when the United States enjoyed its automatic majority. Now that we do not have that majority, we must expect more such decisions. Yet the American future in the organization is far from hopeless. Quite the contrary; if the United States works aggressively both to defend its own interests and to understand and accommodate the interests of others, one very significant element of American influence in the world can again come into play. This is the perception of others that the United States has been and continues to be better at devising pragmatic, workable approaches to international problems than virtually any other state. Since the mid-1960s, the American government has mistakenly failed to exploit this potential source of influence. The next Administration must not make the same error. Then the United States can regain in the United Nations and in multilateral diplomacy generally the role which the strength and skills of this country suggest should be ours.


1 See Tom J. Farer, "The United States and the Third World: A Basis for Accommodation," Foreign Affairs, October 1975.

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  • Charles William Maynes is Director of the International Organization Program and Secretary of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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