FROM the time of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, overenthusiastic advocates of the United Nations emphasized its function as a guarantee of peace and failed to explain that if the guarantee were ever to be reliable the organization would have to develop the opposite and much less palatable function—it would have to fit itself to make war. Actually, of course, the Charter not only specifically authorized wars against aggression but pledged members to take part in them. Its authors did not expect that the long shadow in which mankind has always lived could be obliterated at one stroke, but hoped that it might be reduced. They therefore did not "outlaw" war as such, but tried to arrange that any future aggressive force which might appear would be inferior in strength to forces already assembled to deal with it. Thus a potential aggressor might be induced to stay his hand, or if he did not, might be defeated—in the one case at the risk of war, in the other by war.

The present risk of war, however, comes not so much from the possibility that the Charter must be enforced as from the lack of means to enforce it. The obligation of United Nations members to support the purposes and principles set forth in Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter still exists; but all efforts at Lake Success and Flushing Meadows to match this obligation with preparations for action have been thwarted. The work of the Security Council, which must make decisions involving enforcement, has been stalemated by the Soviet Union's abuse of the veto. So has the work of its two all-important committees. The Military Staff Committee, which was to have forearmed the Council by arranging the military contingents to be supplied to it by members, has been prevented from making any significant progress in that direction; and the Atomic Energy Commission, on which the world's eyes were fixed in desperation and hope, has suspended deliberations, having failed to find a way to regulate the production of fissionable materials which would satisfy the western requirement for airtight international controls and the Soviet requirement that controls must not violate the secrecy veiling all the operations of a police state. To intensify the risk, the members of the United Nations left in this anomalous and exposed position have not concerted any substitute measures of their own to tide over the organization's present inadequacy.

In other words, a prescription for warding off aggression and a plan of the surgical steps which would be required to remedy it have been written out on paper; but the prescription has not been filled and the instruments for an emergency operation have not been assembled. Furthermore, the friends of a possible victim have not agreed what to do if the bacilli of the old, old plague suddenly become active while the doctors are talking. All of which means that if a showdown comes under present conditions, loyal members of the United Nations will find themselves no better able to carry out their agreement to meet force with force than members of the League of Nations were able to deal with Japan's aggression in Manchuria, Mussolini's aggression in Ethiopia or Hitler's aggression in Poland.

At San Francisco one heard it said often that the United Nations could not survive defiance by one of the Great Powers; the machinery of the organization would grind to a stop and the whole fabric would crumble to pieces. Americans who helped draft a Charter which gave the veto to nations bearing the main responsibility for enforcement did not ignore this possibility; but they also knew the hazards of going too far in curtailing sovereignty, given the need of getting the measure both accepted (here Wilson's 1919 failure counted heavily) and lived up to. They may also have felt incompetent to legislate for a certain type of future emergency. As Gladstone said of a similar decision by other men who framed a Constitution without inserting in it a formula for dealing with secession, "such a question could only arise for any practical purpose at a time when the foundations of the great social deep are broken up, and when the forces brought into unrestrained play are by far too gigantic to be controlled by paper conventions." [i]

Nevertheless, when the Roosevelt Administration began studying international organization problems intensively in 1942, it assumed that the veto should apply only to decisions involving the use of force or leading directly to the use of force. This attitude was modified somewhat at Dumbarton Oaks and again at Yalta, but not to the extent that Generalissimo Stalin thought, or later pretended that he thought. Indeed, a major crisis arose at San Francisco over the radical change in the Yalta formula (already a compromise) demanded by Mr. Gromyko on June 1, 1945. Secretary Stettinius, with President Truman's approval, staked the continuance of the Conference and the whole future of the United Nations on a demand, carried to Marshal Stalin personally, that the veto must not apply to the initial steps designated in Chapter VI for the settlement of disputes by peaceful means. Although that fight was won, the American delegation still were apprehensive over the Soviet attitude, and succeeded in getting all the "Big Five" (Soviet Russia of course included) to undertake not to use the veto "willfully to obstruct the operation of the Council."

Since then, world relationships have steadily deteriorated. Efforts to solve the major postwar problems by a process of negotiation and compromise have failed. In view of this, American officials and Congressional leaders like Senator Vandenberg have modified their ideas about the effect on national interests and national safety of some of the most rigid shibboleths of national sovereignty. Today the United States is on record as wishing to free the whole procedure of Chapter VI from the veto and as seeking some practicable way to mitigate the absolute right of veto even in connection with decisions involving force. For example, the American delegation at Lake Success has favored a program of forceful sanctions, free from possibility of veto, against violators of atomic warfare controls. And in the Pan American treaties signed recently at Rio de Janeiro and Bogotá we agreed on a series of steps against an aggressor in this hemisphere, running from severance of diplomatic relations to war, to be invoked by vote of two-thirds of the signatories (a commitment modified only by the proviso that no signatory may be called on to take the final step of providing armed forces without its own consent).

Yet even at San Francisco there was an answer to the criticism of the smaller nations (and of many individuals) that the Great Power veto condemned the United Nations to futility in precisely the most dangerous crises. For even if a Great Power did wreck the United Nations as a formal organization by committing or protecting aggression and then taking cover behind the veto, there would remain a group of members who presumably would not forget their obligations simply because the prescribed method of carrying them out had been blocked. In looking about for an alternative method, too, they would find themselves substantially better off than members of the old League of Nations had been in the life-and-death crises at Geneva. For they would have not only a political coördinating organ, the Secretariat; they would also possess what the League did not, a military planning organ—the Military Staff Committee—and it would have assembled in advance the elements of a powerful international police force. This force would be ready for use, though minus, of course, the contingent promised by the aggressor. No one would expect it to be able to deal conclusively, by itself, with the full forces of the aggressor. But it would be prepared for the first phase of hostilities, which the new weapons have made crucial; and it would commit the nations represented to the use of their full forces as the struggle progressed.

The group thus committed would almost surely include the United States. This would be vital for all nations who remembered the American attitude in 1914 and 1939. Both times the United States had been plainly menaced, at only one remove, by the war of aggression just beginning; yet each time it had failed to throw itself into winning that war at the start, but instead had waited until its natural allies had been all but defeated.

One reason why the present situation is so dangerous is that although in theory the faithful U.N. members might form a coalition in a crisis of the sort described, they do not have the encouragement of possessing ready instruments for action and the potential aggressor does not have the discouragement of knowing that they possess them. Our sad conclusion must be that the ability of the United Nations to deal with a Great Power aggressor has diminished somewhat since the Charter was signed three years ago. For in these three years the capacities of the Security Council and its committees under existing rules have been fully explored; and what really determined aggressor would be deterred by what has been revealed?

Unless they are reconciled to the prospect of meeting aggression piecemeal, and to the penalties that such improvidence exacts, loyal U.N. members must find a legal method to make the Charter work beyond the roadblock of the veto. Needless to add, they should choose whatever adequate method is least provocative to members differently disposed. They cannot remove the roadblock. The conditions under which the veto may be used cannot be changed while the present Charter exists; and the present Charter cannot be changed while the veto exists and the Soviets stand ready to use it.

There are two exits from this impasse. Members who are determined not to let the attitude of certain other members block them from carrying out the purposes of the United Nations can change the Charter even at the cost of changing the organization's universal character. That is, those who desire to modify the use of the veto in specific circumstances can insist on calling a general conference to revise the Charter and form a "world government," driving out in the process members who will not agree to the changes. This is a counsel of despair and should certainly be avoided.

A more constructive and less provocative course, it seems to me, would be for members who are unhappy over the deficiencies of the present U.N. procedure to undertake that they themselves will carry out the obligation to resist aggression even beyond the point when a veto prevents the Security Council from telling them that they must. Thus they will bring into being, formally and at once, the coalition of loyal members which has always existed in embryo, and which some of us at San Francisco thought of as a virtue of the United Nations that would more than outweigh the handicap of the veto through the period of the organization's growing pains. This "coalition for peace" will be open to all members; but only those who are willing to prepare seriously for collective action against aggression will join.


Those who wish to form the coalition for peace find all the encouragement and authority they need in Article 51 of the Charter, which states that members retain their inherent right to act in self-defense, either individually or in groups, "if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security." The way thus stands open for them to agree, voluntarily and in advance, to act together if the foreseen circumstances should arise.[ii]

They might make the commitment in one of two ways. A general protocol might be adopted, as suggested above, open to all United Nations members. Signatories would register their willingness to participate in joint defensive action when, say, 7 of the 11 members of the Security Council, including 4 of the 5 permanent members, vote that aggression has occurred; and they would specify some simple procedure to supplement the Security Council procedure beyond that point. Alternatively, groups of members could work toward the same result by stages, in a series of regional treaties after the example of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance signed at Rio de Janeiro on September 2, 1947, and the West European security pact signed at Brussels on March 17, 1948.

Either method of supplementing the Charter machinery would be legal under Article 51 and within the spirit of the Charter as a whole. Significantly, however, Article 51 does not form part of Chapter VIII of the Charter, dealing with regional arrangements, but stands as the last article in Chapter VI, dealing with threats to the peace and acts of aggression. Its position there emphasizes its character as a sort of optional reinsurance clause for the protection of all members in case the enforcement measures set out in the preceding articles (including the preparation of military forces and of plans for using them) should fail.

The protocol would have much the same aim as the Geneva Protocol which was drawn up in 1924 to make the Covenant of the League of Nations "work." The specific problem then was to integrate steps for the compulsory settlement of disputes and plans for joint action against aggression with the League's disarmament program, which obviously could not be even discussed intelligibly until nations had reason to feel more secure. The Geneva Protocol failed of ratification; and that, as some saw then and many see in retrospect, was a turning point in the fortunes of the League (and of the world). The present problem is simpler because the Charter is more precise than was the Covenant. What is needed is for members of the United Nations to reaffirm their willingness to do in a specified case what they have said they should do in all cases, and to make ready for doing it by preparing an emergency procedure paralleling the last stages of the projected United Nations procedure.

The supplementary procedure could and should be extremely simple. The protocol would itself define the point at which it was to be considered applicable and fix the method by which its provisions would be brought into operation. The first could properly be done in the words of Article 51, quoted above, describing the emergency which would arise if the Security Council failed to act in face of armed attack on a member; the second could be done by providing that the protocol would become automatically operative when the specified Security Council majority had voted to act but had been thwarted by the veto. Or there might be agreement that when the stated conditions arise the signatories of the protocol shall at once be canvassed by one of the Great Powers, and as soon as a stipulated majority (say two-thirds) has been found ready to act, all shall be bound to act. If a more deliberate method seemed advisable, the General Assembly or the Little Assembly (if it is continued) might be given the responsibility of deciding, when the Security Council reaches the roadblock, whether or not resort should be had to the protocol, and could be authorized to declare it in effect by a two-thirds vote. This would maintain the principle of collectivity—an undeniable advantage, even though Article 51 foresees the need to abandon it for certain crises.

The protocol would of course make clear that it in no respect impairs the signatories' rights and obligations under the Charter. It should state that the governments concerned look upon the United Nations as a living organism and are confident that in time it will develop capacities of its own to enforce its principles and purposes. In any event, the Charter laid down minimum not maximum obligations of membership; nations which are willing to increase the efficacy of their undertakings on behalf of peace and security are free to do so.

There remains the mechanism of enforcement. The phrase usual in mutual assistance pacts is that each signatory shall go to the aid of a member state which is the victim of armed aggression, "with all the assistance within its power." In the present case, however, the signatories of the protocol would need to begin discussions at once regarding its implementation. They should allocate to a military staff composed of representatives of the principal military Powers concerned the same forces and facilities which they would have allocated to the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations if that body had been permitted to function.


Many will feel that since there now exists a West European defense organization as a result of the Brussels Pact of March 17, we shall naturally make it the basis for whatever supplementary security arrangements are called for by the deadlock in the United Nations and the growing tension with Russia. The Brussels Pact has indeed created a cohesive group with which to negotiate conveniently; it includes the two Great Powers which must form the basis for any defense scheme in Western Europe; and it must have been in the minds of the 64 Senators who by voting for the Vandenberg Resolution on June 11, 1948, empowered the Administration to favor the "progressive development of regional and other collective arrangements for individual and collective self-defense in accordance with the purposes, principles and provisions of the Charter," and our association with such of them "as are based on continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid" and affect our national security. Under authority of the Vandenberg Resolution, moreover, the United States Government is already collaborating de facto with the Brussels Pact group, having sent Major-General Lemnitzer and other American officers to sit as observers with the military committee which is one of its organs.

Despite these apparent advantages, we should not decide as a matter of course that the Brussels Pact is the best starting point for accomplishing the long journey which lies ahead.

The Brussels Pact covers a number of fields in which the United States and many other nations will not wish to assume responsibility. Thus Article I provides that the signatories "will so organize and coördinate their economic activities as to produce the best possible results by the elimination of conflict in their economic policies, the coördination of production and the development of commercial exchanges." Article II provides that they will make efforts "to promote the attainment of a higher standard of living by their peoples and to develop on corresponding lines the social and other related services of their countries;" also that they will "conclude as soon as possible conventions with each other in the sphere of social security." Article III provides for the promotion of cultural exchanges.

Further, the Brussels Pact omits many democratic European nations which are menaced by aggression, among them some for whose safety the United States feels particular concern. Several of these—Eire, Portugal, Austria and Finland—are not members of the United Nations because Soviet Russia vetoed their applications; another, Switzerland, did not apply for membership, more because she did not wish to court a Soviet veto than because she is unwilling to reconsider her traditional neutrality. There seems no legal reason, however, why states which are still outside the United Nations should not undertake voluntarily to live up to certain of the standards of membership. The question is whether they would be more likely to want to do this in a regional agreement based on the Brussels Pact, which contains varied economic, commercial and social obligations, or in a general underwriting of the Charter's mutual assistance obligations. My guess would be that in view of the prevailing desire not to offend Soviet Russia unduly they would choose the latter. This would certainly be true of Sweden, who joined the United Nations in November 1946 and whose real aim is to remain neutral between the Soviet Union and the west in all circumstances. Apparently she does not think that the obligations of U.N. membership jeopardize this aim; but she would be most unlikely to increase them by a pact which did not stand open to all members of the organization, the Soviet Union included. Though Norway and Denmark consider Sweden's trust in neutrality quite unrealistic, they have a strong sense of Scandinavian solidarity; if they are to be persuaded to ignore Swedish protests and enter a defensive union, it will not be one which could have hardly any other raison d'être than resistance to Russia.

Italy, bound by the Peace Treaty and not yet a member of the United Nations, is a special case. She must be careful not to give any excuse for the Soviets to allege that she is breaking the letter of the Treaty (as we must be careful also), remembering that the casus belli in the treaties between Soviet Russia and her satellites is any illegal action by a former member of the Axis. Whatever guarantee against aggression Italy receives, and whatever reciprocal obligation she assumes, must be worked out with special care for that fact. However, Moscow would be hard put to it to prove that Italy's assumption of certain United Nations responsibilities conflicted with her duty as an ex-enemy state; for the Soviet Union tried to get other ex-enemies such as Hungary and Bulgaria admitted to United Nations membership, and what would not have been a violation for them would certainly not be a violation for Italy.

Nations on the periphery of the Continent like Greece and Turkey, where we are spending great sums of money in an effort to increase their capacity for self-defense, would come into a broad arrangement more naturally than into a group centering on the Atlantic. The psychological effect of our course of action on East Europe must also be considered. Nations under Soviet domination cannot at present be expected to join; but it would be an error for us to exclude them even by implication.

In this connection Britain has a special interest which interests us as well. Some Britishers have criticized the League of Nations and the United Nations for their alleged tendency to break up the British Commonwealth. Mr. L. S. Amery, who has served both as Minister for the Colonies and Minister for Dominion Affairs, is one of those critics. As he puts it, Geneva gave Dominion statesmen a chance to utter "appropriate platitudes" without forcing them to substitute real international obligations for the Commonwealth bonds which simultaneously were being loosened.[iii] Without arguing this debatable point, I might note that in any event Commonwealth solidarity might be better protected if Britain, having decided that she must enter into a special defensive pact, assumed her new obligations on a general rather than a regional basis. For a pact supplementing the Charter and open to all United Nations members might gain the adherence not only of Canada, whose Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. St. Laurent, strongly supports some such course in any event, but also of other Dominions, who might feel it natural enough to reiterate their Charter obligations but would hardly be minded to give a special guarantee to specific distant states. Whatever the new arrangement, Britain should come into it with enthusiasm, bringing with her as much of the weight of the Commonwealth as possible. To facilitate this we ought to favor a general rather than a geographical engagement.

The Brussels Pact is a valuable achievement in itself, and signalizes a rapprochement among certain states which are a necessary part of a wider defense agreement. But from the American viewpoint, and in the eyes of various other states, including some that belong to it as well as some that do not, it does not provide a satisfactory basis for the additional security measures that the present world crisis seems to demand.


And what of Soviet Russia? One can imagine circumstances in which even against her will she would choose to sign a protocol against aggression rather than face a period of lasting isolation. The chances of this happening under present conditions seem next to nil. All the more reason for us to do nothing which unnecessarily affronts her. And certainly we do not want to do anything which adds unnecessarily to the present disabilities of the United Nations. By stressing "unnecessarily" I do not mean that we should appease Soviet Russia by allowing the present condition of international unpreparedness to continue, or that we should maintain the roster of United Nations members at any price. But in deciding our action we should choose the course least open to proper Soviet objection and least likely to make her quit the United Nations entirely. She might, of course, do that in any event, whether or not we take any initiative. But if she resigned from the United Nations because we tried to make the Charter itself work, she would not only be placing herself on the losing side of a great moral debate but she would be repudiating her own attitude toward similar efforts to make the Covenant of the League of Nations work on the eve of the last war—efforts which her propagandists often recall in order to glorify Soviet consistency and heap scorn on British and French weaklings.

A fair critic reads with conflicting emotions today the speeches made by Maxim Litvinov while he was Commissar for Foreign Affairs and especially in the period from Hitler's arrival in power through the British and French capitulation at Munich. We admire Litvinov's intellectual virtuosity, the liveliness of his argument and the correctness of his diagnosis of the strangulation of will which was ruining the League. But when we recall the Soviet-Nazi pact of August 23, 1939, and how Moscow ignored its own nonaggression pact with Poland when a few days later that country became the victim of Hitler's flagrant aggression, we are entitled to speculate what the Soviet action would have been if the two chief western Powers had been directed through preceding years not by Baldwin and Chamberlain, Laval and Daladier, but by strong-willed men like Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. The sphinx who knows the answers to the ifs of history gives no reply. Litvinov's outraged sarcasm may have been meant to sting and shame the western nations into wars from which Russia would at the last moment hold aloof. But we certainly have no right to assume that this would have happened.

On March 17, 1936, Litvinov made one of his most impassioned addresses to the Assembly of the League of Nations on behalf of effective collective security.[iv] In the preceding 18 months Germany had violated the military clauses of the Versailles Treaty and Italy had invaded Ethiopia. Now Germany was violating the Locarno Pact. The Soviet Foreign Commissar said: "One cannot fight for the collective organization of security without taking collective measures against the violation of international obligations." And he concluded: "We believe that the true adherents of peace are entitled to submit their scheme for the organization of European peace no less than those who violate treaties. We are in favor of establishing the security of all peoples of Europe as against the half-peace which is not peace, but war." Later, in Geneva on July 1, Litvinov ridiculed the League's inadequacies to deal with aggression and argued strongly against those who favored weakening it further by emasculating Article 10 of the Covenant, or throwing it out entirely, in a desperate effort to win the adherence of additional states. Of that project he said bitterly: "In other words, let us make the League safe for aggressors. I say we do not want a League that is safe for aggressors." Such a League would become a "philanthropic institution," a "debating society." The Covenant must be made "explicit and stronger." It must define aggression. Obligatory economic sanctions against aggressors must be continued. And obligatory military sanctions should be added. If that were not attainable, he said, "all continents and, for a start, at least all Europe [should] be covered with a system of regional pacts, on the strength of which groups of states would undertake to protect particular sectors from aggression; and the performance of these regional obligations should be deemed equivalent to the performance of the covenanted obligations and should enjoy the full support of all members of the League of Nations. These regional pacts should not supersede the League Covenant, but supplement it, otherwise they would be nothing but prewar groups of alliances."

At the time, Germany's repudiation of the Locarno Pact being the latest in the series of aggressive moves which had been horrifying Europe and ruining the League's prestige, the Soviet Foreign Commissar stressed his approval of regional pacts. Today Soviet Russia would probably find less to resent in a general pact against aggression than in a pact of West European nations supported by the United States. The general pact would be open to all, herself included, and would apply to situations in all parts of the world, not just to an area where she is suspected of aggressive designs. The West European pact, though purely and only defensive, could operate against nobody but herself, the only Great Power in a position to menace the independence of that area.

If those who find the Soviet arguments of 1936 decisive today begin to put the Soviet remedies of 1936 into effect, will the Soviet Union resign from the United Nations, taking her satellite group with her? Perhaps. The Russians have shown by their insistence on the absolute veto that they no longer want (if they ever did) an effective international enforcement agency. We must weigh the risks and consequences of a new effort to make the United Nations such an agency against the risks and consequences of allowing it to continue in a position at least as unsatisfactory as that to which the League of Nations had degenerated when Litvinov spoke—only three years, significantly, before history justified his words and the Second World War began. As I have written elsewhere, the present risk of war seems to me to come chiefly from allowing the world to continue in a twilight zone where one side assumes that collective security exists and the other counts on taking advantage of the fact that it does not. The danger that Soviet Russia will deliberately choose to make war on the west does not at the moment seem so strong as the danger that the credulity and arrogance to which all dictatorships are prey will mislead her as to the limits of our tolerance and that in her ignorance she will commit an act so little different from aggression that we shall inevitably adopt counter-measures, with unpredictable results. A prudent course, then, all other considerations aside, would be to put Stalin on notice that we and others are determined and able to meet force with force.

What if, meanwhile, the Soviet Union offers guile rather than force? How, for example, should we respond if the Soviet delegates at the General Assembly in Paris this autumn try to forestall western moves to strengthen the Charter by bringing forward a disarmament scheme of their own or some version of the Litvinov nonaggression pacts? We should test their sincerity, I should think, by welcoming their initiative and asking very simple questions. Would disarmament on paper be implemented by inspection and control machinery on the spot, as proposed for atomic weapons in the Atomic Energy Commission's report? Would nonaggression pacts include provisions for more effective enforcement machinery than provided now by the United Nations, without which they would be meaningless?


Even broader considerations than those so far mentioned speak for a move to strengthen the United Nations as a whole rather than to underwrite a group of its members. In the first place, the commitments of the United States under the Charter are general, not regional. Secondly, we should take advantage of the fact that we have a good cause—the best cause of all, peace—and that many nations everywhere may be expected to rally to it. Thirdly, the difficulty of defining a "region" in a way which will be satisfactory under varying world conditions is very great.

In the minds of some observers regions tend to form or divide with amoebic dexterity as the desirability of including this or that nation varies with changes in the political climate. Thus one version of the so-called "Atlantic Community" which has been discussed takes in Italy on the Mediterranean but not Greece on the Mediterranean, Sweden on the Baltic but not Finland on the Baltic, Switzerland in the Alps but not Austria in the Alps, and, if I recall rightly, Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific. This tortures the term "region" out of all meaning.

It seems to me preferable to set standards of conduct rather than standards of geography. The United States is a World Power, with world-wide interests. One of them is peace, which in the most primary terms of international organization means protection of the peaceful against aggression by the warlike. We should welcome as a partner any peace-loving state which is willing to assume and able to fulfill defense obligations on a reciprocal basis. Under the Charter we already have a responsibility for helping to protect states with such qualifications, wherever they may be situated. The only novelty would be that under the proposed underwriting agreement the obligation to execute this responsibility would come into operation when something less than all the members of the Security Council voted that it should.

The American people still have great hopes for the United Nations and want to do anything reasonable to make it a success. They might accept a plan to make the Charter fulfill its purposes even more willingly than they would agree to guarantee certain individual nations. The latter course is entirely legal under Article 51, and it would be much better for the United States to take it than to do nothing. But the general protocol would benefit the United Nations as a whole at the same time that it met the particular requirements of the situation in Europe. Even though certain nations held aloof, it still would protect the universal character of the United Nations; whereas a series of regional pacts might in time overshadow the organization's universal character and aims. The Vandenberg Resolution left the choice of methods open. It recalled the world-wide interests of the United States by reaffirming its unreserved devotion to the purposes, principles and provisions of the Charter. And in informing the President of the sense of the Senate that the United States should associate itself with groups of nations in support of the Charter, it not only referred to "regional" arrangements but "other collective arrangements" as well.

In England, recently, Mr. L. S. Amery, already mentioned, has been criticizing the United Nations as inimical to the British Commonwealth and suggesting that it be replaced by several limited special groups. Now the terms "regional organization" and "world organization" certainly are not mutually exclusive; but the thesis that they are is one which American isolationists have argued in the past. Their method was to try to defeat the conception of an international organization with the wholly inadequate conception of hemispheric defense. The recent attempt in Congress to hamstring ERP by withholding agreed appropriations revealed that our isolationists are not so powerless as they supposedly were after our experience in two world wars. We may take a cue from Mr. Amery not to encourage American isolationism by favoring any basic security arrangement which aims to be less than universal.

The United States has of course long been a member of the important organization of 21 republics in the western hemisphere. A year ago at the Conference at Rio de Janeiro, and later at Bogotá, the American republics assumed a more specific collective obligation than ever before to oppose aggression and agreed to act by a two-thirds vote, that is, free of the possibility of veto by any one state (a significant step, despite the proviso that a signatory would not be called on to use its armed forces without its own consent). The Brussels Pact created another nucleus of comparative stability in a very uneasy world; and an underwriting now of its five member nations by the United States and Canada would add immeasurably to its importance and strength. The procedure could be extended by the formation of other special groups, with many interlocking memberships.

The ideal goal seems to me to be different from this, and no harder to attain. A general pact open to all United Nations members willing to accept its specific obligations, and entered into from the start by the most powerful members of the Brussels Pact and the organization of American states, would achieve all that a limited security pact could achieve, and much more besides. It would be evidence that among some of the strongest members of the United Nations there was a new determination to make the Charter come alive in its full integrity. It would not merely underwrite the safety of those brave enough to risk something in order to gain more for themselves; the same act would underwrite the United Nations itself.

If as a matter of practical politics we find we can do no more, let us by all means help to form a series of special groupings for peace. And in that event let the first of these groups to receive our guarantee of help be composed of the democratic nations of Western Europe which stand today in the shadow of a new aggression. But before we conclude that this must be our maximum effort let us see whether we cannot lay the basis for a coalition for peace that is potentially as wide as the membership of the United Nations. Let us not presume that only ill is concealed in "the giant mass of things to come." Our action today can be evidence of a hope that the full goal can be achieved ultimately, and perhaps the very reiteration of that hope can itself bring the day a little nearer. Here is a challenge worthy of the men who will write the next chapter in American foreign policy.

[i] William E. Gladstone, August 26, 1891; quoted in John Morley's biography, v. 1, p. 707 (London: Macmillan, 1905).

[ii]Cf. the author's article in The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, September 14, 1947; later expanded in "The Calculated Risk" (New York: Macmillan, 1947).

[iii] "Thoughts on the Constitution." London: Oxford, 1947, p. 126.

[iv] "Against Aggressors. Speeches by Maxim Litvinov." New York: International Publisher Co., 1939.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now