thumbnail of Great Decisions 1965; 6; The UN at Twenty
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
The following program is from NET, the National Educational Television Network. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war anymore. So shaken as we are so one with care, find we a time for frightened peace to pant.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil shall dole her lips with her own children's blood. War, like an eel sheath knife, no more shall cut his master. Like Shakespeare's King Henry, the world in 1945 was shaken and won with care. When it formed in San Francisco an international organization designed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Twenty years later the United Nations has grown from 51 to 115 countries and has been active in many peacekeeping operations. But as we look ahead to the next twenty years, the world is still asking, can we grant the UN the power to keep nation from lifting up sword against nation? But evening I'm Don Goddard.
This television series is part of a program being conducted around the country by the Foreign Policy Association in cooperation with local organizations. It is aimed at helping you make decisions on crucial United States policies. The charter of the United Nations says that the basic purpose of the organization is to keep the peace. In this it's twentieth year it seems appropriate to ask whether the UN is capable of keeping the peace. This is especially pertinent in light of the abrupt adjournment of the General Assembly in February because of a dispute about peacekeeping machinery. In order to answer the question of UN peacekeeping ability we are going to begin with a look backwards at the past twenty years. Later tonight Alex Cason-Sake, current president of the General Assembly will be a special guest on this program. Here now is our commentator and analyst, former Assistant Secretary of State, now professor of government at Columbia University Roger Hilsman. It's been a pretty confused twenty years for peace.
There have been no world wars but there have been wars. There were four million casualties in the Korean conflict, a far from peaceful three years of fighting under a UN flag against North Korean and red Chinese aggression. There has been war in the Middle East, in Africa, in Vietnam. What marks a difference between these wars and past ones is that the UN has been involved with many of them. In some UN troops have entered the countries. In others UN mediators have come between the foes. Many people feel this has made the crucial difference. That the world has been on much more peaceful place because of the United Nations. These feel this just isn't so. A balance sheet is hard to draw up, but some nations judging by the headlines these days are making an attempt at one. Some of them looking both backwards and ahead say steps should be taken to make the UN more powerful.
Others say this isn't necessary. Others say it cannot be done, and still others say it must not be done. Just from the beginning in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as minor powers, have asked the UN to consider specific proposals for disarmament as a major goal of UN peacekeeping effort. Then in 1961 President Kennedy suggested the UN study not only disarmament, but a system of worldwide law and law enforcement. We must continue to seek agreement on further measures to curb the nuclear armed race by controlling the transfer of nuclear weapons. Many who have watched the UN in day-to-day operation, who have heard the differences between the United States and the Soviet disarmament plans, who have seen the arguments that led up to even the partial test-band treaty of 1963, will not wonder that the idea of worldwide disarmament and law enforcement has been met with cries of ridiculous or utopia.
Aware of this, the United States delegation came up with a series of steps, which it considered practical suggestions to get us from here to utopia. Among these was an expanded military staff for the UN, and the earmarking of standby national armies for the UN's use. Other UN members have suggested similar steps, but the reality is that the UN is still far from agreement on any one of these major changes. An example. When the latest session of the General Assembly opened in December of 1964, it faced a group of bitterly fighting nations, torn over the problem of financing peacekeeping operations. Several of the new President, Alex Quazon-Sackey, could take office. Before the session could even open, Secretary-General Outhant had defined a temporary solution
to the fight, one which would avoid a major crisis. He meant with several delegations, trying to avoid a major power confrontation in the General Assembly. Finally, he succeeded. I may mention that there is an understanding to the effect that issues other than those that can be disposed of without objection will not be raised while the General Debate proceeds. Crisis like this often make not only major changes, but the very functioning of the UN seemed difficult, if not impossible. Why then do nations press for such bitterly debated changes, and if they're needed, why does some of those same nations seem to make them so difficult to achieve? The answers lie somewhere in these past 20 years. The charter gave to the Security Council major responsibility for ensuring the peace.
The General Assembly could only recommend, but the Security Council could take direct steps, and so, in some cases, it did. In 1948, through a UN commission, it secured a ceasefire in Kashmir, where Indians and Pakistanis were in conflict. In 1949, it sent a commission to Indonesia to end hostilities there. In 1949, too, through mediators Kant Bernadotte and Ralph Bunch, an armistice was secured in Palestine. Then in 1950, the Security Council was called upon to act with greater force than that carried by a UN commission. It is generally agreed that had the Soviet delegation not been absent from the council that day in June 1950, the Korean War would have been fought by the United States alone. But the Soviet delegation was absent.
They had walked out six months earlier over the controversial issue of sitting red China. Consequently, there was no Soviet veto on the proposal to send UN troops into Korea. The UN charter had specified setting up standby UN forces within each country, but lack of agreement between nations on how to do this had left the UN without any armed forces of its own. So it was that the first UN armed intervention was fought with troops and funds supplied by the 17 participating countries, and with a mandate obtained during the absence of the Soviet delegation. The Soviets soon returned to the UN. Their subsequent behavior had the United States delegation worried. We feared that a Soviet veto might make future peacekeeping actions difficult if not impossible. Under United States plotting, the General Assembly passed the uniting for peace resolution. This resolution provided that in the event of a threat to the peace, the Assembly could
be called into session on 24 hours notice by any seven members of the Security Council if action in the council was blocked by a veto. 1956, Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal, France and England in an effort to protect their interests attack Egypt, so does Israel. Britain and France blocked resolutions in the UN Security Council which call for withdrawal of their troops. The uniting for peace resolution is used. The General Assembly directs the Secretary General to organize a UN emergency force to enforce a cease fire. Troops from Canada, Brazil, Yugoslavia and other countries, some 6,000 men, secure that cease fire. Today they continue to patrol the sensitive border between Egypt and Israel. The uniting for peace resolution seemed to have solved the problem of a Security Council deadlock, but it did not start to solve the problem of financing peacekeeping operations. Member nations were willing to provide their troops, but not to pay for the peace missions.
In an attempt to solve this problem, the General Assembly voted to assess all UN nations for the Suez peace action, including the assessments as part of the regular UN expenses. This vote has been the source of much friction. Many countries, including France and the Soviet Union refused to pay for the Suez operation. They considered it illegal, instigated as it was by the General Assembly and not the Security Council as the chartered directs. In 1960, another peace action, this time set in motion in accordance with the charter. Into the Congo, the Security Council sends 20,000 troops to prevent the newly won independence of that country from becoming a slaughterhouse and the Cold War battleground. The UN stayed four years preventing major bloodshed, but not without again raising much debate over the way the operation was carried out.
For although the operation was set in motion by the Security Council, assessments for it were made by the Assembly. And again, many nations refused to pay. Since the Congo, there have been other peacekeeping missions. In 1963, an observation team went to Yemen to help stop armed conflict in that Arab country. In 1964, UN troops went to Cyprus to secure a ceasefire. But not all trouble spots have been met with successful UN peacekeeping efforts. Hungary, 1956, Algeria, 1957. And then in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis. While this heated debate went on inside the UN, US warships formed a blockade in the Caribbean that threatened to draw us and the Soviet Union into a nuclear war. Do you, ambassadors, or I, deny that the USSR has placed an is-placing medium and intermediate
range missiles and sights in Cuba? Yes or no? Don't wait for the translation. Yes or no? I am not in an American courtroom, sir. And therefore I do not wish to answer a question that is put to me in the fashion in which prosecutor does, in due course you will have your reply. It has generally agreed that the United Nations played only a minor role in the Cuban confrontation. Fear of war, not UN intervention, was the determining factor in the removal of the missiles.
It is also generally agreed that even the successful UN peace missions have had their rough moments. In the Suez, the Congo and Cyprus, no permanent political solutions have been found by the UN. And when the UN Congo force withdrew in 1964 because of a lack of money, bloody civil war immediately began again. The charter provides for standby national troops for UN use, but only Denmark, Norway and Sweden have provided such troops. Both the Suez and Congo actions were almost undermined when nations withdrew part of their troop support. A peace force that must recruit, supply, and finance on a ketchup-catch can basis falls prey to numerous problems and potential failures. It is because of this mixed record of success and failure that some nations have argued for stronger peacekeeping machinery. Some such steps have already been taken.
The United for Peace Resolution of 1950 has been followed by the World Courts ruling that peacekeeping finances can be considered as a part of regular UN assessments. But many nations do not regard the World Courts ruling as binding, and many argue that the United for Peace Resolution is illegal. So the nations sometimes seem to extend peacekeeping power with one hand and hold it back with the other. No clear example of this can be found than the new role played by the Secretary General. Because major peacekeeping operations have often come into being outside of provisions made by the charter, clear instructions on how to proceed have been lacking. And so often enough, this monumental task has been left to the Secretary General. So it was that the saying, leave it to Doug came into existence. It was Doug Hammer showed who made all the arrangements for the peacekeeping forces in Suez and Congo.
His successor, Uthante, carried on with the Congo operation, and since then, Uthante has taken many behind-the-scenes initiatives in attempts to bring about a peaceful solution of one problem or another. Especially note worthy was the financial crisis when he went both to Moscow and to Paris in an effort to settle the matter. This new role of the Secretary General, unforeseen by the charter, has many times smoothed over rough spots in UN procedures. But it also poses problems. It was precisely because of Hammer show's activities on behalf of the Congolese Peace Action that the Soviets attacked him for showing partisan behavior and call for a Troika leadership of the United Nations. Here is the problem. By default, the General Assembly gives new responsibility to the Secretary General. But many nations disagree about his actions in these areas, and some even feel they are not permissible under the charter.
On the other hand, charter revision at this time seems unlikely. Yet how many times can one lone man, without proper instruction, do all that is necessary? And how much can one man do, in carrying out ill-defined UN orders, before he may be looked upon by one side or the other as less than impartial? For twenty years, the UN has provided a forum in which every nation, wronged or feeling wronged, has been able to chastise its foes. For a host of smaller nations, some of them newborn, this right, this appearance in front of the world, cannot be lightly passed over. In December of 1964, 13 African nations took turns, lashing the United States and Belgium for their action in the Congol Rescumation. Later, Adley Stevenson answered their charges. Right or wrong, as we or they may be, the use of such a forum is a strong force in gaining
world opinion on one side or the other. But is it enough? Can the UN continue, as it has, or must it find new and stronger peace keeping machinery? When the General Assembly adjourned in February, the UN was fighting over the right of the Assembly to assess nations to pay for peacekeeping operations. But there was a fight behind that fight. Basically, the nations were disputing over the right of the General Assembly to acquire power, power that some of the major nations would like to see reserved for use by the Security Council, where the course of action is determined by a small number of nations, and the major powers have permanent representation. A struggle for power has been evident behind most of the successes and failures of the UN peacekeeping efforts. In fact, in many cases, the UN has been able to act only if one of the major powers supports its actions, and at least the other doesn't challenge them.
Certainly, the UN cannot intervene in a matter that involves a direct confrontation with one of the great powers, as, for example, in the Cuban Missile Crisis. There, Russia and the United States faced each other at the brink of war, but there, the UN was little more than a bystander bringing its hands. But even when the great powers agree on a peacekeeping mission, the eventual outcome of the mission may not be to their liking, and they may be unhappy about seeing future missions launched. This is the heart of the problem. Countries have to risk giving up something when they agree to UN peacekeeping operations. And if the UN is to acquire greater peacekeeping power, each nation will have to give up a little more of its right to determine its own course of action. Many great powers are unwilling to give up that right, especially to the General Assembly where they have no veto and where the course of action will be determined by an ever-growing
number of small countries. So the question becomes, how much power are individual nations willing to turn over to the UN, and how much power should they turn over to the UN? To help tackle this question, I have been joined here by the current President of the General Assembly, is Excellency Alex Kaisonsaki. Mr. Ambassador, it's good to have you here. Let me ask, you're not only President of the UN General Assembly, but also the Chief Delegate from Ghana. And as the Delegate, from a smaller power, not a world power, can you sympathize with this feeling of some of the great powers about turning over more power to the General Assembly? I do not think that it's a question of turning over power or taking over power, because the General Assembly and the Security Council have certain rights and powers, if I'm using the term, given them by the Chata.
The General Assembly has the power of assessment given to it by the General Assembly on the matter, because 17, that power cannot be taken away, if you want to take it away, then you must revise the Chata. On the other hand, the question, the power of initiation of peacekeeping operation was envisaged under the Chata for the Security Council. But then, as you see, the kind of peacekeeping operation, which we know now, is not the kind of peacekeeping operation envisaged by the founders of the organization in 1945. This was changed by the uniting for peace resolution. Yes. More power given over to the Assembly. The United for Peace resolution was an ad hoc attempt when there was difficulty over the Korean situation. Yes. The Security Council could not act because there was a veto there, and therefore the resolution was passed, and the Assembly was asked to act.
But I don't think that gives the Assembly any power of initiation. I see. And therefore, what we have to do is to strike a balance within the Chata. There's no question in my own mind that the General Assembly, the entire membership of the Assembly, has a collective responsibility for peacekeeping operations. So when the Security Council is unable to act, the General Assembly has a right in the name of humanity to act. And they can only act by recommending. But as you all know, on the Chata, even on the Article 11, they can only recommend action to be taken by the Security Council. The Security Council has to take the action to be taken by the Security Council. But even here, Mr. Ambassador, I think there is a more general problem. My own view is that I think some of the enthusiasts for the UN, I count myself certainly as a friend of the UN, but I think some of those who want to push the UN more and more towards being
a world government or something like it, who tend to try to solve every major international problem by getting the UN into it. There are those who suggest today that the UN be brought into the Vietnam situation, for example. It seems to me that they may be pushing the UN in over its depth. I think that the Soviet Union really got a little burned in the Congo crisis when the UN intervened. And I wonder if it isn't dangerous for the UN to call upon it to take too big a role in some of the confrontations in the Cold War. You, I'm sure, have head of the so-called Doctrine of Preventive Diplomacy, which was invented by Hamishult. The idea of that is that the UN should intervene before a situation is aggravated by any cold Cold War considerations. In the case of Vietnam, the situation is beyond redemption. And of course, if the Great Powers agree, the UN complies a useful role.
And so much of the actions to be taken by the UN will depend upon the peacekeeping propensity of the Great Powers. You see, under the Charter, in 1945, the Great Powers were supposed to keep the peace. You will find that if you read chapter 7, you will find that the Great Powers were given the exclusive, I would say, exclusive privilege. Yes. And it was the car itself. In forced reductions. Yes. But then they were not given exclusive jurisdiction over peacekeeping. The assembly, that is to say, the entire membership were to be consigned with keeping the peace. Now the problem is how to initiate an action. And if you initiate an action, how to pay for it. And this is a present problem. And I'm saying, and this is the general view, that once an action has been initiated in such peacekeeping operations like the Congo and so on, it is a general assembly and not the Security Council, which must assess the membership.
I don't think any small part would like to sit by and allow a small group of members in the Security Council to tell them what to pay. What to pay? That's why Article 17 is very important. Well there is a more general question here too. The Congo is now over, the question of payment is something that has to be solved. But I think some of those who try to think further into the future, about the future of the UN, ponder this question. The UN went into the Congo with the agreement of all the great powers. But then the question of stability became terribly important. And this brought about, you know, the great constitutional crisis of the UN. I remember Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the table. The Troika agreements, all of the challenges to dig hammer-shield in the power of the Secretary General came about in this way. I think this is one of the great questions for the far future of the UN. Do you think, Mr. Ambassador, that there is any prospect of more power being given over
to the UN? I don't think the UN can be given more power than the Chatterle in this down. I think this is why the recent statement by Degorl is very important. If you want to change the UN and structure, then you want to tackle the Chatter. The Chatter must be amended to take account of the problems and the issues of the present day world. The world today has changed radically since 1945. So that if there is to be anything done in this major direction, it will require a major charter division. Exactly. Of course, what the Chinese have brought and others have brought forward. And so the discussion goes on. Can the United Nations be given more power to carry out its peacekeeping functions? What problems lie ahead for the world organization?
We hope you will take part in the debate on these issues. This is Don Goddard. Good evening. Next week on Great Decisions, a look at United States policy in Vietnam. This is NET, the National Educational Television Network.
Great Decisions 1965
Episode Number
The UN at Twenty
Producing Organization
WNDT (Television station : Newark, N.J.)
Contributing Organization
Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/512-tm71v5cj66).
Series Description
The series of eight half-hour episodes, featuring distinguished foreign policy experts and observers, consists of topics corresponding to those chosen by the Foreign policy Associations annual nationwide discussion program. The issues to be examined are Red China, Germany, Trade, South Africa, Eastern Europe, the United Nations, Vietnam, and the population problem. Roger Hilsman, former Assistant Secretary of State, who is now professor of government at Columbia University, moderates Great Decision 1965. Don Goddard, noted broadcasting reporter, is the narrator. Great Decisions 1965 is being produced for National Educational Television by WNDT, New York Citys educational television station. The 8 episodes that comprise this series were originally recorded on videotape. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Talk Show
Global Affairs
Public Affairs
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Hilsman, Roger
Producer: Lukas, Christopher
Producer: Krosney, Herbert
Producing Organization: WNDT (Television station : Newark, N.J.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2080241-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 1 inch videotape: SMPTE Type C
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Duration: 0:28:48
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2080241-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Duration: 0:28:48
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2080241-3 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: B&W
Duration: 0:28:48
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2080241-5 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Copy: Access
Color: Color
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2080241-4 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Master
Color: Color
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Great Decisions 1965; 6; The UN at Twenty,” 1965-00-00, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “Great Decisions 1965; 6; The UN at Twenty.” 1965-00-00. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: Great Decisions 1965; 6; The UN at Twenty. Boston, MA: Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from