The United States and Inter-American Security, 1889-1960

By J. Lloyd Mecham | Go to book overview
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W hen the San Francisco United Nations Conference drafted the Charter of the United Nations containing an entire chapter recognizing the validity of regional-security arrangements, there were in existence at that time only two such formal associations: the time- tested inter-American system and the Arab League, which antedated the Conference by but a few days. Since the adoption of the Charter several other regional-defense compacts have come into existence, all claiming status as regional arrangements under the nominal aegis of the United Nations. As a matter of fact these regional understandings, despite the fact that the United Nations presumably possesses the primary responsibility for the organization and preservation of world peace, are fully autonomous security systems.

This trend toward regionalism within the context of the United Nations Charter points up the necessity of our understanding more clearly the meaning and nature of this present-day feature of international- security organization. Accordingly there is here presented a comprehensive case study of regional organization for international security, using as a model the world's oldest, best-organized, and most effective of all existent regional arrangements: the Organization of American States. Following an introductory description of other regional-security systems, all aspects of Western Hemisphere security cooperation are examined: the historical origins and development of the inter-American system; the formalizing and perfecting of the security structure applicable both to inter-American disputes and to extracontinental aggression; and the system under test, not only by numerous inter-American disputes but also by two world wars, the Korean war, and the aggressive threats of international Communism.

The literature on Pan Americanism is voluminous, for the subject of inter-American cooperation has long struck the fancy of Anglo- American and Latin-American authors. Yet, hardly one of them has fulfilled the essential and primary purpose of presenting a realistic description of the inter-American security system. Almost without exception they have failed to grasp, or at least have refrained from describing, the inter-American system as it really is.

The Western Hemisphere security arrangement is, it is true, a regional system comprised of twenty-one sovereign, equal, American republics; but it is also, and more particularly, a security arrangement between the United States and the twenty Latin-American republics.


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