To Create a New World? American Presidents and the United Nations

By John Allphin Moore Jr.; Jerry Pubantz | Go to book overview
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powers, in the depths of the cold war, the issues separating Moscow and Washington were so grave that only direct negotiation could be risked by either side. Future crises over Berlin, arms control and disarmament, Vietnam, Cuba, and the Middle East were reserved in American foreign policy for settlement or confrontation directly between the superpowers.

Second, the United Nations, at best, might serve as a venue for negotiation when direct confrontation loomed. However, it was more likely that behind-the-scenes contact with the Kremlin would produce better results.

Third, the United Nations worked best as an arena for promoting the nation's position on issues. Thus, the General Assembly, with its plenary membership, increasingly became a more important body than the Security Council. The Assembly provided a platform for propaganda and visionary statements.

Fourth, "peripheral" issues could be left to the world body. These might include secondary or minor disarmament proposals, as well as third world development. During the cold war, when strategic interests seemed remote, the United States was far more willing to allow multilateral solutions, sometimes with little U.S. leadership, to carry the day. The moment, however, any of those issues took on heightened meaning in the Soviet-American contest, the United Nations could no longer be allowed to dispose of them through its normal parliamentary procedures. Often they became matters to be resolved by private diplomacy, the outcomes being ratified later by UN action.


Superpower Confrontation and the United Nations, 1953-1969

Korea was the pressing international concern for the new administration in 1953. It should be remembered that President Truman had achieved a commitment from UN allies to a cease-fire proposal. Cease-fire negotiations began in the summer of 1951 at Kaesong, and then resumed in the fall at the neutral site of Panmunjom. Hopes for peace were high, but fighting continued to rage while the talks went on. An armistice eluded Truman to the end of his term. He left office with the war in a bloodletting stalemate, which ominously included soldiers from communist China. Conducting the war as a UN "police action," Truman had treated the effort as essentially an American undertaking. Eisenhower intended to keep it that way and to bring it to an end on American terms.

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