The Cold Warriors
The Soviets are the real enemy and all else must be viewed against the background of that truth.
— President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Churchill
November 27, 1956
The developing Soviet-American confrontation of the late 1940s ended the hope that the United Nations could work as its founders envisioned. The world body became an arena for skirmishes in that confrontation, a place where even allies challenged U.S. actions, and only once in a while was it a setting in which quiet diplomacy might facilitate a resolution of particularly serious differences between the USSR and the United States. Beginning with the president's declaration of the Truman Doctrine in 1947 American foreign policy steadily shifted to a new road, one committed to U.S. leadership of the "free" world in the effort to halt Soviet-inspired communist expansion around the globe. The United Nations served as an instrument of American foreign policy but increasingly was seen as a minimal actor, secondary to a system of military alliances, unilateral initiatives, and strategic defense spending.
The Truman years were interesting because they marked the transition from the earlier idealized hope that universal collective security could greatly lessen the prospects of another war, to a recognition of a unique American responsibility for world peace and stability in the face of a determined enemy. In Korea, as we described in Chapter 2, the American goal of stopping Soviet expansion merged with the means of utilizing the United Nations to achieve that end. Truman could do this, however, only because the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council when the war broke out, and because the United States commanded an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly. Even under those circumstances, though, the war was conducted as an American affair, with an American commander, largely American troops, American funding, and presidential decision-making in the Oval Office. When the Soviets returned to their seats in the Security Council, the United States had to resort to a revision of UN procedures with the passage of the "Uniting for Peace" Resolution to ensure UN legitimacy for United States' actions on the Korean peninsula.