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The Vision of a World at Peace

ISSUE:  Autumn 1945

Those words, a world at peace, represent the craving of hundreds of millions of people in every quarter of the globe. They constitute the ideal towards which the democracies have been groping for many generations. That is the goal towards which the men and women and the governments of the United Nations are striving today.

Methods by which this highest of all ends can best be achieved have been advanced by some of the most enlightened leaders of thought throughout the centuries. But we may well fear that vast numbers of people still think of the word “peace” as implying a condition which is essentially static. They still think of peace as being negative rather than as a concept which can truly be only positive.

Until public opinion, and particularly that in the more advanced of the democracies, fully recognizes the stark truth that peace can never be static; that it will never exist except as the result of the continuous effort and the unfaltering will of a majority of the peoples of the world; that its attainment can only come about as the consequence of infinitely greater human effort than that which will be required to win this greatest of all wars, the search for a true peace will not be crowned with success.

There could be no greater danger today than the belief of the people of the United States that our military victories, and the creation of an International Organization, will automatically bring with them the establishment of peace on earth and that thereafter, as individuals, they need do nothing further to make this vision come true.

As we look at the world in which we live, could there be anything more unrealistic than that type of thinking?

In the entire history of Europe, since the days of the Dark Ages, the European nations have confronted no greater crisis. There have been eras in the past when, granted the smaller populations of those days and the differences due to the development of modern civilization, material destruction has been proportionately as great, and the relative loss of human life through death in battle or through the ravages of disease and starvation has beer, as considerable as what has been occasioned by this scarcely frustrated attempt by Germany to dominate the world. But the peoples of Europe face today, in addition to this bitter burden of death and of devastation, the continuing impact of those tremendous social and economic forces which stem from the world revolution into which our modern civilization has been plunged.

In the Near East, where the peoples have to a very considerable extent been spared the more immediate ravages of war, these same forces are fermenting. Here again, foolhardy as it would be to try to prophesy what the future may hold, we would be blind indeed not to recognize that before a period of even temporary stability sets in, these new trends will weave a pattern of events that will radically modify the political status of the Middle East.

And so it will be in those vast reaches of Asia where are concentrated the great bulk of the human race. One development in the Far East we can predict with assurance. That is that after the termination of this war many-hundreds of millions of Asiatic peoples who during the past centuries have suffered the curb of colonial domination will break free from the foreign fetters which have been imposed upon them, and will take the determination of their destinies into their own hands. We can be equally sure that if an attempt is made to restrain by force this driving urge towards freedom, the Imperial Powers will soon find that they must abandon a futile effort to make the tides of human progress stand still.

It is only in the Western Hemisphere that an ordered civilization remains intact. The regions of the New World have remained physically remote from the waging of the war. What is more than that, the regional system which the American Republics had in recent years been gradually building up stood them in good stead at the moment of the world crisis. The international machinery which they had constructed for common defense, as well as for common progress, worked when the need arose. Today, in this time of great uncertainty, that mechanism still functions not only for the benefit of the Western Hemisphere, but for the benefit of all mankind at a moment when faith in the efficacy of international co-operation was never more urgently needed.

It is almost impossible for the human mind to grasp the magnitude of the staggering problems with which the peoples of the United Nations are faced today as they commence to undertake the task of partial reconstruction.

It has long been clear to the overwhelming majority of the people of the United States that no ordered or peaceful world could ever exist unless it was built up upon the foundation of a practical and enlightened International Organization capable of maintaining peace by force if necessary and competent at the same time to develop with the passage of the years human liberty and economic security.

Again, as in 1918, it has been the Government of the United States which has taken the leadership in seeking to | bring about the creation of such an International Organization. But this time we may confidently believe that when that Organization is established, the people of the United States, as they did not in 1920, will from the outset participate in it, and continue to assume their full responsibility as a member of the family of nations.


The foundations have now been laid in San Francisco. To some of us the Charter of the United Nations, as drafted in San Francisco, contains provisions which are weak or unsatisfactory, or even dangerous. It may not contain other provisions which in our sincere belief are essential if this new attempt at world order is to be given the best chance to succeed, Many of us are convinced that had this effort of the United Nations to agree upon the Charter of the World Organization been undertaken many months ago, before the end of the war in Europe, it would probably have contained provisions more definitely responsive to the ideals of the people of the United States. For had these negotiations been undertaken earlier, the ability of the United States to secure from its allies an agreement upon the inclusion of such provisions would have been far greater.

But however strongly some of us may individually feel disappointment with regard to errors of omission or of commission, we cannot fail to recognize that the United Nations Charter as it now stands constitutes the only available foundation upon which the edifice of world order can be constructed. There is no alternative between our full participation in the United Nations Organization and world anarchy. The immediate and the primary obligation of the people of the United States must, therefore, be to bend every effort towards making the Organization work—work in the interest of world peace and thereby work in their own interest.

It would be wholly illusory also not to recognize that the Charter of any International Organization wrought at a moment of world upheaval, which must be agreed upon by fifty nations, and among them nations determined to further their own security in the manner which they themselves consider most likely to attain that objective, must inevitably result in compromises, many of which will fall far short of the ideals which the peoples of various countries may individually uphold.

We can at least agree that the Charter as finally agreed upon represents a notable advance over the original proposals drafted at Dumbarton Oaks a year ago and represents, as well, in many ways a far more practical and a far more enlightened instrument for the maintenance of world order and for the achievement of human progress than the Covenant of the League of Nations.

None of us will have reason to complain of the Preamble of the new Charter. If the provisions of the Charter itself only become wholly responsive to the purposes of the United Nations as set forth in the Preamble, the ideals we Americans believe in will most assuredly be realized.

No more notable contribution to the cause of world peace has been incorporated in the new Charter than that which is represented by the creation of the Economic and Social Council. Under the terms of the Charter, this Council is specifically established “with a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” It is designed to procure through international co-operation higher standards of living, full employment, solutions for all international economic and cultural problems, and the attainment of a universal observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of race, religion, or sex. The machinery is thereby set up through which those transcendent objectives indispensable to world progress and world peace can be achieved. Its success will remove some of the most potent causes for all wars.

It would be gratifying to be able to express the belief that provisions equally progressive and equally enlightened were included within that Chapter of the new United Nations Charter which deals with the principle of International Trusteeship. The dependent peoples throughout the world, no matter by what colonial administration they may have previously been governed, should possess the clear assurance that the United Nations Organization is going to assume the responsibility of protecting their welfare and their legitimate rights, and of seeing to it that as soon as the public opinion of the world, represented by the International Organization, reaches the impartial conclusion that any presently dependent peoples are competent to assume the responsibilities and the privileges of independence, those rights will be granted to them. That, unfortunately, is not so. And this most tremendous problem, in which the vital interests of the peoples of the Far East and of the Near East and of other vast regions as well are inextricably involved, may constitute one of the most dangerous and critical questions with which the United Nations Organization will have to contend in the immediate future.

In its Eighth Chapter the Charter makes a significant departure from the concept of unbending universality sustained in the Covenant of the League of Nations. By providing for Regional Arrangements, and by permitting Regional Agencies to undertake the primary task of resolving regional disputes, under the supreme authority of the Security Council, the Charter establishes a procedure which in my judgment is not only altogether practical, but one which is likewise destined to enhance the probability of the maintenance of world peace in the future.

As is well known, this achievement is due largely to the insistence of the American Republics—staunchly supported by certain United States Senators within as well as outside of the United States Delegation—that the Inter-American Regional System, which has so truly proved its worth in moments of grave peril to the Western Hemisphere, should not be discarded by the new United Nations Organization. It has also been their sincere conviction that the Inter-American system might well serve as a desirable pattern for similar regional organizations in other parts of the world.

The significant features of these provisions of the Charter are to be found in the following words:

Nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action, provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.

The Members of the United Nations entering into such arrangements or constituting such agencies shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes. . . .

The Security Council shall encourage the development of pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements. . . .

. . . no enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council, with the exception of measures against any enemy state [enemy of any one of the United Nations during the Second World War] . . . or in regional arrangements directed against renewal of aggressive policy on the part of any such state, until such time as the Organization may, on request of the Governments concerned, be charged with the responsibility for preventing further aggression by such a state.

These provisions, if properly implemented and employed in the years to come, should result in the speedy and effective solution of innumerable local disputes by those best fitted by knowledge of the details involved to find practical and just solutions—namely, the neighbors in each community. They should tend to relieve the Security Council of the task of settling many regional problems, which, as experience has shown in the case of the Inter-American Regional System, can most readily be resolved by regional action.

But, more than that, the functioning of these regional organizations will inevitably promote as well economic and cultural developments of common advantage to the neighbor states in each region.

The Charter likewise establishes an International Court of Justice, with its seat in The Hague, to replace the former League Court. The jurisdiction of the Court will, however, not be compulsory nor will the Court be able to impose its decisions. At the outset the Court will, therefore, be limited to rendering advisory opinions at the request of the Assembly or the Security Council and to the rendering of decisions when members of the Organization submit their controversies to it or voluntarily accept compulsory jurisdiction. The only stipulations entered into by the members of the United Nations Organization are that they will pledge themselves to abide by the judgment of the Court when they agree to submit disputes in which they are involved to its jurisdiction.

The General Assembly of the United Nations in which every member state will have one .vote will, as we all know, possess but slight substantive authority. It will be the Security Council which will in fact, under the present terms of the Charter, be both the executive agency and the determining authority of the new World Organization. While the Security Council will be composed of eleven members, of which six will be representatives of the intermediate or smaller powers, its ultimate decisions, except in minor or procedural questions, will be laid down by the five great states.

It is not surprising that the chief controversy which has arisen in San Francisco should have arisen with regard to these powers of the five major nations within the Security Council. As the Charter has finally been agreed upon, as a result in great part of the insistence of the Soviet Government that the terms of the Yalta Agreements must be retained intact, should one major power object, even the official investigation or conciliation by the Security Council of controversies between smaller countries cannot be undertaken. Only their preliminary discussion would in that event be permitted.


As this brief survey of the provisions of the new Charter of the United Nations indicates, I think it may fairly be said that the Charter as it now stands provides that all of the peoples of the world, great or small, must entrust their destinies, and the maintenance of world peace for an extended period, to the decisions of the five great powers and more specifically to those of the three major powers. The attainment of world peace will be contingent upon the ability of these three major powers to co-operate together in full confidence and with an identity of purpose during the indefinite period which now lies ahead.

I am fully persuaded that no World Organization could have been instituted at this time with any prospect for success had it not been founded upon the concept of such cooperation among the three major powers, and had those major powers not been granted precisely that measure of authority represented by their so-called veto rights over the use of the armed force made available to the United Nations Organization whenever force is required to keep order in the world. I believe, however, that such exceptional authority granted to the major powers should have been granted only for a transitional period, until such time as the United Nations Organization had been afforded the necessary opportunity in which to undertake the task of reconstruction, to impose world order, and to start the nations of the earth along the road which leads to security and economic prosperity.

As it now stands, the veto rights granted the five major powers are so extensive as even to make it possible for a single major power in the future to veto all amendments to the Charter, even though all of the other forty-nine nations which are likewise members of the United Nations Organization may consider such amendments to be indispensable. That provision is to me the outstanding defect in the United Nations Charter. It is the one which will be destined in all probability to create the greatest difficulties in the future. It is the one which can undermine the confidence of the peoples of the smaller countries in the intrinsic democracy of this new instrument for world order. It may for these reasons be almost impossible to secure an immediately spontaneous and sincere support for this new effort at World Organization from the great body of public opinion throughout the world. There is nothing more necessary for the ultimate success of this great endeavor than for free men and women to know that the future revision and perfection of the Charter will be possible, and that those provisions which may seem to be unduly restrictive or to place too large a measure of absolute power in the hands of a few great states need not be regarded as permanent, and that they can be liberalized later on.

Already in many of the smaller states voices of great authority are heard bitterly protesting against the sweeping nature of the authority of the great powers. A few have even urged that because of this defect their own governments should not ratify a Charter in which these provisions are contained. Others are heard insisting that if these provisions are not radically revised within a very few years, the smaller nations should withdraw from the United Nations Organization. I myself believe, as the Mexican Government proposed in its early observations upon the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, that membership in the United Nations Organization should be universal and obligatory upon all nations. But it is, of course, wholly impossible that such a principle can be adopted under the provisions now incorporated in the Charter, when there is offered to the smaller states no assurance whatever that their aspirations for future amendment will ever be realized.


While the Charter of the United Nations represents one of the foundations for world peace which is indispensable, the nature of the peace settlements which must be arrived at in Europe, in the Far East, and in other parts of the earth will also vitally affect the chances we possess of seeing a peaceful world. There can be no assurance of world order, of world progress, or of future peace if any of the major settlements now laid down are imposed in any part of the earth solely to advance the narrow or selfish interests of any one great state.

We are faced today with the possibility that many settlements and adjustments which must be made as an outcome of the war may be laid down primarily to further such interests of the great states. Had the Charter of the United Nations Organization been agreed upon long before the conclusion of the war, and had a provisional body been designated to function during the war period to cope with political solutions, as the Combined Chiefs of Staff were designated to deal with military and naval problems, this critical danger which we now confront could have been greatly lessened.

The immediate decisions to be reached with regard to European peace settlements will under present plans be determined solely by the dictates of the three greatest powers. No realist will quarrel with the intrinsic right of those three major powers, which have borne the brunt of the struggle against Germany and whose sacrifices both in human life and in treasure have alone made the victory possible, to assume the ultimate determination of the issues which now impend. And yet would it not be the part of wisdom, now that a United Nations Organization has been established, since the future destinies of the smaller nations of Europe are inextricably bound up in the decisions to be reached, since the peoples of these countries have suffered immeasurably as a consequence of the war. and since some cf the wisest and most enlightened statesmen to be found in the modern world are leaders in those countries, that before final decisions are reached, these smaller nations should be afforded the opportunity of advancing their views and of expressing their wishes as to the European peace settlements now to be decided?

I am convinced that no just and no lasting peace will be found unless it is in the truest sense a democratic peace. I do not imply by that statement that the world is ready as yet for the Parliament of Man. But I do mean that the peoples of the smaller nations of Europe, and the peoples of the lesser powers in other parts of the world, will neither be satisfied with nor support decisions affecting their vital interests in which they have no part and in the determination of which they are granted no voice. More than that, I feel that the only safeguard which peoples can today obtain against the formulation of peace settlements framed primarily for purposes of selfish advantage, or reached as a result of compromise between various selfish interests, lies in the inclusion in the bodies which must reach these determinations of the representatives of smaller states. Frequently, these are able to speak more objectively, and frequently they are less impelled by the lust for power or aggrandizement, than are the spokesmen of some of the great powers.


It is here, I think, that this Government has recently erred in the conduct of our foreign policy. Before the formulation of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals for a United Nations Organization, we were afforded every opportunity of consulting with the smaller and the intermediate powers of the Western Hemisphere so that before entering that Conference we might have obtained their suggestions and their views, and might have been enabled to reach a meeting of minds and thus obtain the assurance that our American neighbors shared our own beliefs as to the form which the new World Organization should take. Had this effort been undertaken, we might have been enabled to speak with the knowledge that we possessed the support of the peoples of an entire Hemisphere. That great advantage we deliberately discarded. The result today is, of course, to be found not only in the fact that through our failure to take this legitimate measure our influence to achieve the ideals in which we believed was correspondingly weakened, but also in the fact that many of the other American Republics seem today to be far from persuaded that the kind of World Organization which has been shaped is one which sufficiently recognizes their status as sovereign nations fully equipped to bear their legitimate measure of responsibility in shaping the destinies of the world.

And 1 think we must also feel that in the approach which the United States has made to the solution to be given to the European peace settlements we have far too often refrained from seeking the co-operation of those smaller nations of Europe which have for so many generations been in the forefront of international progress. We have too often refrained from initiating solutions in Europe which we ourselves believed to be the righteous and practical solutions. We have too often given the impression that we were either acquiescently following the desires of the British Government, or refraining from maintaining any firm position, even on questions of the highest principle, in problems in which the Soviet Union was primarily involved. This has been the case even though we ourselves are known to have no axe to grind. We have made it clear that we desire no territorial or material gain. We have made staggering sacrifices as our contribution towards winning the war. We have, therefore, an even greater right to urge the acceptance by the community of nations of many of our views as to what would best contribute to the creation of a practical and equitable world order, and as to the nature of the peace settlements to be laid down in Europe.

The United States cannot successfully carry out the new policy, which the American people unquestionably support, of actively participating in the United Nations Organization, and of furthering the purposes for which that Organization is created, unless the United States is also willing to offer its moral leadership to the world.

It may be that the traditions of generations of isolationism are still working subconsciously in our minds. It may be that public opinion itself does not yet comprehend that our military, material, and moral influence in the world of today is not yet being exercised to the due advantage of the people of the United States. But this truth, I think, cannot be questioned. If the United States is determined that the peace settlements in Europe shall be settlements founded upon justice and destined to result in peace, the United States must undertake a far greater measure of initiative than it has previously undertaken in deciding what those settlements should be.

It has often been asserted, particularly during recent weeks, that the Government of the United States should primarily undertake to serve as intermediary between the British Commonwealth and the Soviet Union.

I believe that the United States does not have now and never need have any cause for antagonism towards the Soviet Union. If the policies of these two great nations are wisely administered, there is no reason in any foreseeable future for any conflict of interests.

Nor is there, nor will there ever again be, any conflict of vital interests between the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States. The United States can, in fact, serve its own highest interests and the interests of world order by acting whenever the need may arise to help to solve any questions which may arise between these two great friendly countries. But surely the role of intermediary is not enough. Surely the United States need not abstain from seeking the realization of its own objectives when the world knows that these objectives are neither selfish nor material, and solely represent those ideals of. justice, whose attainment, in the judgment of the American people, will represent the best guarantee of world security in the future.

Our pressing need today, if we are determined to make a reality of that vision of a world at peace which we possess, is to seize that initiative which we have hitherto so often grasped but tentatively, and adopt a foreign policy which is forward-looking rather than acquiescent.

Our own security cannot be divorced from the security of the rest of the world. We have unquestionably learned by the experience of the past forty-five years that warfare, social anarchy, and economic depression in any region of the earth is a direct threat to the peace of the rest of the world and consequently to our own safety.

We must see to it that the regional system of the Western Hemisphere, while a component part of the over-all United Nations Organization, must nevertheless not only be retained but ever be strengthened as the cornerstone in the edifice of our own security.

We must insist that those peoples of the Far East and of the Near East who are struggling for independence, and who are capable of shouldering its obligations, shall be assured of that right as the surest means of bringing about in those regions of the Pacific and of the Middle East that political and economic security without which there can be no lasting peace.

We must be willing to assert our influence in Europe so that the European peoples may have confidence in our co-operation, not only in the immediate present when the first just and wise peace settlements should be laid down, but also in the future when, as we may well hope, projects for federation and for interdependent economic development may gradually evolve.

We must sternly utilize the influence of this great country of ours against the construction in this modern world of new balances of power, and new zones of influence, which imply nothing more than the shaping of those conditions which inevitably lead to future wars.

And finally, the American people must rapidly come to the conclusion that only through the adoption by our Government of a dynamic foreign policy, representing a continuing initiative of the United States, can they ever hope to have their country become the standard bearer of the free peoples of the earth.

If we survey the recent decades, how ghastly a compound of complacent blundering, of criminal ambitions, of stupid acquiescence, of furious rebellion—shot through so rarely by any sign of high aspiration—do the relations between peoples seem to have been.

The clock Beats out the little lives of men.

Long after our brief span is ended, the tidal waves raised by this greatest of all human tragedies—the Second World War—will still be rolling out over the earth, and making their effects felt in every field of life. And yet, sometimes in the affairs of men, to one generation is entrusted the opportunity of making decisions from which will inevitably stem the course which all of civilization will pursue.

To us of this generation is given the power to help to shape the future of mankind. No student of the world’s history can fail to be conscious that the destinies of the human race in the coming years will be determined by the decisions which the American people now reach.

If the United States now vigorously asserts its leadership, lends its utmost endeavors from the outset in making a success of the new World Organization, and thereafter continues to play its full part in furthering the advance of human freedom, of international law, and of economic security throughout the world, then, even though the immediate present be darkened, we can look forward with confidence to the future.


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