The United Nations: A Fifty-Year-Old Infant
by Major General John B. Kidd
Tomorrow in San Francisco there will be a ceremony to mark the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations. Fifty years ago it was with great expectations that the representatives of fifty-one founding nations met there to sign the Charter. Still in the throes if World War II, they held the lofty hope that their work would “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
This century has been the climax of the way in which nations have conducted their affairs for millennia: the “us” vs. “them” mentality which has pitted one nation against another. Thus far over 110 million people have been killed in countless wars, 9 million in WW I and 55 million in WW II, and uncountable trillions of dollars of property destroyed. In the five major wars in which the United States fought this century, 613.727 Americans in uniform were killed and 1,132,435 wounded. No doubt WW II was the most devastating war in history and, this century the bloodiest. The cost to the United States of just fighting these five wars exceeds $5 trillion. I was deeply involved in three of these — in fighting, starting, operating, ending them — and planning several more, including World War III. Also, I developed an intimacy with nuclear weapons, including flying through nuclear clouds — megaton bursts, within minutes of detonation.
To save succeeding generations from this devastation is precisely what the founders of the United Nations had in mind when they created its Charter. Yet, at this date the structures and the ready forces envisioned are still not in place to carry out the United Nation’s primary purpose. It hasn’t even begun.
Why, what has happened? Why hasn’t the U.N. moved forward? It was the Cold War veto, excised by one nation, which frustrated progress for over forty years. The notable exception was the Security Council’s resolution authorizing use of force to oppose aggression in Korea in 1950 — made possible only by the Soviet’s absence from the meeting — and then done on an ad hoc basis. The Gulf was war, too, was done ad hoc.
Now after the end of the Cold War, in what may be just a brief window of opportunity, is the time to breathe life into the enlightened objectives of the Charter, to establish the Rule of Law, which for the first time in history would give meaningful effect world-wide to principle ahead of expediency, principle ahead of narrow self interest. Was it not the Rule of Law that in large part transformed our thirteen very independent colonies into the greatness that all now know?
Today, due to the frustrating years, the U.N. — yet in its infancy but now free from the Soviet veto — is just beginning to show its potential for dealing with hostility, with conflict. Its impotence and confusion are understandable — as it lacks a military headquarters to plan an implement its resolutions. It’s like the United States planning military operations and fighting — without the Pentagon. While a number of notable U.N. successes have been realized with arbitration, diplomacy and its Peacekeeping operations — for examples, in Cambodia, El Salvador, and the Congo — the identification of forces and preplanning for their use in countering aggression has not begun, for this the U.N. will require extensive nurturing, revamping and leadership to fulfill the Charter role.
The first thirty, quite small pages of the U.N. Charter lay out, in what is the highest law in the world, all the authorities and legal structure necessary to accomplish its noble purposes. It provides for a Military Staff Committee, for use of a military blockade and use of military forces as necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security — as well as economic embargoes.
Following our years of absorption with containing communism, Unites States leadership has not plan to fill the void, no plan for a new, a better way for nations to relate to each other. The Bottom-Up review of our military structure and policies, conducted in 1993 by the Pentagon and approved by President Clinton last year, provides for out military forces to be able to fight two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously, such as a new Gulf War and another war in Korea, and do it without allies. This plan simply spells out the role of world policeman and envisages a continuation of the same old “us vs. “them” ways — and at tremendous, probably prohibitive costs. But then, in his September 26, 1994 speech to the U.N., the President disavowed the role of world policeman. Interestingly, in the same speech he called upon the U.N. Secretary General to name a working group that would act quickly to prepare a “concrete action plan to revitalize the U.N.’s obligation to address the security, economic and political challenges ahead.” Little if anything has developed, so rather than look to the U.N. for leadership, the Unites States with its know-how can serve itself and the U.N. by offering a comprehensive security plan to the Security Council to realize the U.N.’s full potential.
Parenthetically, it is significant to note that thirty-six years earlier President Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, wrote the Secretary General of the United Nations as follows: “… the Unites States has as strong interest in the early establishment of standby arrangements for a United Nations Peace Force. The interest of the American people in this concept is further demonstrated by the fact that during the past year resolutions were passed by both the House and the Senate calling for the establishment of a U.N. force.” This initiative fell victim to the Cold War.
The basic components of the comprehensive security plan would include the following:
Establish a competent military command and control headquarters, responsible to the Security Council.
Establish regional headquarters to accomplish contingency planning to deal primarily with aggression, the OSCE (Organization on Security and Cooperation) made up of 53 nations in Europe, including Russia, could be one such headquarters.
Then identify the rapid deployment and follow-on forces and begin combined training. The commitment of stand-by forces by the United States to a specific situation would be made only after it is satisfied with all elements of the plan: the objectives, mission, tasks, strategy, command arrangements, communications and logistics. More than likely the U.S. would be pressed to provide the overall commander for the larger military operations. A permanent U.N. force is not envisaged.
Replace current voluntary reporting of international arms sales with a compulsory system, then outlaw sale or transfer of all offensive weapons.
A most significant requisite is the modification administratively of the veto in the Security Council thereby eliminating the ability of a one member of a minority of the five Permanent Members, which are deemed “interested parties,” to throttle initiatives, to nullify the majority will — conceivably of 182 or 183 nations.
It will be a matter of years before this structure can become efficient, effective and trained — just as it took NATO many years. Flaws in mission planning and coordination in all operations should diminish. In time, would-be aggressors — outlaws — will come to realize that they cannot succeed. Submissions to the World Court would increase. What benefits would accrue to the Unites States?
There would be a lessening need for the United States to plan to defend unilaterally oil-rich or other strategic areas.
The Unites States would relinquish its role of mercenary or “hired gun,” a role earned in the Gulf War when it received over $60 billion for discharging the interest of other nations.
The Unites States would no longer arm its friends, in that finally every nation’s security could be effectively guaranteed by the full implementation of the Charter.
Eventually the Untied States forces would no longer be confronted with fighting against forces equipped with American weapons, or those provided in part by our allies — as occurred in the Gulf War.
Then, there is the potential for enormous “saving” in American life and limb, as well as the cost of fighting massive wars. Note that the $5 trillion current-dollars cost to the United States of fighting the five major wars this century exceeds the present national debt.
Initial costs would be negligible and, in time, U.S. military outlays should decline under this collective strategy.
Relying in this strategy will involve virtually no risk to the physical security of the United States.
The above should give pause to those who have asserted that the United States is squandering it resources through involvement with the U.N. It is significant to note that the 1993 costs to the United States for the regular budget and special agencies was less than half the cost of one B-2 bomber or substantially less that a single new destroyer — quite a bargain at about $3 per American. The nations that will head the list of powerful nations at the end of the 21st century will be those with all the attributes of national security: together with a healthy, educated people, social unity, and domestic tranquility. Adopting this strategy will help keep the United States in contention.
To isolationists I ask, “What is your plan to avoid repeating the 20th century in the 21st?” To those who wish to protect only America’s “vital interests.” I say, “Don’t judge the U.N. by its current performance — but its potential. Have another look.” To those who insist that U.S. forces must never be placed under foreign command, I say. “Take note that U.S. Army divisions have been under foreign commanders in NATO for years.”
A United States – led concurrent program to eliminate all nuclear weapons, weapons that are unusable as a rational instrument of policy, is essential and would abet the above strategy; the two would be mutually supporting. Even with priority effort, though, it would be about the year 2015 before negotiation could produce a verifiably nuclear weapon-free and plutonium-controlled world. The current annual cost of just maintaining nuclear weapons is nearly $30 billion. Senior retired officers who espouse this position include Army General Goodpaster, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, Air Force General Horner, former CINC, U.S. Space Command, Admiral Carroll, a director of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information and myself.
I see this nuclear weapon-free and aggression-ending strategy — designed to implement Rule of Law — as the ultimate issue of our time. This strategy, together with progress by the U.N. on other global problems — the environment, hunger, population, human rights — would create a far safer, more stable and more prosperous America and world for succeeding generations.
Could an in-being, fully operational U.N. force have deterred Hitler from starting his military build-up in the first place — or defeated his first aggression? I think so. Certainly history would have been written differently. Can the U.N. succeed in accomplishing its lofty primary purpose. Can the U.N. succeed in accomplishing its lofty primary purpose? No one knows. The only way to find out is to try. The prize is too great not to.
At present there is little support from congress — even for Peacekeeping operations — and the White House has not provided leadership. Yet, the President of the Untied States is the only person on earth who can make it happen. He can serve our nation, the world — and himself — by taking the lead in implementing this strategy. Polls have shown that when he does the American people will be staunchly behind him. The message to the President of the United States is clear and simple. It’s high time to create Rule of Law in the world. And I think I speak for most of those old soldiers –living and dead — who fought in our five wars this century. Mr. President, please lead us. We want to begin now.