FDR DID NOT SINGLE-HANDEDLY
CREATE THE UNITED
by Patrick Killough [01/01/1998]
The American Model
for Making Foreign Policy Democratically
These days the United Nations
is on my mind. In April 1998 for the first
time in five years I will
teach a course whose focus is how the U.N. was made. It is quite
a story. In my opinion, the way in which Americans, both in and out of
government, worked together was uniquely participatory and democratic.
Never before or since have the President, the Secretary of State, the
Department of State, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives
and private American exhibited so much team work in the making of American
foreign policy. It was brilliantly done. The makers of the U.N.
avoided all the major errors of President Woodrow Wilson who in 1918 -
1920 designed the League of Nations but failed to persuade the Senate
to authorize the United States to join the League. The way the United Nations
was created 1939 - 1946 was arresting. It worked because of deliberate,
proactive State Department outreach to the American people.
Indeed, that inclusive
approach to foreign policy did what was intended. It was easily
understood and immensely popular. It has never been tried again:
a great loss to American democracy. If any future President wishes
to make the Congress and American publics partners (albeit junior
partners) in the making of foreign policy, he need look no farther than
to how the United Nations was in fact planned and created.
I spent 1991, my final year
as a Foreign Service Officer of the Department of State, at a Government
think tank in Arlington, Virginia. There I researched the making of the
League of Nations and the United Nations. I concluded then and believe
this was the State Department's finest hour. Especially
was it the finest hour of Secretary of State and former U.S. Representative
and Senator Cordell Hull of Tennessee.
Cordell Hull: "Father
of the United Nations"
Remembering all the mistakes
of Woodrow Wilson, Hull systematically avoided repeating them.
--Wilson had left the planning
of post-World War I foreign policy until six months after America's declaration
of war in April 1917. Hull initiated post-war planning days after Hitler's
invasion of Poland in 1939, over two years before Japan attacked at Pearl
Harbor and Hitler then declared war on the United States in 1941.
--Wilson had brought no members
of Congress with him to Paris in 1918. As early as 1942-43 Hull invited
both distinguished private thinkers and U.S. Representatives and Senators
into post-war planning. The seven persons who were the official United
States delegates at San Francisco in 1945 also included two Representatives
and two Senators--of both major political parties.
--Wilson had no elected
members of the Republican party with him in Paris in 1919. Hull set
in motion creation of a bipartisan U.S. Delegation to the San Francisco
conference which from April to June 1945 wrote the United Charter.
--Wilson had no women
delegates with him in 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference. The U.S. had
Virginia Gildersleeve at San Francisco.
--Finally, an earlier Senate
twice rejected American participation in the League of Nations. But the
1945 Senate quickly approved the U.N. Charter and America's membership
by a vote of 89 - 2.
Hull had corrected the mistakes
of Woodrow Wilson.
There is a recent book focused
on the making of the United Nations. It is by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas
Brinkley: FDR AND THE CREATION OF THE U.N. It was published
in 1997 in New Haven by Yale University Press (xii, 287 pp.)
This book is a disappointment. For it uncovers very few new facts. And
it sketches the impact of the principal actors in the making of the United
Nations very differently from the way it really was.
The book's nominal hero is
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Fair
enough, so far as it goes.
For as historian Ruth Russell once argued, the important thing is not who
first thought up an idea or proposed it to others but whether and when
the President or other top "official" American foreign policy makers accepted
it and implemented it. The trouble is that Franklin Roosevelt's ideas
about the League of Nations and international organization changed over
and over and in the end pretty well resembled what Secretary of State Cordell
Hull had been proposing for a long time: a league of equal sovereign states
delegating responsibility for crisis management to a Security Council.
The book's real hero is Under
Secretary of State Sumner Welles. That, too, is fine so far as it goes.
Welles led an internal State Department study which recommended a post-war
international organization for keeping the peace which was at least eighty
percent identical with the much maligned League of Nations. And such is
what we now have.
James T. Shotwell,
Clarke M. Eichelberger, et al.
The greatest sins of FDR
AND THE CREATION OF THE U.N. are sins of omission. For Townsend
Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley mention only in passing individual contributors
whose creative roles were far greater than the public remembers. Admittedly,
few today can identify Columbia University's Professor James T. Shotwell
or his collaborator Clarke M. Eichelberger. But they triumphantly rallied
American public opinion behind the idea of the United Nations. Who can
name the members of the U.S. delegation to the San Francisco charter-writing
conference such as Dean Virginia Gildersleeve of Barnard College or U.S.
Representative Sol Bloom? Yet it is to Bloom that we owe the beginning
words of the United Nations Charter, "We, the peoples of the United Nations."
Is not that an improvement over Jan Christiaan Smuts's original draft proposal,
"The High Contracting Parties?"
From the time former President
Theodore Roosevelt, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910, first embraced
"a league to enforce peace," most of the ideas behind the
United Nations have been contributed by American citizens. And most of
those ideas also sprang from the minds and hearts of essentially private
persons, not from elected officials or Government bureaucrats. The book
by Hoopes and Brinkley downplays private contributions to the vanishing
point. And yet it was the huge contributions by private Americans which
made the United Nations, as originally designed and created, a thoroughly
and democratically American product.
for Asheville TRIBUNE