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U.N. stopover.

Every American President's treatment of the United Nations has been far different from what its creators had in mind. Harry Truman signed its charter--reluctanly honoring a promise extracted from him by Franklin Roosevelt--in a week that began with the holocaust he brought on Hiroshima and ended with the devastation he ordered for Nagasaki. Truman proceeds to fashion the United Nations into an instrument of american cold war policy. His use of a specious U.N. Command to widen the Korean War dealt the organization a blow from which it has never recovered.

Dwight Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles turned the United Nations into a diplomatic front in the battle with Godless communism. Behind the debates with Soviet delegates were his threats of massive retaliation and the strategy of brinkmanship. John Kennedy's idealistic rhetoric provided a shabby mask for his Realpolitik intentions. As a force of Cuban exiles was heading for the Bay of Pigs he sent U.N. ambassador Adlai Stevenson to lie to the General Assembly's Political Committee about American involvement in the invasion. Kennedy was so amused by the charade that he later called Stevenson "my official liar."

Lyndon Johnson simply ignored the United Nations as he pursued his military and political offensive against upstart Third World adversaries from North Vietnam to the Dominican Republic. Richard Nixon's theory of world government, developed and executed by Henry Kissinger, ws to eliminate the international body altogether and manage the globe in cautious concert with the Russians. Gerald Ford didn't seem to know who, what or where the United Nations was, and Jimmy Carter could not make up his mind about it. After a hopeful start, he turned his back on multilateral diplomacy, under pressure from neoconservatives and the Israel lobby. He withdrew American Participation from the International Labor Organization over a U.N. vote against Israel, and he dropped the U.N.-backed multinational Middle East peace negotiations in Geneva in favor of the Camp David process.

Which brings us to the case of Ronald Reagan. As disrespectful and arrogant as his predecessors may have been, Reagan tops them all in sheer destructiveness. He began his term with an assault on the U.N. system itself by insisting that aid to poorer countries be linked to their votes--for or against the U.S. positions--in the United Nations. He announced that the United States would withdraw from Unesco; he refused to approve the convention on the Law of the Sea, which was painstakingly negotiated by several Administrations with U.N. support; he attacked the organization's staff and internal machinery; he cut, or threatened to cut, contributions to various U.N. operating budgets; he abused his veto power (as Dulles had accused the soviet Union of doing) with frivolous, petulant, mean-spirited and isolating votes which did nothing except undermine the already weak foundations of multilateralism. The vetoes have been counterproductive as well: the last one, a lone vote cast against a resolution asking travel rights for Lebanese citizens in Israeli-occupied Lebanon, may have provoked the suicide raid on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Although it is impossible to predict the terrorist mentality, the bloodshed last month might have been avoided not only by tighter security measures, as the Democrats are charging, but by a more constructive approach in the Security Council.

Worst of all, the Reagan Administration approached the United Nations as a hostile force and appointed an ambassador who acts more like a bully than a diplomat. the very presence of Jeane Kirkpatrick in a U.N. auditorium changes the character of the proceedings from a debate to a mugging. It is true that the world assembly of sovereign states cannot avoid all conflicts or resolve all differences, but Kirkpatrick is on a demolition project, not a repair job. Other Presidents and their ambassadors have used and abused the United Nations; this one is bent on dismantling it.

Nothing Reagan told the General Assembly last week suggests that his attitude toward the United Nations will change. If his tone was mild and his proposals conciliatory it was only because of the exigencies of an election campaign. Reagan likes to punch first, then kiss, then puch again. His blows have been hard: a massive nuclear arms buildup, the Star Wars strategy, the subjugation of Grenada, the war in Central America and the rhetoric of "evil empire." Against that, the notion of a U.S.-Soviet committee of correspondence must be taken not as a serious proposal for peace but as a convenient debating ploy.

Reagan is his own official liar. Last week he called on Nicaragua to "abandon its policy of subversion," although his Administration is the pre-eminent aggressor in Central America. He urged U.S. corporations to invest in racist South Africa. He bad-mounted summit meetings, exalted the ideology of the marketplace and struck out boldly for spiritual progress. He involked Tom Paine, Gandhi and Ignatius Loyola, all of whom have constituents in american politics and some worldwide following as well. but they cannot contradict Reagan's lies, half-truths and hypocrisies. We will need live bodies, independent governments and an unexpected outpouring of votes for that.
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Title Annotation:Reagan's policy toward the U.N.
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Oct 6, 1984
Previous Article:Who's behind the aid to the contras.
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