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When the United Nations Charter was drafted in 1945 the provisions for keeping the peace had to be drawn up in the abstract. There was no tangible enemy, crises were in the future, and commitments were made in a vacuum. It was only when it became clear what the world was really like that “peacekeeping” was invented. It turned out that in most conflict situations there was no definable aggressor or victim, that the danger was uncontrolled escalation of local conflicts into the nuclear realm, and that the real enemy was a fantastically complex set of instabilities, inequities, and passions to which 1945 international ground rules were inadequately related.
A visitor from another, more advanced, planet would find many extraordinary paradoxes on earth, but surely the most extraordinary would be the fantastic destructive potential of nuclear weapons which contrasts starkly with the primitive and near-impotent institutions of global peacekeeping. He might marvel that a breed capable of producing the wealth for a $185 billion armory of lethal devices, let alone the technology for killing several hundred million humans in a single exchange of nuclear weapons, had not also produced a workable international order capable of regulating such apocalyptic man-made power.
Like a chronic sore that never quite cripples, hurts most of the time, and sometimes becomes dangerously inflamed, the issue of China in the United Nations has plagued United States policy for almost twenty years.
When John Fitzgerald Kennedy became President of the United States in January 1961, many Americans, and probably an even greater number of other people, believed that an entirely new chapter had begun in American political history. People tend to read into contemporary events the trends they wish to see. For many, hopes and expectations about domestic and foreign policy alike were quickened by the impressive signs of youth, vigor, liberalism, and a broad outlook on the outside world.
The detonation of Peking's first atomic devices in recent months has X provoked renewed widespread discussion of the dangers of the further spread of nuclear weaponry. Speculation has flourished about who would be next—Sweden? Japan? Israel? Or perhaps India, which has become the first nonnuclear country to build a chemical separation plant? Cost estimates put nuclear weapons within reach of the poorest nations within a few years. Governments have issued solemn pronouncements about the need to design further international agreements to prevent nuclear proliferation. The President of the United States made use of a high-level committee to advise him how to deal with the problem.
On October 4, 1957, when Sputnik I was successfully orbited, it was popular to say that mankind had entered a new age—the Age of Space. If this was not just hyperbole, perhaps we are entitled to make a few judgments about the Space Age as it moves toward the end of its first decade. For, even from this short a perspective, the Space Age sharply illustrates the portentous conflict in our time between the forces of neonationalism and, for want of a better word, internationalism.
Of the many aspects of the UN operation in the Congo (ONUC) that gave rise to controversy, some were unique and can reasonably be chalked up to novelty and inexperience. One, however, is as old as military history itself. This is the matter of political control of a force once it is in the field. Two levels are involved: first, control of the field operations by headquarters; second, control of the military force in the field by the civilian authority—in this case the representative of the Secretary-General.
General disarmament plans, like weapons of mass destruction, supply excessive solutions to problems, and, like those weapons, they tend to leave unanswered many highly pertinent questions about lesser conflicts, low-level disorders, ambiguous enemies, and local policing jobs. By and large, strategic planners have come to recognize this weakness in military doctrines, but it is not certain that the planners of general and complete disarmament (GCD) yet recognize that a blueprint geared to the deliberate violation, the great war, the two super-states in hostile confrontation, may turn out to be quite irrelevant to the real problems of a disarmed or even semidisarmed world. At best such a blueprint is bound to be deficient until it comes to grips with disorders other than classic open encounters of two states—that is, with the painfully familiar gamut ranging from civil war fomented in a great state by outside agents to the purely internal breakdown of law and order in a small state.