A sturdy account of the UN’s birth, starring the seven American politicians and civil servants who, “balancing peace with cold-eyed realism,” engineered the San Francisco conference that led to its creation.
The idea of an international body devoted to conflict resolution and cooperation was not new, writes World Policy Institute director Schlesinger, though previous efforts to forge one had had mixed success: the Treaty of Westphalia, which concluded the Napoleonic Wars, had ushered in more than half a century of peace and prosperity in Europe, but it came crashing down with the onset of WWI, and the League of Nations effectively died in childbirth. Still, that idea found adherents among both American conservatives (John Foster Dulles, Nelson Rockefeller) and liberals (Adlai Stevenson, Sumner Welles) in the late 1930s, and throughout WWII these influential men, working with behind-the-scenes players such as the Russian-born economist Leo Pasvolsky, worked to engineer consensus among their fellow decision-makers while balancing the sometimes conflicting visions of the postwar world that America’s allies harbored. Dealing with Stalin proved to be particularly vexing, Schlesinger shows, for by the time of Yalta the Soviets had developed a clear idea that they would be calling the shots in much of Europe. But, he adds, smaller countries had their worries, too. Many objected to the original UN charter, which vested veto power in only five major powers, causing a Turkish delegate to warn that “the small states are inevitably going to be reduced to the status of satellites of the great.” Yet, against formidable opposition, the seven US delegates succeeded in bringing their nation, and then governments worldwide, into agreement with the general aims of the charter, producing a body that, Schlesinger urges, has been largely successful in its mission ever since.
A great resource for students of modern history and international law.