Man’s Plans for International Security
“When all this is over, we want to be the healers. We want to do what we can to facilitate what I might optimistically call a new world order.”—U.S. president George Bush, January 1991, shortly after the beginning of the war with Iraq.
“President Bush’s concept of a New World Order stresses the importance of the rule of law and the belief that nations have a collective responsibility for freedom and justice. With the ending of the Cold War, a new era is emerging.”—U.S. ambassador to Australia, August 1991.
“Tonight, as I see the drama of democracy unfolding around the globe, perhaps—perhaps we are closer to that new world than ever before.”—U.S. president George Bush, September 1991.
MANY world leaders are, like President Bush, speaking optimistically about the future. Is their optimism warranted? Do events since World War II give a basis for such optimism? Do you think politicians are able to bring international security?
Man’s Great Plan
“During the last two years of the second world war,” explained the television documentary Goodbye War, “over one million people were being killed each month.” At the time, the nations felt an urgent need for a plan that would prevent such a war from happening again. While the war was still in progress, representatives of 50 nations produced the greatest plan for international security ever devised by man: the Charter of the United Nations. The preamble to the Charter expressed the determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Prospective members of the United Nations were “to unite [their] strength to maintain international peace and security.”
Forty-one days later, an airplane dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. It exploded above the center of the city, killing over 70,000 people. That explosion, and the one that followed three days later over Nagasaki, effectively brought an end to the war with Japan. Since Japan’s ally Germany had surrendered on May 7, 1945, World War II thus came to an end. However, was that the end of all war?
No. Since World War II, mankind has seen over 150 smaller wars that have claimed upwards of 19 million lives. Clearly, the great UN plan has not yet brought international security. What went wrong?
The Cold War
The UN planners failed to anticipate the rivalry that quickly developed between former World War II allies. Many States took sides in this power struggle, which came to be called the Cold War and was, in part, a struggle between Communism and capitalism. Instead of uniting their strength to stop war, the two blocs of nations supported opposing sides in regional conflicts and in this way fought each other in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
In the late 1960’s, the Cold War began to thaw. The thaw climaxed in 1975 when 35 States signed what is called the Helsinki Agreement. Included among the participants were the Soviet Union and the United States, together with their respective European allies. All promised to work for “peace and security” and “to refrain . . . from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”
But these ideas did not bear fruit. By the early 1980’s, the struggle between the superpowers heated up again. Things got so bad that in 1982 the newly elected secretary-general of the United Nations, Dr. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, acknowledged the failure of his organization and warned of a “new international anarchy.”
Yet, today, the UN secretary-general and other leaders express optimism. News reports refer to “the post-Cold War era.” How did this change come about?
“The Post-Cold War Era”
A noteworthy factor was a meeting of the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. In September 1986 they signed what is called the Stockholm Document, reaffirming their commitment to the 1975 Helsinki Agreement.* The Stockholm Document contains many rules to govern the monitoring of military activities. “The results of the past three years are encouraging and the level of implementation is beginning to exceed the written obligations of the Stockholm Document,” reported SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) in its Yearbook 1990.
Then, in 1987, the superpowers reached a remarkable agreement requiring the destruction of all their ground-launched missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles [500 and 5,500 km]. “The physical destruction of missiles and launchers is on schedule and the stipulations of the agreements are being duly observed by each side,” says SIPRI.
Other measures have been taken to reduce the risk of nuclear war. For example, in 1988 the superpowers signed an agreement regarding “intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.” Before launching such weapons, each side must notify the other “no less than twenty-four hours in advance, of the planned date, launch area, and area of impact.” According to SIPRI, such agreements “virtually eliminate the possibility of local incidents escalating to a world-wide nuclear war.”
Meanwhile, plans to improve international security gathered speed. In May 1990, during a superpower summit in Washington, D.C., then Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev proposed that the two blocs of European nations sign a peace treaty. In July the 16 Western nations of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) met in London. Their response to Mikhail Gorbachev’s proposal was that both sides sign a “joint declaration in which we solemnly state that we are no longer adversaries and confirm our intention to refrain from the threat or use of force.” The front-page headline of an African newspaper described this as “A Giant Step to World Peace.”
Then, on the eve of a superpower summit in Helsinki, Finland, a U.S. government spokesman said that “the prospect of war [in the Middle East] is forging a new group plan for world peace.” Peace had received a setback when Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Middle East seemed in danger of going up in flames. But under United Nations authority, an international force led by the United States drove the invading forces back into their own country. The international unity of purpose manifested in that war encouraged some to hope that a new era of cooperation had dawned.
Since then, world events have developed further. In particular, the very nature of what was once the Soviet Union changed dramatically. The Baltic States were allowed to declare their independence, and other republics in the Soviet Union followed suit. Violent ethnic rivalries surfaced in lands that had seemed monolithic under the centralized Communist control. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had officially ceased to exist.
These radical changes on the world political scene have opened the door of opportunity for the United Nations organization. In this regard The New York Times said: “The easing of worldwide tensions and the new spirit of cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union could mean a new, more powerful role in international affairs for the world organization.”
Is it finally time for that 47-year-old organization to come into its own? Are we really entering what the United States called “a new century, and a new millennium, of peace, freedom and prosperity”?
This agreement is the first and most important of a series of accords signed in Helsinki by Canada, the United States, the Soviet Union, and 32 other countries. The official name of the chief agreement is the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Its primary goal was to reduce international tension between East and West.—World Book Encyclopedia.