Union Now, the U.N. and World Government

The world must be made safe for democracy. --
Woodrow Wilson, April 2, 1917.

What of the United Nations? The establishment of this successor to the League of Nations since Union Now appeared raises several questions. Many assume that they must choose between the U.N. and Atlantic Union, and some devotees of the former fear the establishment of the latter must injure or destroy it. Ever since President Roosevelt first used the term, United Nations, I have urged the establishment of both a Union of the Free and a universal United Nations league in which the Union would be a member. I have given priority to the former, as more important to freedom and peace, but I have always seen the two supplementing each other. As early as 1944 I said to the Resolutions Committee of the Republican and Democratic national conventions:

I would readily grant that, as far as universal international organization is concerned, the best we can hope for at this stage of human development is the league system. So valuable do I hold such an international organization, that from my experience at Geneva, I would recommend a league with every nation in it rather than a more limited league with "teeth," for its "teeth" would be illusory. But to have all the national governments meeting regularly together would be a very real blessing indeed.

There is no sense in not getting the good there is in such a league simply because it is not good enough -- but I see no reason, either, in putting all our hopes for peace in so weak a basket.

The mistaken idea that the U.N. and the proposed Atlantic Union are in conflict is unfortunately held much more widely than the true view, that they complete and strengthen each other. The belief that they are competitive arises partly from the fact that they are based on opposite principles though aiming at the same general objective.

The two are so different that it is easy to conclude they can no more mix than can water and gasoline. But though an automobile would not work if water were mixed with the gasoline, one can use the two together in it very effectively by keeping each to its proper function, and being careful never to pour gasoline in the radiator or water in the fuel tank. Water would never give the motor the power it needs to run, nor would gasoline keep it from over-heating. Similarly, the principles of the U.N. can not provide the power that peace requires, but they can provide a climate in which that power can function most effectively for peace in present conditions.

The U.N. Charter Permits Atlantic Union

In so dangerous a world situation as the present one, surely only the fanatical supporter of the U.N. would over-estimate its role in Korea, Suez and the Congo to the point where he would want the Atlantic Pact dissolved and all trust placed in the U.N. flag. More reasonable men must concede that the great bulk of the power on which the U.N. must depend to protect its members from aggression is centered in the North Atlantic community, that it will be hard and slow enough to organize this ungoverned community's power, and that it will be impossible to organize a more effective force in time.

The reasonable must also agree that nothing could so endanger the U.N. and its individual members from Latin America through Africa, the Mideast, and Southern Asia than military defeat of the Atlantic Alliance, or its economic collapse, or its moral and political disintegration. The more the Atlantic community can unite its power, the less it will be faced with inflation and the more others can obtain from it the means they lack to raise their living standards and the greater will be the protection the new, under-developed nations will enjoy against both the military and the economic threats of Communism. This would seem to reduce the issue to this: Is there anything in the Charter to prevent these Atlantic peoples from transforming their alliance into a federal government? The answer is, No. Nothing in the Charter prevents any members from peacefully federating. There are not even the restrictions on this that the Charter places on non-federal regional associations or alliances. It does not so much as mention federal unions. Supporters of the U.N. have generally hailed the steps toward union taken by the Western European nations as helpful to it.

Unlike proposals to change the U.N. into a world government, Atlantic Union would require no amendment of the Charter, nor involve any action by the U.N. This proposal could not be vetoed by the Kremlin.

Formation of the Union need not affect the voting power of its members in the U.N., except that the Union government would decide how all these votes would be cast. The Union could follow the precedent that gave three votes and plural representation to the Soviet Union. Since the United States, the United Kingdom and France are specifically named in the Charter as permanent members of the Security Council, this solution would avoid the need of making even this change in the Charter. If the Atlantic Union should prefer to follow instead the precedent of the American Union which has but one representative and one vote, the Soviet Union would no doubt quickly agree to this Charter amendment.

With nothing in the Charter to prevent Atlantic Union, is there danger that its creation would cause other members of the U.N. to feel offended or "excluded?" The formation of a union involves no more threat to non-members than does an alliance, and no worse "exclusion." There are a number of groupings of nations already, and none has seriously offended those excluded.

The issue then boils finally down to this: Is an Atlantic Union incompatible in any way with the Purposes and Principles of the Charter.1 Would it weaken them? The answer is again, No. Atlantic Union is in harmony with them and would greatly strengthen them.

The Veto And U.N. Police Force

What of the veto, and a U.N. police force? The intrinsic importance of the U.N. veto is much over-rated, as are also the votes in it. What really counts in any league is not so much the way their delegates vote as what the governments behind them do to carry out these votes. A delegate's vote is even less binding than his signature to a treaty. Americans should remember from President Wilson's experience that even a Chief Executive's signature does not necessarily mean a treaty will be ratified.

Even if every Great Power agreed to abolish the veto entirely in U.N. proceedings, this "delayed veto" power -- which every sovereign nation, large and small, still retains (in NATO as in the U.N. ) -- would remain to frustrate action particularly when the Security Council sought to enforce peace. As Geneva's experience in applying sanctions to Italy indicated, it is easier to get sanctions voted than to get them applied. There is no way to abolish the "delayed veto" short of full federation, for the veto is inherent in national sovereignty.

"Suppose the United States should follow the short-sighted theorists who would have it lead in pushing abolition of the U.N. veto to a showdown." I wrote in 1948 in the Postwar edition of this book. "Suppose all the non-Communist nations should stand with it when the break came. What would be the result? The United States would be morally bound to organize its non-Communist league on a non-veto basis where the United States would have to supply most of the men, money and material for the war with Russia that this would hasten -- but would have no legal control over them. It might well find itself in a small minority. Control over diplomatic and war policy would have passed not only out of its hands but out of those of the experienced democracies, and into the hands of the immature democracies who would form the majority. This chaotic coalition would have to face the most centralized of dictatorships. If the United States held to this policy, and did not resort to the 'delayed veto,' it would simply be delivering itself, and all the free, and all the world, to dictatorship."

Since 1948 all this has been made only the more valid by the number of new members added to the U.N. and by other developments.

While the "delayed veto" remains, let alone the present U.N. veto, the hopes placed in the establishment of an international police force or disarmament must also be vain. And even if the veto difficulty could be overcome, there would be the difficulty of actually forming from sovereign nations a force effectively controlled by them all, yet capable of overawing and overcoming any of their own national forces, or any combination of these. If the international force were not capable of this, what Great Power would trust it enough to disband its own means of defense?

True, it is easy for any one to work out on paper a "quota force" or a "weighted representation" that is satisfactory to its author But to get sovereign nations to accept it means getting each to accept a fixed ratio of its own power in relation to that of every other nation's. There lies the rub, not only for the international police question but for disarmament. To solve it proved much too tough a job for the Geneva Disarmament Conference in 1932 -- and for all the meetings that have followed. Apart from the problems of national pride and suspicion that vex it, it requires bafflingly intricate calculations of the relative importance, now and in future, of land power, sea power, air power, atomic power, rocket power, industrial power and raw material power. The nations are differently equipped with these various elements of power; some are in course of rapid development and others in course of decline. It is significant that the only example of a quota or ratio in power that was actually agreed on by sovereign nations was confined to the simplest arm to measure and control, the navy. Even there it could not be extended to all types of warships, and proved at Pearl Harbor to be anything but a contribution to peace.

Grant that those who hope to make the U.N. work by equipping it with an international force, or limiting national armaments, find some way to overcome all these obstacles. They would still face the basic obstacles to league coercion of sovereign states set forth in Chapter IV and section 3 of Chapter VII of Union Now. The patchers still are with us, but patching still won't do.

Union Now And World Government

Union Now devoted to world government only one chapter -- but it was entitled, "Public Problem No. 1." Many have jumped to the utterly wrong conclusion that I believe, or believed, that a universal world government could or should be formed at once. I meant that the problem as a whole was urgent -- not that it could be solved in one stroke, or that a universal organization should be the first step.

My reasoning was simply this: The development of machines and science is driving the world relentlessly closer and closer together. This increasingly requires us to solve the problem of organizing the world for freedom and peace.

It was obvious to me that current solutions in the 1930s must inevitably plunge mankind into a worse World War. To avert this imminent danger, a sound plan for governing our world had to be devised at once. It was in this sense that I meant that world government was "Public Problem No. 1." I still believe it is -- but only in this sense.

The war Union Now sought to avert did prove to be far worse than World War I -- but happily did not throw us back into Dark Ages, as it might have done. Instead, it resulted in accelerating the development of science, technology and the speed of change. One must pause in awe at the astounding vitality of man and of the civilization which freedom has developed. Despite the devastation, production and standards of living almost everywhere are higher now than before the war -- even in England, Japan, Italy, France, Germany and Russia which suffered the worst destruction. And despite the millions killed, the world's population has increased so fast -- thanks again to science and technology -- and is rising so rapidly that it is likened to an "explosion" and feared now by many more than war itself.

The problem of governing the world that was No. 1 in 1939 remains only more urgently No. 1 in our dawning rocket atomic age. This is not yet evident to some Congressmen who vote billions for the exploration of Space, while forgetting that they cannot bring the moon within reach without developing machines that must also bring Europe and the rest of the world far closer than they already are. But this fact has impressed others so much that they not only rate this problem as No. 1 but center their attention on the universalist approach to it. Even in 1939 the prevailing logic was that since the problem was world-wide the solution must embrace all, or nearly all, the nations from the start.

The more practical members of this school have always recognized that the greater the number of nations organized, the lesser must be the ties that bind them, and therefore a solution that begins with a world-wide organization must necessarily be very rudimentary, much too weak to cope either with war or depression. It can at best contain only the germ of a world government. The hope is that this germ gradually will grow strong enough to do the job. That was the hope behind the first such solution, the League of Nations. It is the hope behind the United Nations now. And the same approach animates most of those who would transform it into a "world government" in some one respect, as by abolishing the veto, or giving it an "international police force," or control of weapons of mass destruction.

The Union Now solution has always been just the opposite. It recognized world government only as an eventual, ultimate goal. It proposed to solve the problem by (a) rejecting universality at the start and beginning with only the few Atlantic democracies that could be united in a full, free federal union, and (b) counting on this nucleus to grow in numbers by gradually extending its federal relationship to others. Though few in numbers, these Atlantic peoples had -- and still have -- together so great a share of the world's moral material and military power that by federating it fully they could -- and can -- avert current dangers of war, depression and dictatorship from the start -- a hope that no universalist solution can give -- and gain enough time and experience for the nucleus to grow peacefully in numbers.

Freedom's Answer to This World Problem

Union Now was, and is, proposed as freedom's answer to this world problem. Dictatorship already in 1939 had its plans for world government; the universalists who put peace first had theirs in the League of Nations -- but those who put freedom first had no world plan in 1939. The Nazi plan was then the most aggressive, but the Communist blueprint was already much more carefully worked out, and much wider in its actual and potential appeal. Since the destruction of its Nazi rival, the Communist plan for a world government has grown far more formidable than Hitler's ever was. The Union Now plan differs diametrically from both not only in seeking to make sure that the world shall be governed by the principles of individual freedom, but in two other important respects. Whereas dictatorship seeks to advance its plan by exploiting hate, prejudice, the mob mind, Union Now has directed its appeal to reason, common sense, -- to the open mind of the individual and to such emotions as may sway him when alone with his conscience. And whereas dictatorship seeks to build its world government by subversion, violence and war, the Union Now program has always confined itself to the democratic methods of full free and open discussion and agreement at every stage in the long process, from beginning to end.

The Union Now approach to world government is so centered on freedom and its Atlantic nucleus that believers in the universalist approach have long criticized it as "exclusive," "dividing the world into two camps," and so on. It has been attacked as a universalist "world government scheme" only by American isolationists or nationalists (few of whom could have read it) and by Communists, here and abroad.

Within the Federal Union organization I long had to battle continually with those who sought to change its accent from Union of the Free to world government or the United Nations. By 19452 practically all these universalists had withdrawn either to the United Nations Association or to the United World Federalists.

When the atomic bomb added "nuclear physics" to the jargon of science, it ironically blew many nuclear scientists -- and a surprising number of nuclear unionists and "practical" politicians -- into the camp of the universal "world governmenters." In the days of the Acheson Plan and the Baruch offers to Soviet Russia, when there was far stronger support of the United World Federalists than now, I re-examined the universalist approach carefully. I gave my reasons for rejecting it in the 1949 Postwar Edition of Union Now, listing "ten fallacies in the universalist approach" to world government which confirmed me in the view that it was untenable. Events since then have made this so clear to the great majority that there seems no need to make the case again here.3


  1. See Atlantic Union and the United Nations by the author. This reprint, available from Freedom & Union for $0.20, compares in parallel columns the effect of Atlantic Union on each of the "Purposes and Principles" of the Charter.
  2. Since 1945 there has been no controversy on this issue within the Federal Union association, which has steadily and increasingly kept its accent on Atlantic Union.
  3. I would refer those who are still in doubt to pages 259-262 of the Postwar Edition. A reprint of these pages is available free from Freedom & Union.

Contents -- Chapter 9 -- Chapter 11