The UN in Crisis

In Pursuit of World Order

by Richard N. Gardner
Praeger, 263 pp., $4.95

The Quest for Peace

edited by Andrew W. Cordier, edited by Wilder Foote
Columbia, 390 pp., $7.95

These two books make melancholy reading. They appear at a moment when their object, the United Nations, is paralyzed by a crisis which threatens its very existence as an operating international organization; yet they are full of pride over past achievements and of hope for the future. Reading them with that crisis in mind, one feels somewhat like an onlooker at a birthday party, with everybody shouting “many happy returns,” while the object of the celebration lingers between life and death. One cannot help asking oneself, will this birthday party end up as a wake?

Mr. Gardner’s book is by far the better of the two. It is a good book by any standard. Its high intellectual and literary quality is the more remarkable since it was written by a deputy Assistant Secretary of State while in office. Books by public officials tend to be bland, apologetic, orthodox, and, hence, unenlightening, and to show the leveling hand of the ghost writer. Mr. Gardner’s book has none of these weaknesses. It is analytical, objective, and searching as far as it goes. Both the professional and the layman can learn a great deal from it. Mr. Gardner does make one concession to his official position: he quotes abundantly from speeches by Messrs. Rusk and Cleveland, his superiors in the State Department; but it may well be that he is quoting himself, since he could easily be the author of some of these speeches.

Mr. Gardner’s support of the United Nations derives from the conviction that an international organization serves the interests of the United States, as of all other nations, in view of the objective conditions of the contemporary world. “It is one of the great paradoxes of our time,” he says, “and undoubtedly a major source of public frustration, that the most powerful nation in the world is less able to employ its power alone, in pursuit of national ends, than at any previous point in history.” Thus the United States must cooperate with other nations in order to serve its national interests. Hence, the need for international organization as “a new arm of diplomacy.” Mr. Gardner is justifiably tired of the sterile debate between the emotional proponents and opponents of international organization.

What we really need is to accept the fact that international organizations are here to stay and to turn to the much more difficult question of how we can use them better to promote our national interest. We need to discuss the U.N. and other international organizations in operational rather than in symbolic terms. We need to consider in professional detail just what these agencies do and how they could do it better.

This is what Mr. Gardner does by analyzing the interests and policies of the United States and the Soviet Union with regard to the United Nations, by assessing, and perhaps somewhat overrating, the role the United Nations has played in the Cuba and Congo crises, by discussing extensively the contributions international organization has…

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