Spring Leaves on Dumbarton Oaks


By PHILIP C. NASH, President, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio

Delivered before the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Philadelphia, Pa., April 13, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 436-441.

IT is admittedly a daring adventure for me to presume to discuss with you the probable changes and growths JL in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals which will be debated and perhaps enacted into a treaty at San Francisco. This is dangerous for two reasons, first because there are many in this audience who know more about the subject than I do, and second, no one can possibly tell just what will emerge from the give and take debates of the coming weeks.

Dumbarton Oaks, like the tree from which it accidentally got its name, has been hibernating during the winter while sincere statesmen, scheming politicians, and everybody I between all over the world have been studying its provisions to see on the one hand how they can be implemented into a world organization for the good of mankind, and on the other hand how each selfish wish for prestige and advantage can be gained. Now all this germination is beginning to stir in our oak tree and the main trunk and branches willbe almost covered by the leaves of the spring time as various national delegations and private organizations seek to add refinements to every part of the structure.

The trunk and three main branches of Dumbarton Oaks are of course the Security Council, the Court, and the Assembly,—respectively the police system, the legal system, and Tennyson's "Parliament of man". I shall assume that everyone here knows pretty well the main functions of these three parts of the organization and I shall attempt to bring out only the clarifications, modifications and additions that are being suggested from various parts of the world to improve the set-up.

The Court

First as to the Court. While the least spectacular of the three, a World Court is certainly of vital importance, and Dumbarton Oaks leaves us very uncertain as to its future. The development of international law and justice and complete obedience to the principle that legal methods shall be substituted for unvarnished use of force are at the heart of any permanent peace.

An important group of American citizens have suggested that there be added to Chapter I, the Purposes of the United Nations, the phrase "to revitalize and strengthen international law". Senator Vandenburg suggests adding the words "to establish justice and promote respect for human rights and freedoms.1 The Cleveland Conference of the Federal Council of Churches called for the "Development of International Law" and finally it is significant that the conference of the American states at Mexico City added this same idea. The final text of the Act of Chapultepec includes under the Dumbarton Oaks suggestions the clause agreed to by all

"(d) The Desirability of extending the jurisdiction and competence of the International Tribunal or Court of Justice".2

There has been almost no public discussion as to details of establishing the Court. Dumbarton Oaks proposes two alternatives (a) the revision of the statute of the existing Permanent Court of International Justice or (b) the preparation of a new statute. The present court has a strong tradition of excellent work. It would seem foolish to lose this experience and it is devoutly to be hoped that the present Court will be continued. Its jurisdiction should be strengthened by giving to the Assembly and to the Social and Economic Council as well as to the Security Council the explicit right to ask for advisory opinions.

This whole matter of setting up the new Court is under discussion at this moment in an official United Nations conference at Washington. The United States delegation to this conference is said to favor keeping the present Permanent Court in International Justice, changing its statute as may be necessary under the new conditions. It is contemplated that the Court treaty prepared at this conference will be a companion treaty to the one which comes out of the San Francisco conference and will be signed by the nations at the same time.

But let me repeat that even more important than the details of re-establishing and strengthening the Court itself is the fundamental concept that international law is at the foundation of international peace. In every possible way this concept should be kept at the forefront of the Charter of the United Nations. No one has seen this more clearly than Senator Vandenburg who has made eight recommendations for changes in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, four of which add the word "justice" and one of which seeks to prevent "injustice".3

The Assembly

If we include in a study of the Assembly all the other general principles, obligations, and responsibilities of the United Nations, omitting only the settlement of disputes, we find there are many important matters not settled at Dumbarton Oaks.

The first of these is the matter of voting in the Assembly. The world was amazed to hear on March 29 last that revision was to be considered at San Francisco giving Russia and the United States three votes each in the Assembly. Then on April 3 President Roosevelt changed his mind and stated that he would support three votes for Russia but would ask only one for the United States. Dumbarton Oaks provides one vote for each nation in the Assembly.4 Now this simple formula is to be overthrown. I am in agreement that such weighted voting is wise but why limit it to the Soviet Union? Why not extend the principle to all nations? Will China be content with one vote? The bars are now down for recriminations, jockeying and hard feelings that will make much more difficult any agreement on other more important matters.

I have elsewhere suggested that each nation have at least one vote and that nations with more than six million citizens have an additional vote for each additional six million up to a maximum of twenty votes for China, Russia, the United States or any other large nation.5

Louis Sohn in the American Political Science Review for December 1944 gives a carefully worked out plan for weighted votes based on population, production and trade. Professor Rudd of the University of New Hampshire in one of the University extension pamphlets gives another plan for balanced representation. Both of these plans oddly enough come out with more votes for the United States than for anybody else!

Assuming that some way will be found to compose these differences on voting we may turn to other details not yet settled. The Act of Chapultepec specifies several general fields in which the American nations are agreed that the Dumbarton Oaks proposals should be enlarged and strengthened. Three of them have to do with the general organization. Specifically they recommend (1) that every attempt should be made to secure universal membership in the United Nations as soon as possible, (2) that the purposes of the organization and the powers of the Assembly should be enlarged and strengthened, and (3) that machinery be set up so that inter-American problems (and thus presumably other regional problems) can be solved in accordance with the regional methods and procedures.6

Every one will agree with these Pan-American proposals and I will present seven other more specific new branches that our tree needs if it is to grow and flourish. They are as follows:

(1) Human Rights. Dumbarton Oaks barely mentions the great subject of Human Rights.7 Both from this side of the Atlantic and from Europe have come strong requests that a commission under the Economic & Social Council be created to sponsor human rights and fundamental freedoms. John W. Davis speaking for the American Commission for the Study of the Organization of Peace proposed such a commission on February 5 and the Federal Council of Churches made a similar suggestion. The French government suggests that this principle be emphasized in Chapter I, the "Purposes" by making it read "to achieve international cooperation in the solution of international problems and to watch over the respect of essential liberties for all, without distinction of race, language and religion." Again in Chap. VIII, Sec. A, Div. 7 which exempts domestic questions from the jurisdiction of the United Nations, the French would add "unless manifest violation of essential liberties and rights of men constitutes in itself a menace calculated to compromise the peace".

(2) Cultural Relations. The charter of the new United Nations will be nothing but a meaningless piece of paper unless it is implemented by men of good will, the leaders in the various countries. These leaders in turn will be powerless unless supported by the public opinion of the multitudes. To develop friendly relations and understanding among the peoples of the earth is supremely important, and this whole problem should be made a major concern in the new charter. Specifically a cultural commission should be added in Par. 1 of Section D of Chap. IX. Such a commission might well set up an international office of Education and in this country there already exists an association whose purpose is to sponsor such an office, an unofficial international conference on this subject is now going on at New York. Under these agencies perhaps the people of all countries may gradually come to see eye to eye with each other so that no groups will feel called upon to burn the books and purge the writers whose points of view vary from those of the local majority. The Pan-American Nations at Mexico City also emphasized the need for such a commission recommending "(e) the desirability of creating an international agency especially charged with promoting intellectual and moral cooperation between Nations".8

(3) Dependent Peoples. Dumbarton Oaks does not even mention dependent peoples. Surely the principle must be affirmed that the well being and development of dependent peoples form a sacred trust of civilization. The Assembly should have the responsibility of establishing procedures and agencies both general and regional, to facilitate the performance of this trust.

Admittedly this subject is charged with dynamite. The colonies originally under the jurisdiction of the Axis powers can easily be assigned to the trusteeship of the United Nations and the mandate system of the League can and probably will be revised and extended to include all such colonies. The main improvements that need to be incorporated into the mandate regulations are (1) the responsibility of the United Nations Commission to make examinations on the spot and (2) the right of any responsible group in the mandated area to petition for such an examination.

All this is reasonably simple but how about the present colonies that belong to the members of United Nations, the victors, not the vanquished? The people of Burma, the Netherlands East Indies, French Indo China, and others have aspirations of self government, but there is little indication that Britain, or Holland, or France, intend to give them up. And how about Hong Kong? Will Britain demand the property back? I do not include India in this list because Britain has solemnly promised to India that she may have dominion status. It is not clear what if anything the San Francisco conference will do about these problems. Perhaps nothing, except to declare the sacredness of human rights everywhere. And perhaps this will be enough to encourage the Mother nations to extend education, help industry, and gradually prepare their larger colonies for self government as we have done for the Philippines.

It was disclosed by our Secretary of State on April 3 that the Yalta Agreement includes a still secret agreement on "territorial trusteeships". This trusteeship structure should be designed to permit the placing under it of the territories mandated after the last war, certain territories taken from the enemy in this war, and also such other territories as might voluntarily be placed under the trusteeship.9

Headquarters of the New United Nations

So far as is publicly known nothing has yet been done to establish a home for the new organization. All things considered it would seem that the present site of the League of Nations would be the best for the new headquarters. The present buildings of the League and International Labor office are on Swiss soil just west of Lake Geneva, overlooking the city of Geneva and giving a beautiful view of Mt. Blanc sixty miles to the east. Just back of the League buildings is the French border.

But certain changes are necessary if this land and buildings are to be used. Switzerland has always been afraid that the League activities on her soil might endanger her neutrality, and the League was never able to function with complete freedom because of this limitation. There must be no limitations this time. Airplanes of all nations under direction of the military staff committee must be free to land and be permanently stationed at the headquarters. It it very likely that a sizeable detachment of war planes should be based there ready for immediate use. Certainly there must be complete freedom of powerful radio transmission to every part of the earth.

Apparently the best solution would be for Switzerland and France to cede to the United Nations a sizeable tract, including the site of the present buildings, thus creating a kind of international "District of Columbia," owned, not by any one nation, but by all the nations of the earth. Perhaps the unofficial but already popular United Nations flag, white with the four red bars representing the four freedoms, will soon float over the capital of Mankind!

On the other hand it well may be that the headquarters of the United Nations will be elsewhere,—at Vienna, or or. an island in the Mediterranean, or at San Francisco. But the discouraging thing is that apparently no attention is being given to the necessity of making a sizeable piece of land into a truly international spot.

(5) Successor to the League. Having mentioned the problem of the location of the United Nations headquarters and having pointed out the advantages of the League site, it is evidently necessary to consider how the new organization can take over the League property, rights, and functions.

Many international treaties confer rights and responsibilities on the League. All treaties must be filed with the League before becoming valid, the statute of the Permanent Court signifies that the League Assembly and Council. shall elect the judges, and over the years the League has acquired many other duties such as the carrying on of its retirement annuities. All this must be transferred to the United Nations.

Moreover, the League owns very substantial property rights. The buildings at Geneva including the two million dollar Rockefeller library cost about eight million dollars besides the beautiful interior decorations supplied by thevarious nations. This property should go to the United Nations, and lastly the League still has about one hundred staff members carrying on its work. It would seem wise to transfer all or most of these well trained persons to the secretariat of the United Nations.

How is all this to be accomplished? Might it not seem wise to call a meeting of the Assembly at San Francisco in April and provide that all property, duties, and privileges of the League shall be turned over to the United Nations when and if that organization comes into being? But there are some nations now members of the League (the neutrals such as Spain and Switzerland) that are not invited to the San Francisco United Nations conference. Would they send delegations to the League meeting? And would they vote in favor of turning all League property over to the new organization to which they will not immediately belong? And if they did not so vote, would it take a unanimous vote in the assembly to make the transfer?

All these are details, but they are important details in the orderly establishment of the new organization and they should not be left to haphazard settlement as an afterthought at the last minute.

(6) Registration and Revision of Treaties. I mentioned a moment ago that one of the League duties is to register and publish all treaties between nations. All the nations of the earth, even the United States, were following this custom. In fact it was the first real League procedure in which our country took part.

Dumbarton Oaks is silent on this point but it would seem very wise, almost essential, that the new charter should contain a clause stating that the Charter is supreme over all treaties which include provisions that might seem to be inconsistent with the charter, and that all treaties must be registered with and published by the United Nations. There can be no place in the new world for secret treaties and secret diplomacy. If treaties are made which later become burdensome to one side they must be carefully studied and openly and properly denounced, not secretly voided. All arrangements among nations must be above board and public.

This procedure is specifically supported by the French government in its proposed amendments to Dumbarton Oaks published March 15 (N. Y. Times, March 26) and by Mr. Hoover in his important series of articles recently syndicated in many papers. His point two is provision for the revision of treaties that have become onerous or unfair. Also Senator Vandenburg emphasizes this point strongly as follows: "If the Security Council finds that any situation which it shall investigate involves injustice to peoples concerned it shall recommend appropriate measures of adjustment which may include revision of treaties and of prior international decisions."10

(7) And lastly, so far as the general organization is concerned, there should be a chapter in the new charter defining the status of the secretariat and members of Commissions. Provisions should be made that positions in the secretariat should be open to all persons without any discrimination of sex, religion, or race, that while reasonable geographical distribution should be attempted nevertheless that competence should be the only determining factor in employment. It should also be stated that members of the secretariat and members of Commissions and other United Nations bodies should enjoy diplomatic immunity anywhere in the world wherever they happen to be performing United Nations business.

The Security Council

When we come to consider changes and additions in the Security Council we find four major matters that are claiming public attention, one is membership, a second is regulation of armaments, the third is the fitting of special treaties into the general enforcement of peace, and the fourth is the method of voting. The Pan-American nations are anxious about membership as are all small nations and the scramble for seats on the Security Council may force its enlargement. I hope not. The conference at Mexico City emphasized "the desirability of giving adequate representation to Latin America in the Security Council."11 Every other regional group will see a similar desirability!

France is the nation which at present seems most worried about peace enforcement and security. This has been her attitude for thirty years. Who can blame her! On March 15 her government made public amendments which she proposed in Dumbarton Oaks. They consist mainly of detailed strengthening of the enforcement machinery but they deal also with the membership of the council specifying that at "least three be chosen . . . that will have the means to participate in an appreciable degree" in the active defense of the international order".12

Regulation of Armament

The French wish to add to the duties of the military staff committee the responsibility not only to advise the council on matters of "regulation of armaments and possible disarmament" (as now specified in Dumbarton Oaks) but also to advise on "All measures of control that are deemed appropriate".13 This one phrase opens almost limitless possibilities as you will doubtless agree.

Referring again to the series of articles on Dumbarton Oaks written by Mr. Hoover, he also emphasizes disarmament, quoting as point number five "Immediate relative disarmament of the United Nations and the establishment of maximum limits of armies, navies and air power among them.13 I have elsewhere gone further even than this, and have ventured to suggest a definite overall maximum limit of the armed forces of each nation of 400,000 men or 1% of the population whichever is less.14

It would seem that Dumbarton Oaks is altogether too casual on this matter of armaments, and is fundamentally wrong in leaving the whole subject of regulation of armaments to a military staff committee composed of professional army and navy officers. The League found it absolutely essential to have the major decisions on armaments made by civilians if there is to be any world reduction whatsoever. Professional military men cannot be expected to recommend cuts in their armies and navies any more than Koussivitski could be expected to recommend cuts in the Boston Symphony orchestra!

It seems to me imperative that a separate civilian Armaments Commission be set up to function under the Security Council and that this Commission have the final responsibility (not the military staff committee) to advise on all matters of disarmament and regulation of armaments. It took the League eleven years to get ready for a general disarmament conference. It is devoutly to be hoped that the new machinery can work at least as rapidly as this, and that the nations can find it safe gradually to cut their ownarmaments as they find better protection in the United Nations peace Enforcement provisions.

Economic Sanctions

Another separate commission which should be provided in the new charter to be put under the Security Council is a commission on economic sanctions. Par. 3, Sec. B, Chap. VIII of Dumbarton Oaks contemplates the use of economic sanctions against an aggressor, but fails to provide any suitable machinery to work out the details. When the League undertook to enforce economic sanctions against Mussolini in 1935 it was found to be a most complicated and difficult business. No precedents existed, no preparatory work had been done. The story of this project is an exciting one and should be read by all persons interested.15

Provision should be made this time for a permanent group of experts who will study and prepare exactly the steps to be taken against any aggressor nation just as an army general staff studies armed defense against attack from any quarter. The very fact that every government would realize that economic and financial sanctions are ready for instant use against it, would make even a most powerful nation hesitate before committing aggression.16

Armed Force Contingents

It is not feasible to put into a brief constitution or charter all the details as to how any certain principle shall be carried out. But there is considerable discussion on the method of handling the emergency contingents of armed forces which each nation will contribute. France is anxious that this technique be spelled out—when they shall become available, where stationed, etc. Mr. Hoover has an interesting suggestion in his articles suggesting that our United States contingents be used only by vote of our representative in the Council after he has the permission of the President and a majority of joint committees of the Congress on Foreign Affairs. That plan seems fairly simple and I favor it.

Voting in the Security Council

But the most glaring defect in the whole Dumbarton Oaks structure is still the method of voting in the Security Council and the American people have not yet realized its significance.

The Yalta Agreement specifies that all votes under Sections A and B of Chapter VIII of the Dumbarton Oaks must have the affirmative votes of all the permanent members except that under Section A no member that is party to the dispute should be allowed to vote.

This sounds reasonable enough but there is a catch in it! Suppose that a great nation is not a party to the dispute but is interested on behalf of a satellite small nation. In such a case it has a veto power not only over action but even over discussion of a dispute. The "action" of the Security Council is in Sec. B, the "discussion" is in Sec. A. As now planned not only Sec. B but also Sec. A requires the vote of all the permanent members concerning a dispute in which they are not directly implicated.

Suppose Greece and Bulgaria were in a dispute and Great Britain should wish to protect Greece from any embarrassment. Great Britain could stop any investigation of the dispute or even investigation of any situation between the two countries that might give rise to a dispute". (Chap. VIII Sec. A, Par. 1). Great Britain could by her single vote prevent the Security Council from formally receiving notice of the situation from another nation (Paragraph 2), She could prevent the Security Council from calling upon Greece and Bulgaria to settle their dispute by peaceful means (Paragraph 3). She could prevent the Council from "recommending appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment" (Paragraph 5). She could prevent the Council from referring the dispute, or any question concerning it, to the World Court (Par. 6). In short nothing whatsoever could be done about this serious situation between Greece and Bulgaria if Great Britain wished to stop it. Similarly China could stop all discussion, to say nothing of action, on a question between the Philippines and India. Russia could prevent any attempts to settle a dispute between Poland and Czechoslovakia, the United States could veto the Security Council attempts to take any interest whatsoever in a dispute between Bolivia and Paraguay. Does not this provision stultify the whole organization?

The Secretary of State in his statement of March 5 rightly emphasized the fact that these discussions and attempts at peaceful settlement could not be vetoed by any nation which is a party to the dispute, but he completely neglected the much more likely catastrophe,—namely that some great nation can completely block any world wide attempt to prevent or forestall aggression by one of its satellites.

The State Department, in a newspaper release of March 24 has again tried to gloss over this situation, claiming that it is still possible to discuss a threatening situation in the Security Council before any vote whatsoever is taken. I hope the State Department officials are correct. They certainly ought to know! But a careful rereading of Chap, VIII Sec A leads one to doubt this optimistic interpretation of the written words. It would seem that great nation A (a permanent member) seeking to protect small nation B. could stop all discussion immediately by calling for a vote as to whether the Council should investigate this matter, as to whether it should receive a complaint by some other nation, as to whether it should study or recommend any method of settlement, as to whether it should ask for advice from the Court, The negative vote of great Nation A under any or all of these motions would seem to block all further discussion of the matter.

It is true, as this State Department release points out. that the case could still come before the Assembly and be discussed there, but the whole theory of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals is that the Security Council is responsible for the settling of disputes, by peaceful means if possible, by force if necessary.

It seems to me highly important that this voting procedure be changed so that votes concerning discussion and peaceful methods envisaged under Sec. A shall be decided by any seven votes, so that one great nation cannot block such discussion. Why should any nation reserve the right to block discussion of a situation in which it is not directly involved especially after all the Big Three have specifically given up that right if any one of the three is itself a party to the dispute ? Why must it demand the right to whitewash a satellite while giving up the right to its own cleansing coat? Under Sec. B it is entirely proper that the great powers (the permanent members) have a veto power as determine at Yalta. It is to be hoped that the San Francisco conference can change this procedure for Section A.

There are many other matters that might be made moreexplicit in the wording concerning the Security Council, such for instance as the problem of strategic bases and who is to control them, the problem of sanctity of boundaries, and many others. It is a question as to how many of them ought to be put in the Charter itself rather than left for development later. Probably, however, it would be wise to make it certain that attempts to change boundary lines by force would be considered aggression, so that nations will gradually come to lose the fear of invasion which has stalked in the background of the thoughts of every European for a thousand years. As that fear gradually grows less through the years the inhabitants will slowly become more and more ready to make the boundaries of less and less importance until at last there will be entire freedom of passage of ideas, human beings, and articles of trade. Then men can begin to live with a chance for a just and durable peace.

1 New York Times, April 2, 1945.

2 New York Times, March 5, 1945.

3 New York Times, April 2, 1945.

4 Chap. V, Sec. D, Par. 1.

5 "An Adventure in World Order" Beacon Press 1944, p, 45.

6 New York Times, March 5, 1945.

7 Chap. IX, Par. 1, Sec A.

8 New York Times, March 5 and 6, 1945.

9 New York Times, April 4, 1945.

10 New York Times, April 2, 1945.

11 New York Times, March 5.

12 New York Times, March 16.

13 Toledo Times, March 25.

14 "An Adventure in World Order" Beacon Press 1944, p. 12.

15 See "World Organization American Council on Public Affairs" (1942) p. 142 or (Survey of International Relations Royal Institute (1935) Vol. II, p. 212).

16 For a more extended development of this argument see "An Adventure in World Order" Beacon Press 1944. d. 81.