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Part 2: Chapter 9: The Devil in the Details of the UN

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

How to check "Save the World" off your bucket list?

Welcome to Chapter 9 of the Planet Republyk project!


History of the Planetarist Movement, Part 4

Because this history is also ours.

Because it is unknown.

Because it should be taught in our schools in the same way as national history.


The devil in the details of the UN

There is no doubt in my mind that a world government must and will come or the world will tend to commit suicide.

Jawaharlal Nehru

In December 1941, under the title of Declaration of the United Nations, this American-British alliance was expanded into a pact between 26 allied countries, including Russia and China. Nineteen other nations later joined the alliance. These nations essentially committed themselves to continuing the war against the Axis powers as stipulated in point 2 of the declaration of January 1, 1942. This point 2 refers, not without resentment, to the separate peace between the Soviet Union and Germany in 1918. This peace, which the Allies felt was a betrayal, had broken their momentum during the Great War.

From its inception, the United Nations organization was therefore seen as an association of states committed to waging war against the imperialist powers. The UN became something quite different later on. The fact remains that the organization, whose vocation is the preservation of world peace, has its origins in the antagonism of two ideologies. In this sense, by retaining the name "United Nations" later on, the organization of 1945 was born with a moral handicap, just like the League of Nations before it.

As early as 1943, the American, British and Soviet allies attempted, at the Moscow and Tehran summits, to sketch out the architecture of an international organization aimed at ensuring the durability of peace. The decisive meeting was held in Dumbarton Oaks in 1944.

At the beginning of the meetings of the three great powers, Churchill had already put forward an original proposal for regional representation by continent within the world organization to be created. Stalin was in favor of it. But as for both of them the only real stake, at that time, was the war, they ended up acquiescing to almost all the proposals of Roosevelt, their powerful new ally in the fight, who seemed to attach so much importance to this project.

In order to quell the American president's great fear of replaying a Wilsonian scenario, his team had presented his outline to a Senate committee three months before submitting it to the other great powers at Dumbarton Oaks.

From this seriousness accorded by the Americans to the reflective process on the form that the UN should take, the plan to seal the fate of international economic institutions before that of political institutions was born.

Thus, the Bretton Woods Agreement was signed one month before the start of the Dumbarton Oaks meetings. These agreements on an international financial framework between the 44 wartime allied nations gave birth to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The latter will eventually be called the World Bank.

The headquarters of these two institutions were established in Washington, D.C., on American soil. This ensured that the new international political organization to be created would not be able to develop the architecture of a world economic order. Bretton Woods led to the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947 and to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995.

The world came close to inheriting a global currency at the Bretton Woods negotiations in July 1944. The world-renowned progressive economist John Maynard Keynes, head of the British delegation, used the full weight of his prestige to impose the idea of a World Central Bank to issue a new universal currency, the "Bancor.

This supranational currency would have been recognized and accepted everywhere on the planet, much like the Euro within the 19 member states of the Euro zone in Europe.

This would have been an important step towards the unification of the world.

This proposal was rejected. It would have meant a loss of American sovereignty over an international institution. It would have prevented them from taking advantage of the recently established dominant position of the American dollar. In this respect, the United States, which has become the world's leading economic power, did no better than the United Kingdom before it in insisting that the U.S. dollar should become the world's monetary standard. The Bancor would have made it more difficult for rogue states to act as tax havens.

The idea of a global currency issued by a world central bank (an idea that resurfaces after each global financial crisis) received a good publicity boost in 2010 with the publication of a report by the Strategy, Policy and Evaluation Department of the International Monetary Fund recommending the introduction of a global currency, aptly named Bancor[i].

There can be no secure peace in the world, no decision on international matters based on international law, until states are prepared to give up their absolute sovereignty in their foreign relations and leave the decision on these matters to an instrument of international government.

Bertrand Russell

In L'Organisation des Nations Unies, Frédérique Mestre-Lafay sums up the state of mind at the time of the conception of the UN:

The great powers freeze at Dumbarton Oaks and Yalta all the priority subjects on which they do not wish to make concessions to their sovereignty. For example, the UN Charter, unlike the League of Nations Covenant, does not contain any intrinsic and obligatory disarmament provisions: "the Charter merely instructs the Council [controlled by the five most militarized powers...] to draw up plans for the establishment of a system of arms regulation[ii].

Under the guise of peacekeeping, the United States, the USSR, the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent, China and France wished to agree to found a system that did not encroach on their own sovereignty, as the League of Nations did, in order to establish, legitimize and perpetuate their collective hegemony over the world.

Moreover, the UN is above all an American "creature". Churchill's administration often only endorsed American policies, which were then presented to the Russians and later to the Chinese and the French as a common position.

A few months later, during the San Francisco conference that led to the creation of the UN, the Americans, in order to achieve their goal, resorted to massive wiretapping of

communications between the delegates of the fifty or so states and their respective capitals[iii]. They also practice a diplomatic policy of isolation and intimidation of the representatives of recalcitrant nations[iv].

The American administration was in position to impose its views. The whole of Europe, with its great powers at the forefront, was destroyed. Not only was America intact, but its industrial and economic infrastructure had been greatly enhanced, precisely because of the war. The European nations knew very well that they would need the capital of the now richest nation in the world in order to rebuild. In this context, it was difficult to turn a blind eye to American demands for a new world order.

As Maurice Bertrand, a specialist in international institutions, summarizes: "It was thus the Americans who succeeded, at Dumbarton Oaks, as they did at Bretton Woods for the International Monetary Fund, in imposing their simple ideas on world organization"[v].

In the eyes of the world, however, the economic policies put forward at Bretton Wood were based on a philanthropic desire on the part of the U.S. administration, as evidenced by the public statement of then U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau:

Collective measures to safeguard the peoples of the world from that which threatens peace […] must be based not only on an international machinery to manage disputes and prevent aggression, but also on economic cooperation among nations to prevent and remove social and economic maladjustments […] [vi].

As was the case at the same time for the Marshall Plan to finance the reconstruction of Europe, geostrategic interests prefigured humanist actions. The Americans, fearing that the misery of the populations in Europe would generate revolts (which could eventually lead to communism under Soviet influence), opened their wallets, but according to rules that would benefit their economy.

The Breton Wood agreements will have contributed to the advent of what has been called, in the West, the "Glorious Thirty". The whole of humanity, but particularly the West, experienced from 1945 to 1974 its longest and strongest period of growth, rising living standards and continuous prosperity.

First, we must develop the idea of a super-sovereignty, that is, we must teach people to think in global terms. Second, we must try to understand the economic causes of war, without running up against the selfish aspirations of those for whom profit comes before the fate of humanity.

Albert Einstein

It has long been fashionable among progressives around the world to vilify the U.S. government (sometimes to the point of conspiracy theories). The facts listed above can only add fuel to the fire. However, we must be fair to Roosevelt. The father of the "New Deal" was a great president: humanist and anti-colonialist. He truly cared about peace and the betterment of humanity. At the end of his career and life, he had been ill for a long time and would die a few months before being able to contemplate the fruit of his efforts, the birth of the UN, at the San Francisco Conference. Like Wilson before him, he wished to bequeath his name to universal history.

Roosevelt remained, however, first and foremost a Head of State, and therefore necessarily a nationalist. He did not want the gains for humanity to come at the expense of American power and sovereignty. The problem was and still is the same. States cannot address certain issues alone. International institutions could. States, however, are not willing to delegate some of their sovereignty over these specific issues for fear of being forced in the name of the universal common good to take actions that would disadvantage them. This state of affairs presented Roosevelt with a Cornelian dilemma. Like many other heads of state who preceded him and who would follow him.

The creation of the UN, the Security Council, the World Bank and other international institutions were based on humanist intentions. The Americans simply made sure that these institutions would not have the capacity to harm them in the long run and thus threaten their newly acquired hegemony. This alone rendered these institutions ineffective.

The Second World War had been even more deadly and widespread than the Great War. Horrified by increasingly deadly technologies, and mindful of the use of the first nuclear weapons in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, contemporaries of the time could rightly wonder whether humanity would survive the next war.

Americans were well aware that their country's isolationism had contributed to the outbreak of the Second World War. It was against a background of guilt and the lessons of the failure of the League of Nations that they developed their plan.

The absence of major powers such as the United States, Germany, Japan and the USSR from the League of Nations had undermined its legitimacy, authority and scope. The Americans knew that the new organization to be designed would have to rally the most powerful states in order to be effective, just as they were aware that the unanimous rule for all was a dysfunctional formula.

Unanimity, according to their analysis, was necessary, but only within the Security Council, and for the smallest possible number, if the organization was to retain a capacity for action. In their view, this smallest number should include all the most powerful nations, but only them.

In the aftermath of World War II, a more robust version of the League of Nations was created.

On October 24, 1945, 51 countries, all members of the Allied forces, signed the charter of the United Nations (UN) in San Francisco. Fortunately for the legitimacy of the UN, member countries of the Axis forces and a myriad of countries, which would emerge at the end of the colonial period, would eventually join the UN. In 2017, the organization had 193 member countries.


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[i] International Monetary Fund Report, "Reserve Accumulation and International Monetary Stability", Prepared by the Strategy, Policy and Review Department In collaboration with the Finance, Legal, Monetary and Capital Markets, Research and Statistics Departments, April 13, 2010, p. 26.

[ii] Frédérique Mestre-Lafay, L'Organisation des Nations Unies, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, Coll. "Que sais-je?" no 748, 2009, p. 67.

[iii] Nicky Hager, "Au cœur du renseignement américain La NSA, de l'anticommunisme à l'antiterrorisme", Le Monde Diplomatique, November 2001, P.13.

[iv] Bosco, Ibid, p.176.

[v] Bertrand, Ibid, p. 25.

[vi] Donald John Markwell, John Maynard Keynes and International Relations: Economic Paths to War and Peace, New York, Oxford University Press, 2006, p.255.

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