A Decade of American Foreign Policy 1941-1949
Work of the Military Staff Committee : Speech by Herschel V. Johnson, Deputy United States Representative, June 4, 1947 (Excerpt) (1)

One vital organizational task remains undone. Article 43 of the Charter imposes upon the Security Council the responsibility for negotiating "as soon as possible" special agreements under which the Member States will make available to the Security Council, on its call, "armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security." Until those agreements have been concluded and put into force, the Security Council will be unable to fulfil its responsibilities as the enforcement agency of the United Nations. Chapter VII of the Charter, insofar as it relates to military enforcement measures, will remain inoperative.

It was about fourteen months ago that the Security Council, at the end of its first meetings in London, requested the representatives of the five permanent members who compose the Military Staff Committee to study Article 43 from the military point of view and to make recommendations to the Security Council.

The Military Staff Committee made little progress until the meeting of the General Assemble last fall. The General Assembly in its resolution on the principles governing the general regulation and reduction of armaments recommended that the Security Council should "accelerate as much as possible the placing at its disposal of the armed forces mentioned in Article 43 of the Charter". The Security Council, acting on this recommendation, directed the Military Staff Committee to report by 30 April 1947 on its progress. (2)

The recommendations which are before us-"The general principles governing the organization of the armed forces made available to the Security Council by Member nations of the United Nations"-are the result of those unanimous requests of the General Assembly and the Security Council.

The United States has been disappointed by the slow pace at which the work has progressed. Those recommendations do however represent a measure of progress. We believe that the Security Council should now exert every effort to complete the task that is imposed by Article 43 of the Charter upon the Council collectively and upon the Members of the United Nations individually.

As the next step in that direction, the United States believes that the Security Counci1 should proceed today and in succeeding meetings to a full and public examination and debate on the recommendations contained in this report and on related problems concerning implementation of Article 43, and should seek to reach decisions that will advance our work.

The Members of the United Nations and their peoples should know and understand all of the problems involved and the reasons for the decisions that we shall make. We must never forget that all of the Members of the United Nations have conferred on the Security Council, under Article 24, "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf ".

The peoples of the world look to this Council to fulfil this responsibility and they should be fully informed of the manner in which we discharge our obligation to establish the peace forces called for in the Charter.

The report before us represents wide areas of unanimous agreement. Unfortunately, however, some of the most important principles did not secure unanimity in the Military Staff Committee. As the report itself makes clear, the United States supports the majority position in every case in which unanimity was not secured.

I do not desire in this opening statement to enter into a detailed discussion of the articles of the report of the Military Staff Committee. I do, however, wish to make clear the fundamental understanding of my Government concerning the obligations imposed upon the Security Council and upon the United States as a Member nation in the establishment of the armed forces of the United Nations.

The United Nations is not a world government. It is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members. Therefore, it could not have a permanent standing armed force of its own in the same sense that individual nations possess such forces.

On the other hand, the founders of the United Nations decided at San Francisco that the United Nations should not repeat the experience of the League of Nations, which relied solely upon the individual action of Member States to carry out the sanctions provided in the League Covenant. It was therefore decided that each nation should agree in advance to provide forces and facilities upon which the Security Council could call to prevent or suppress any act of aggression or breach of the peace. Those national contingents are to be under the strategic direction of the Military Staff Committee whenever they are called into action by the Security Council.

The decision at San Francisco was a long step forward in the direction of enforceable world law against war. Nothing like it has ever been attempted before. That forward progress would, however, be largely lost if we failed to draw up agreements of such a nature that the world will be certain that the Security Council can bring to bear, against any breach of the peace anywhere in the world, balanced striking forces drawn from the most powerful and best equipped forces that could be provided by the Members.

Our concept of the nature and strength of the United Nations armed forces is based to a very considerable extent on the experience of the last war. We found that it was not only possible but practical to combine the armed forces of two or more nations. We found that such combinations immeasurably increased the strength and effectiveness of our efforts. As a result, we have faith that national contingents of the Members of the United Nations can be moulded into effective armed forces serving the United Nations under the control of the Security Council.

We learned other strategic lessons which should guide us in the organization of the United Nations armed forces. We learned that an attempt to stop an aggressor after he has succeeded in a fait accompli is infinitely more difficult than to stop him at an earlier stage. We are seeking, therefore, to provide arrangements under which the Council could bring its forces to bear in the shortest possible time. That objective will be aided by the fact that the contingents of the Member nations will normally be maintained, as they are at the present time, in various parts of the world. This natural advantage accruing to the United Nations should be seized on and promoted and not limited by artificial restrictions on the location of the contingents made available by Members.

We also learned that the tremendous forces which my country mobilized for one war could not be moved into a position to strike at the enemy without bases near to the enemy, and that intermediate staging and supply bases were of vital importance to all three elements of our armed forces. In the Pacific, when we were unable to obtain adequate land bases, we found it necessary to develop floating bases for our fleet operations. We therefore recognize that if the United Nations armed forces are to be effective at all, the Member nations must make available to the Security Council a system of bases in various parts of the world from which they could operate.

An outstanding feature of the last war, and one which in our view proved decisive, was the development of new and powerful striking forces combining all three elements of the allied armed forces: army, navy and air. We remember that Japan was brought to her knees by the striking power of long range air forces, amphibious operations, and powerful carrier and other naval task forces. In the European war, likewise, the enormous striking power of those new developments greatly hastened the day of victory. We do not believe that the United Nations can have an effective armed force unless it contains the components of these modern forces, which have proved of infinitely greater mobility and stril6ng power than any previously developed. In fact, it seems to us that this type of force is most suitable to the requirements of the United Nations.

The problem facing the United Nations is not to defend any Maginot Line. Its problem is to enforce peace in all parts of the world. There can be no question that the United Nations needs, first of all, a mobile force able to strike quickly at long range and to bring to bear, upon any given point in the world where trouble may occur, the maximum armed force in the minimum time.

If, in order that the United Nations should have such a force available to it, it is necessary that those permanent members of the Security Council which possess such forces at the present time should provide the greater portion of a particular mobile component, we think that should be done. The interests of the United Nations as a whole must take precedence over the desires or ambitions of any single nation. We consider that the contributions of the permanent members of the Security Council can be properly balanced and rendered roughly comparable without prejudice to the interests of individual nations by arranging that those nations which make available a lesser proportion of the new mobile components could put up a larger portion of other components or other forms of assistance and facilities.

The mere existence of such forces will be a powerful deterrent to any nation contemplating an act of aggression. Prompt establishment of such forces will be a demonstration to the peoples of the world of the intention of the Member nations to carry out their obligations to uphold the law of the Charter.

The United States welcomes at this stage in the work of establishing these forces the full participation of the non-permanent members of the Security Council. The obligations of the Charter apply equally to every Member of the United Nations large and small. Each of us is obligated 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." Each of us is bound by the purpose "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace..."

We intend, with frankness and good will, to continue our efforts in collaboration with other members of this Council to determine ways and means of applying armed force to support the principles of the United Nations in accordance with the Charter. In particular, the United States desires the advice of those members of the Security Council, who, because they are not permanent members of the Council, have not participated in the lengthy discussions which have taken place in the Military Staff Committee.

It is my hope that a general agreement on basic principles may be reached by this Council in sufficient time for the Security Council to be able to report affirmatively on this subject to the General Assembly at its next regular session in September.

(1) Security Council, Official Records, Second Year, No. 43, pp. 953-957. Back

(2) See Official Records of the Security Council, Second Year, No. 13. Back

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