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United Nations


United Nations flag of April 1945

Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations as we know it today was not formally organized until nearly the end of the Second World War. However, President Roosevelt coined this name for the powers allied against the Axis shortly after the entry of the United States into the war.  The phrase was first used publicly in the "Declaration by the United Nations" signed by 26 Allied powers on 1 January 1942, declaring their intention to fight together against the Axis.  For most of the duration of the war, the United Nations was simply a coalition of belligerent powers with little formal governing apparatus.

The Declaration by the United Nations was a short document citing the ideals of the Atlantic Charter of 14 August 1941. The signatories promised full support for the war against the Axis and pledged to make no separate peace:

A Joint Declaration by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Poland, South Africa, Yugoslavia:

The Governments signatory hereto,

Having subscribed to a common program of purposes and principles embodied in the Joint Declaration of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dated August 14, 1941, known as the Atlantic Charter.

Being convinced that complete victory over their enemies is essential to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands, and that they are now engaged in a common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world,

DECLARE:

(1) Each Government pledges itself to employ its full resources, military or economic, against those members of the Tripartite Pact :and its adherents with which such government is at war.

(2) Each Government pledges itself to cooperate with the Governments signatory hereto and not to make a separate armistice or peace with the enemies.

The foregoing declaration may be adhered to by other nations which are, or which may be, rendering material assistance and contributions in the struggle for victory over Hitlerism.

Only those nations with hyperlinks made more than a token contribution to victory in the Pacific War. Later signatories included Mexico, Ethiopia, and the Philippine Commonwealth (1942), Iraq, Brazil, Bolivia, Iran, and Colombia (1943), Liberia and France (1944), and Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuala, Uruguay, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Syria.

The Atlantic Charter in turn had declared that:

The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.

The Atlantic Charter became a touchstone for much of U.S. diplomacy during the war. This led to some friction with the British, who did not mean "sovereign rights and self government" to include dissolution of the British Empire. Churchill reassured Parliament in September 1944 that it was not meant to apply to India or Burma, and added in November 1942 that he had not become prime minster "in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire" (in Smith 1985). The traditional American distaste for imperialism would continue to cause friction with the British and French, particularly in the Far East.

The Japanese reaction to the Atlantic Charter was that it was a blueprint for Anglo-American domination of the world, since it called for the disarmament only of "nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers", with the implication that the British and Americans meant to exercise police powers in the postwar world. The call for free trade likewise was denounced as a call for a world economy dominated by British and American capital. The Chinese meanwhile complained that the declaration of the Atlantic Charter was followed by a joint message to Stalin but none to Chiang Kai-shek.


Photograph of the Pacific War
        Council

Wikipedia Commons

The chief United Nations body in the Pacific was the Pacific War Council, organized in Washington mid-1942 to give the smaller powers involved in the Pacific War some voice in grand strategy. A corresponding council for the Far East was organized in London. Neither had much influence on the conduct of the war, which was largely determined by the Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff.

The Allied coalition against the Axis enjoyed a greater level of cooperation than the Axis themselves ever approached. This was particularly true of the Western powers in Europe. However, there was constant and considerable friction between the Western powers and the Russians, and even the close cooperation between the United States and Britain in Europe did not extend to the Pacific War, where the two powers were fighting on opposite flanks of the Japanese, were at odds over their policies towards China, and could not even agree to merge their fleets fighting against Japan until the war was all but won. The Americans first refused to lend carrier support to the British in the Indian Ocean at the time of the Japanese raid against Ceylon, and then the British refused to lend carrier support to the Americans at the time of Midway. Fortunately, the Ceylon raid was not the prelude to an invasion of Ceylon, and Midway became the most decisive naval victory in American history. Had things turned out less favorably, the rift in the East might have disastrously affected the war in the West.

Formal Organization of the United Nations

Though Allied diplomacy during the war focused on military cooperation to defeat the Axis, it was inevitable that the Allied leaders would take thought for securing the peace in the postwar world. Until 1944, Roosevelt believed that the peace would be kept by the "Four Policemen": the United States, Britain, Russia, and China. There were a number of problem with this concept, not least of which was the implication that smaller nations would be kept in line by the great powers. There were also serious doubts that China would be in a position to police anyone. Churchill feared that the power vacuum in western Europe would prove dangerous if Russia proved uncooperative, since Roosevelt was almost as hostile to a French renascence as to a German.

The idea of a formal organization similar to the prewar League of Nations was mooted in 1943, providing a third way between Roosevelt's "Four Policemen" and Churchill's balance of power. Spearheaded by U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the push for a new League gained momentum with the Conally resolution in the U.S. Senate and the Fulbright resolution in the House of Representatives, which called for "an international authority with power to prevent aggression and to preserve the peace of the world" (Smith 1985). The Moscow Declaration of 30 October 1943 by the "Big Four" committed all four powers to establishing such an organization.

France was originally assigned no role in the postwar security apparatus. Both Roosevelt and Stalin considered France to have shamefully collaborated with the Axis; only Churchill supported the idea of restoring France as a strong military power, to avoid a power vacuum in western Europe. In the end, the inclusion of France seems to have been the price of British support for recognizing China among the great powers.

From August to October 1944 a conference was held at Dumbarton Oaks, near Washington, D.C., to discuss the charter of the new organization. The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China were represented. Not coincidentally, these were the powers given permanent seats on the Security Council. On 25 April 1945 a second conference was opened in San Francisco, which concluded with the signing of the U.N. Charter on 26 June 1945 by 51 nations. The new organization formally came into existence with its ratification by the signatory powers on 24 October 1945, a little over a month after the surrender by Japan, the last of the Axis powers.

References

Avalon Project (accessed 2008-11-10)

ibiblio.org (accessed 2011-12-3)

Iriye (1987)

Marston (2005)

Smith (1985)

Willmott (1983)


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