April 25, 1945

Nelson Rockefeller embracing his ally, US Ambassador to Ecuador, who served as his "whip" at the Founding Conference, organizing Latin American countries into a large voting bloc.

Wrangling Between Powerful and Weaker Nations Consumes the Founding Conference of the United Nations

For all its high-minded principles, the UN founding conference, which opens on this day in San Francisco,  is immersed in power plays against weaker states resulting in  reluctant compromises.

Sen Arthur Vandenberg, chair of the US delegation and an ally of Nelson Rockefeller (whose father donated the East River property to the United Nations) threatens Senate rejection of the entire UN charter. Vandenberg insists  the charter should  exempt from UN oversight the Act of Chapultepec  and its favoring of a regional military pact in Latin America (See February 18 above).

 

Vandenberg and Rockefeller try to get the Act  included into Article 51 of the UN Charter, proclaiming “the right of self defense.” (i.e.an attack against any American state us an attack against all) In the end, a similarly-worded right to “collective self defense “ is adopted. Article 51 reads, in part: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” As written Article 51 of the United Nations Charter is sufficiently vague to allow states to assert their right to self-defense against a proclaimed aggression by another state. But it does not define collective self defense. Does it mean that a nation which has been attacked must request assistance, or can other nations preemptively intervene and claim their intervention constitutes collective self-defense? Requiring the attacked nation to request assistance might seem like the most responsible position, but this requires that the United Nations Security Council determine who the original aggressor and defender are. This determination may not be possible or delivered in a timely manner.  

 

Practically speaking, Article 51 will open the way for postwar military alliances and military interventions in the future. The US militarization of Latin America is about to begin. Other regional alliances would soon follow: NATO, the Soviets countering with the Warsaw Pact, and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization [SEATO} in 1954 which allowed for US intervention in Vietnam.

 

Further Reading:

Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today’s UN by Phyllis Bennis

 

Real Clear Defense

The Rockefellers by Peter Collier and David Horowitz.

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