THERE can have been few thoughtful people who, during the United Nations' first ten sears of life, cannot have wonslered whether the organisation Were not better dead and buried.
Disunited Nations was the right name for the unprecedented cold war between the two world groups and the grave ten'ions and strains all over a world in which smaller nations and peoples were aspiring to recognition, status, freedom.
Nevertheless, there is certainly a sense in which it may validly be contended that the more disunited in fact the nations of the world are, the more necessary is the United Nations.
A good deal of Catholic criticism, for example, has surely been based on a radical misconception of the realities of the situation. For example, there is no sort of doubt that an international organisation, based on Christian principles with the Sovereign Pontiff represented, would be an infinitely better idea in itself—but, unfortunately it would, in the present state of the world, be also infinitely ineffective. We have to take the world as we find it and endeavour in terms of the sordid realities of that world to prevent the worst from happening and to move towards something a little better.
Viewed in this light—and it is really the only possible light— the ten-year record of the United Nations has not been so bad. More realistic than the League of Nations, it has also been more successful.
The veto seemed in theory almost a direct denial of the organisation's ideal, and the necessity for it seemed but a consequence of Communist intransigence. Yet today, in the light of their experience, all the great Powers would probably insist on the right of veto in any revision of the Charter. Another perhaps unexpected consequence of the United Nations has been a reversion to much secret diplomacy and negotiation as between the great Powers, with all of them secretly agreeing with the Russian idea that peace would he more securely guarded in the world if its maintcnace were entirely in the keeping of the few Powers strong enough to defend it. Yet at the same time the United Nations has provided a permanent platform for keeping in the international picture important Powers and the important grievances of less important Powers, both of whom would surely be overlooked if all were left to the great Powers.
The United Nations, in contrast with the League of Nations, has fought, as well as denounced aggression, and if it proved unable to punish aggression as the latter should be punished, the net effect of the Korean War may well have been the preventing of a third world war.
Nor should we overlook the value of the subsidiary organisations, such as UNESCO and UNICEF, as well as many others of greater or lesser importance.
THE tenth birthday of the United Nations now takes place at a moment when many nurse a great hope of better times in international affairs. Molotov has changed from impassivity and " noes " to smiles and " yeses." Rebel Tito has been wooed to the tune of the adaptability of Communism to different ideological and national ideals. The old enemy Adenauer has been told that any time convenient to him for visiting Moscow will be convenient for his hosts, and, best of all, the " summit " of international talks is soon to be reached at Geneva.
In dealing with the possibilities created by this Communist volteface, we shall not be far wrong if we trust to the realism on which the United Nations has been built and see it as a prescription for the future.
In this, spirit we can place rather less emphasis on the ideological rivalries which on both sides seem to presuppose that Communism can never really change, as though Marx and Lenin were to be compared with the Evangelists, and concentrate on hard realities such as the conditions for survival and power of the coterie of men who rule the enserfed millions in Eastern Europe and Asia.
If it is true that these men are now persuaded that a nuclear age puts out of court the hope of world conquest, they must nevertheless realise that they have little to gain but much to lose, if they do not play their cards very carefully.
They have already moved a substantial distance from the abortive Stalinist policy both at home and in their foreign relations, and it is by no means certain that they could safely return even if they wanted to, to the earlier tyranny.
As they feel their way, in the patient Eastern fashion which has recourse to every bargaining device, towards a new phase of " co-existence," their prime consideration will certainly be the maintenance of their own power which itself must depend on conceptions of political rule and authority which are totally alien to our own.
A LL this presents an inter-43national problem which can only be worked out at a snail's pace, consistent with the whole tempo and character of the work of the United Nations since its establishment. The immediate negotiations will not have failed even if they only succeed in keeping doors open.
Nor should we be discouraged by this thought. Any international action which holds the disaster of world-war at bay is a success—as the United Nations has been a success.
Meanwhile for Christians there remains much work to do on a very different plane. Even the prospects of a world peace are no guarantee that such a peace will rise above purely materialistic levels. To ensure the preservation and increase of spiritual values, wherein alone lies the final answer to the problems of today, is the task, not of politicians as such, but of the millions who personally profess such values yet do so little to pass on " the good news."