The Forgotten Multi-Polar Traditions of the USA: The UN Charter Revisited

By Matthew Ehret

From the drafting of the UN Charter in 1941, the formulation of the Bretton Woods system in 1944, to the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, there is no doubt that there is very little that America has not directly influenced over the past 75 years.

While this leadership is undeniable, it is too easily forgotten that the UN Charter, as outlined by Franklin Roosevelt was premised on the belief that America must never become an empire, or global police man keeping the world under its hegemony, but would act rather as good neighbor to those in need, offering her assistance to help those weaker nations stand on their own.

This positive conception of the post-war order was essentially understood as the internationalization of the New Deal.

Among those New Deal reforms which were meant to extend far beyond the borders of the USA included social safety nets, bank regulation to ensure honest finance, productive work guarantees and infrastructure projects to all other nations aspiring independence across Africa, Asia and the Americas or struggling the heal from the destructive effects of the war.

Although many have attempted to paint a different cynical of his intention and origins of the post war world, it is a verifiable fact that FDR’s vision for the IMF/World Bank mandates were never designed to reconquer poor nations under a new system of debt slavery and conditionalities, but rather to extend productive credit for long term infrastructure programs that were in the common aims of mankind and which angered Churchill immensely.

Most importantly, this vision was premised on the need for a trust-based U.S.-Russia-China alliance that never would have permitted the emergence of a bipolar Cold War.

Working alongside such anti-imperial co-thinkers as Republican leader Wendell Willkie, Vice President Henry Wallace, economist Harry Dexter White, confidante Harry Hopkins, Asst. Secretary of State Sumner Welles and Attorney General Robert Jackson (to name a few), this small but powerful group of patriots representing both parties, worked vigorously to ensure not only that the Wall Street/City of London Frankenstein Monster of Nazism would be put down but that Churchill’s vision of a restored British Imperial system would not succeed.

The True Spirit of the United Nations

Unlike the earlier “League of Nations” which intended to destroy all national sovereignty in the wake of WWI, the United Nations was always meant to become a platform for dialogue, and economic multilateral trust-building much more in harmony with the multipolar alliance now sweeping the world.

If this is hard to believe, let me cite article one of the UN Charter:

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: 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, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace

To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and

To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”

These principles were expanded even further to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 which re-iterated the founding principles of America’s Declaration of Independence- extending those unalienable rights to all mankind as FDR envisioned stating in its preamble:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

“Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

“Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

“Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

“Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

“Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

These were the ideas that were meant to give life to the “Four Freedoms” first enunciated by President Roosvelt in 1941 and re-asserted by his anti-imperial Vice President Henry Wallace in 1942.

In 1941, Roosevelt first announced this vision which is worth citing at length before coming to an end:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression-everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want-which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear-which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception-the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in a perpetual peaceful revolution-a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions- without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.”

Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms

Now admittedly this positive American foreign policy outlook which launched the post-war age is a far cry from anything the world has come to recognize in the USA since the emergence of the Cold War… and especially since the murder of John F Kennedy. However if the world is to succeed in overcoming the obstacles it now faces, then those universal principles embedded in both the UN Charter, Declaration of Rights and the 1787 constitution itself from which those ideas sprang forth must become more than mere ink on parchment, and again animate the active life of all the nations of the earth.


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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Roy Booher says:

    Yup, as they say, ‘Sounds good on paper.’ No doubt that the gods that people create on paper, work about the same way; perhaps the authors of such works actually believe them, but beyond the political, theological and economic aspects of human culture it would appear, in at least the Western tradition, that most people have not evolved the stage of primative primates, that such writings even exist, is more of a testament of how people tend to appropriate as their own, the good works of others. So, yes, those are nice words, but except for a few nice people like FDR, Jesus, Benjamin etcetera; aren’t most people nothing more than an exceedingly ignorant animal with nothing more than malice in their hearts and that, that is the reason why as they say, “We can’t have anything nice “? Nice essay,, wrong species though, I suspect.

    1. Hey Roy
      I think the fact of humanity’s non-self destruction over the past several thousand years is a testament to the fact that we are animated by something which is fit to survive and thrive which more than offsets the self-destructive selfish aspect of our natures which empires thrive in and amplify against our better nature. The ideals which transcend the corrupt smallness of our temporal state and are expressed in such places as the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, UN Charter or Nuremburg Codes are reminders and reference points like the north star for future generations to refer back to when lost at sea.

  2. It is an important service you do, to bring forth these Ideals for a Better Humanity. A Happier World. Thank you for doing this.

    I, for one, am reminded to continue to try and know the difference between the “New World Order” of the Oligarchs and the “New World Paradigm” of the Humanity of a Higher Morality.

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