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JUL 30 1963
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
NIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN LIBRARI
Two Kinds of Politics
by Harlan Cleveland
"Like nailing jello to a tree trunk”—that is the way one of my colleagues describes the management of American foreign policy. I like the description because it describes so well the part of the State Department which is my parish and my preoccupation. It is the part called "United Nations affairs" or "parliamentary diplomacy" or "international organization."
You and I, as Americans, belong to 52 different international clubs, contribute to 73 different international programs, and have attended, by proxy, 474 intergovernmental conferences this last year. When E. B. White predicted "a bright future for complexity," when Albert Einstein said that every proposition should be as simple as possible but not one bit simpler-they must have foreseen the new world of multilateral diplomacy.
We belong to these many organizations, we support these many programs, we attend these many conferences for quite reasonable reasons. It is more efficient than doing everything in bi
1 Address made at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., on May 8 (press release 253, revised).
DEPOSITED BY THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
lateral, tete-a-tete relationships. It is more dignified for small countries to deal with a great power like the United States in clubs, where every nation is juridically equal. It is often cheaper for us to handle aid through international agencies, because other countries contribute to them too. And, on the whole, this way of doing our business is very popular, not only abroad but here at home as well. You would not guess the degree of its acceptance if you were to spend your days reading the stacks of impolite letters which reach the mailrooms in Foggy Bottom and Capitol Hill.
It is true on every public issue that the people who object to a policy are much readier with the pen than those who applaud. Every editor, every legislator, every public servant, can bear witness. The hardest letters to take are naturally those that try to be funny. I am often tempted to reply with the mathematical equation suggested by Herman Mankiewicz: "The part-time help of wits is no better than the fulltime help of half-wits."
On matters of foreign policy there is today, and there always has been, a minority in our society which distrusts the democratic process, rejects the virtue of free debate, and fears the open society—especially as the open society spills out across international frontiers, as it is now doing to a striking degree. The frightened defeatist mail-the mail that is always so sure that America is going to the dogs-does not come from the merely old-fashioned folk who quaintly believe that foreign affairs are exclusively the foreigners' affairs and therefore no business of ours. The letters come from people who are willing to peddle long-discredited canards, people whose fright at their own fears makes them determined to unstick the glue of mutual trust among Americans that holds our
society together and makes it strong before the world.
We are not the only country with a violent minority of political beatniks who are unprepared to live with the consensus worked out by open debate and democratic process. From time to time our embassies abroad are stoned by foreign zealots, who share with our domestic critics a consuming hatred of the U.S. Government. They, too, have little faith in the open society at work.
The antidote to the mail we get from "true believers" is to keep track of what the best of the pollsters are saying about our work. Dr. Gallup and his colleagues may not have invented the ultimate in scientific method, but they are better barometers of public opinion than the daily take of our mailroom.
By their testimony, support for vigorous U.S. leadership in the United Nations has always been impressive. It is a fact-some people find it a curious fact-that this support is greater today than it has ever been. According to George Gallup, 83 percent of the people think it is "very important" that we try to make the United Nations a success. That's up from 77 percent 10 years ago. And on top of the 83 percent there are another 9 percent who think it is "fairly important" to make the United Nations a success. There are very few political issues in our society-and, I suspect, no domestic political issues-on which there is a 92 percent consensus. Of the other 8 percent, 4 percent are against and 4 percent have no opinion. That 4 percent must be the lowest "no opinion" score on any major opinion poll.
If the question about the United Nations is asked in a different way, the result seems to be about the same. In November of last year the
Similarity Between U.N. and American Politics Quite apart from the noises on the fanatic fringe, there is a growing amount of grumbling 5- about the United Nations. It can be traced, I think, to our national tendency to think of the United Nations, this highly political organization, as practising a brand of politics fundamentally different from the politics with which we are so familiar here at home. Anybody who deals with United Nations affairs is often exposed to Americans who think of United Nae tions politics as though the people who engage
Minnesota poll (which is certainly one of the best of the regional polls) asked people whether, after 17 years, they were "well satisfied," "fairly well satisfied," or "not at all satisfied" with the job the United Nations has been doing up to now. Eighty-eight percent said they were either well satisfied or fairly well satisfied. (Personally, I would only describe myself as fairly well satisfied. Whether we can, after another 17 years, describe ourselves as well satisfied depends on the vigor and quality of U.S. leadership in the meantime.)
In spite of this overwhelming consensus-or else because it betokens a widespread interestthe United Nations is more of a domestic political issue in the United States than it has ever been before. The reason is, of course, that the United Nations is doing more interesting things, on a larger scale, more vital to the U.S. national interest than it has ever done before. And this rising relevance has brought with it a rising irritation with the United Nations. It was easy to be a United Nations supporter when it was doing less and costing little. It was easy, once upon a time, to think of the United Nations as a noble aspiration and not to worry about it as a form of politics.