The United Nations – in 1951 the organization was 6 years old and experiencing growing pains and ridicule. The growing pains came from the steady stream of newly independent nations, clamoring for membership, and the ridicule came in the form of critics, particularly American critics who were convinced the United Nations was weak and ineffectual and destined to go the route of The League of Nations, that group nations which gathered together in an attempt to preserve peace in the wake of World War 1, and which failed to prevent the rise of Hitler’s Germany and the beginnings of World War 2.
This time, The United Nations was being criticized for shirking its responsibilities in the area of Peacekeeping and specifically its role in the Korean War, which many felt was being fought by the US and nobody else.
During this episode of Meet The Press, from September of 1951, the permanent Ambassador to the UN from Britain who was also the former acting Secretary General; Sir Gladwyn Jebb. He held the position for three months until Trygve Lie was selected. He was asked and in some cases was confronted by Lawrence Spivak over the issue of UN’s role in Korea (or it’s non-role in Korea) and how the United Nations was negotiating from a place of weakness, allowing the US to take the commanding role in that war.
It became a familiar cry over the years – the UN shirking responsibilities, instead letting the US handle all the dirty work – and how the countries who were able to handle the crises which confronted them were powerless to come from a position of strength in dealing with them. Spivak cites the then-current situation in Iran over the British-Iranian oil crisis and the Russia-leaning leadership of Mohamed Mossadegh along with the threat of creating another Middle-East hotspot as a result.
It’s an interesting conversation that had far-reaching affects over the following decades. it served to illustrate that the world in general and the peace which it sought was fragile and still in the rebuilding process from the devastations of war.
Two things – one: this interview shows just how much the media and politics have changed over the years. The panel pulled no punches and did their homework. Two; the interviewee holds his own and justifies his actions which, in light of the current talk-over-and-incite school of journalism, is downright refreshing to listen to. The world was in a state of turmoil and resurrection; it was the Cold War after all. But this was also a time of intelligent discourse and a legitimate search for solutions. Something that’s missed in todays climate.
Meet The Press with Sir Gladwyn Jebb – as broadcast on September 4, 1951.