Published Date

August 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 12: Can We Prevent Future Wars? (1944)

The governments of the four principal United Nations have agreed that some international organization to preserve the peace must be formed after the war. By the Declaration of Moscow (October 1943) these governments, through their foreign ministers (Secretary Hull representing the United States), announced, “That they recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

In the Connally Resolution, passed on November 5, 1943, the Senate of the United States almost unanimously endorsed and adopted this same declaration. And a month later at Teheran President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Premier Stalin “recognized the responsibility resting upon us and all the United Nations to make a peace that will . . . banish the scourge and terror of war for many generations.”

Cooperation in setting up a permanent association of nations for the purpose of preventing future wars may therefore be taken as the settled policy of the United States, as well as of China, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. And the character of this organization has also been partly settled: (a) it will not be limited to a few great powers, but will be open also to the smaller nations; (b) it will recognize the “sovereign equality of all peace-loving states”; and (c) it will be formed as soon as possible after the war. Just what “sovereign equality” will mean in practice is not yet entirely clear. The “earliest practicable date” for starting the organization is still to be settled by agreement among the countries concerned.

These decisions are of great importance as a first step toward the goal of lasting peace. But they are of course only a first step; by themselves they do not give us any assurance that that goal will be reached. For the same step was taken once before-though without the participation of the United States. Twenty-five years ago most of the nations of the world joined in organizing a League to maintain international peace and security. Everybody knows how completely it failed to accomplish that purpose. Most of the governments that formed it had the best intentions; but good intentions are not enough.


One Failure Does Not Mean It Cannot Be Done

The failure of the old League is, of course, no reason for giving up the effort to safeguard peace. It would be foolish to stop trying to solve the most important and urgent of all our practical problems merely because the first serious attempt to solve it failed. The inventors of the airplane first built a number of unsuccessful models. These failures did not cause them to throw up their hands in despair. They just looked for the bugs in the models that would not work, until finally they found how to build a machine that would actually fly—though it did not, at first, fly very far.

But since the first model of an organization for international peace did not work, it is clear that—if that problem is to be solved—it is necessary to discover why the first one failed to work and to find, if possible, a better model. We must seek to understand better than was understood in 1919 how an international organization should be constituted and what means it must use for preventing wars if it is to be at all effective. And about this we can learn something from past mistakes.