Bullets, Blue Helmets, and the Bomb

United Nations Peacekeeping

Blue Helmets – UN Military Operations

What would become of the international system the day after the threat of mega-terrorism materialized…? At the international level, conventional rules of sovereignty would be abandoned overnight. — Stephen D. Krasner

Cold War Uncertainty

The world seemed poised on a razor’s edge, ready at any moment to plunge itself into the dark abyss of a nuclear holocaust. Alliances were formed, pacts drawn up and gunboat diplomacy was standard fare. At the United Nations, an emotional Soviet leader – Nikita Khrushchev – pounded his shoe on the table. And in schoolrooms around the world, children were instructed to hide under their desks in the event of a local nuclear strike.


For those of us who remember the Cold War, or portions thereof, it was a time of extremes: extreme nervousness and extreme uncertainty.


It was also a heady time for world government advocates. As the Soviet Bear and the American Eagle scrapped it out in the war-torn villages of third world countries, the only viable alternative to an eventual all-out nuclear confrontation seemed to lie in the creation of some type of world government system. Hence, in the late 1950s and early 60s, both the USSR and the United States officially devised a series of plans to jointly equip the United Nations with arms while dismantling their own military forces.


On September 18th, 1959, the Soviets unveiled a three-stage proposal for “general and complete disarmament,” including the “complete prohibition of atomic and hydrogen weapons.” And later, as this proposal was revised and expanded, a UN standing army was inserted into the texts.


In 1961, the United States released its roadmap for a UN military. For all practical purposes, this made-in- America proposal was identical to the Soviet plan. Expressed through the U.S. State Department’s document, Freedom from War: the United States Program for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World, the U.S. administration envisioned a time when both superpowers could unite their forces under the UN banner.


How much clout would this UN military force be given? According to Freedom From War, “international law would proceed to a point where no state would have the military power to challenge the progressively strengthened U.N. Peace Force…” Moreover, in its Summary, the document stated that one of its major goals was “the elimination from national arsenals of all armaments, including all weapons of mass destruction and the means for their delivery, other than those required for a United Nations Peace Force…” [Italics added]. World government advocates, especially World Federalist members, pounced on the idea of “general and complete disarmament,” and spearheaded the creation of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency – an official federal body charged with global disarmament tasks.

A World Force

But hardly before the ink was dry on either Freedom from War or the U.S. Arms Control legislation, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis brought the Bear and Eagle to the brink of a nuclear exchange. While this effectively halted international disarmament plans, the idea of militarily empowering the United Nations never went away. Thomas Schelling, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a celebrated strategist, graphically detailed the real potency of an international army in his mid- 1960s essay, “Strategy: A World Force in Operation,”


“The three main kinds of military action that the force could take against a united country would be pain, conquest, and obstruction. By ‘pain’ I mean sheer coercive damage. Nuclear or other weapons might be used to inflict civil damage at a rate sufficient to induce the government to change its mind and bend to the will of the international authority. By ‘conquest’ I mean invasion or occupation sufficient to put the international authority into the role of occupying power. By ‘obstruction’ I mean military action designed to retard a country’s rearmament, to make it more manage, to spoil it altogether or to impede it sufficiently to prevent a major threat to the security of other countries. This might be done either by selective bombing or by selective invasion and occupation of key facilities.”


Schelling suggested that this force could acquire citizen “hostages and more…

“One could go even further and let the force have a monopoly of critical medicines to use for bacterial warfare on a transgressor country. As soon as it starts an epidemic, it sends its medical units in to make sure that no one suffers who cooperates. Those who oppose it – military forces, government leaders, or anyone else – are without essential vaccines and must decide for themselves whether to stay at large and suffer or to surrender to be cured.”

Radical ideas? Yes. Even Schelling agreed that these schemes suffered from “meanness, and would not be acceptable.” But, he explained, the “cards should be stacked in favor of the international force…”

New World Order

Flash forward to the 1990s. The Cold War has ended, and politicians from Washington to Moscow are talking about a “new world order” – the replacement of “national anarchy” by the global “rule of law.”


Inevitably, a new calling for a UN military force arose. Documents touting the virtues of “collective security” and a “robust” United Nations flowed from the offices of the UN Secretary General, U.S. Congressmen, the governments of Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The UN, we were told, needed teeth.


Some, however, believed that the international community should be equipped with more than just bullets and blue helmets. The Henry L. Stimson Center, a Washington D.C. political think-tank with deep connections inside the beltway, released two reports in 1996 advocating that the United Nations be equipped with nuclear weaponry. Ensuring that nations would comply with a global disarmament program, Occasional Paper 31 suggested that,

“…it might be desirable to retain some kind of international nuclear force as a hedge against one or more nations cheating on a disarmament agreement…the ‘outlaw’ use or possession of nuclear weapons could be deterred or prevented by a nuclear-armed multi-national sheriff…One possibility would be a United Nations nuclear force, a force strong enough to make it pointless for any nation to cheat…” [George H. Quester, International Safeguards for Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction, December 1996].

In a second Occasional Paper titled Phased Nuclear Disarmament and U.S. Defense Policy, it was suggested that the international community could directly authorize certain nations to rebuild previously dismantled nuclear stockpiles in order to bring pressure on “outlaw” countries. Obviously, this arrangement requires some type of world “executive authority.” ‘


In the January/February 2005 issue of Foreign Policy, Stephen Krasner – a distinguished professor of international relations at Stanford University and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations – dared to ask the question; what would happen to national sovereignty if terrorists detonated nuclear devices in Washington D.C., New Delhi, Berlin, and Los Angeles?

Preventive Wars

Two developments emerge in Krasner’s nuclear scenario: First, powerful nations would act on their own in waging “preventative wars,” no longer seeking UN approval but finding it, perhaps, in entities such as the G8 and NATO. And secondly, as a new political landscape emerged, the United Nations would be transformed or its duties would be transferred to “new international organizations,” such as a strengthened Community of Democracies.


In other words, for a period of time we would likely see a hybrid system. Ultimately, however, the international community would have to enforce its will to guarantee security – just what “global doctors” prescribed in the 1950s and 60s.


Krasner reinforces this notion by stating that nations which step out of line “would be declared a threat to international peace…would be declared incompetent to govern…” necessitating that a “consortium of major powers would assume executive authority and declare the international legal sovereignty of the occupied territory null and void.” Shades of world government? You bet.

Rogue Nations

Consider this truism made by Lester Pearson, former Prime Minister of Canada and architect of NATO; “There is a time in an international crisis when all are so frightened of what might happen that they will accept many things that they would not have even contemplated before the crisis…” [Peace in the Family of Man, p.15]


It’s not hard to envision that, in the political aftermath of a nuclear attack be it through a single or multiple target strike, perpetrated either by a terrorist group or a “rogue nation,” the world will clamor for security at the expense of sovereignty. When that time comes, will the international community settle for just “bullets and blue helmets”…or something with a bigger bang?

By Irvin Baxter

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