The Need for RestraintBecause the stresses of the Cold War have limited the ability of the Security Council to play an energetic role in alleviating political crises and preserving the peace, much of the political agenda at the U.N. has flowed toward the General Assembly. But the operations of the assembly have shortcomings related to the strains of a rapid growth in membership and demands for actions beyond the capacities of the United Nations.
States have traditionally addressed their foreign policies to problems affecting their own concept of their national interests. National policies were sustained, and to some extent defined and limited, by the resources which states were willing and able to commit. With all its faults, this process imposed a degree of discipline and realism upon foreign policy goals.
At the U.N. this pattern has been modified. Many states find themselves involved in political problems in which their own interests are very often not importantly engaged and their ability to obtain information is limited. Without self discipline, this can easily lead the organization to adopt positions which cannot command the resources or the support required for attainment.
There are, of course, advantages in detachment, in having problems considered by a community as a whole rather than by the parties directly involved. But for this advantage to be maximized, more selfrestraint is needed on the part of member states. U.N. members contribute best to the maintenance of peace when they examine issues on their merits instead of voting as blocs along geographical or ideological lines. And it should be remembered that problems cannot always be solved by the simple formula of choosing the middle ground between conflicting claims. To assume that justice is necessarily a middle point is to encourage adversaries to move toward extremes.
The U.N. does in fact mirror much of the world's social turmoil, national conflicts and ideological differences. It has to its credit substantial accomplishments in peacekeeping, in social and economic betterment and in drafting principles of international law. It will be strengthened to the extent that its members foreswear unrealistic rhetoric and concentrate on using the U.N. constructively to settle rather than publicize disputes. The U.N. must not become the forum where differences are exacerbated by intemperate advocacy.