Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Address to the Third Special Emergency Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

August 13, 1958

IT HAS BEEN almost five years since I had the honor of addressing this Assembly. I then spoke of atomic power and urged that we should find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man should not be dedicated to his death but consecrated to his life. Since then great strides have been taken in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Tragically little has been done to eliminate the use of atomic and nuclear power for weapons purposes. That is a danger.

That danger in turn gives rise to another danger--the danger that nations under aggressive leadership will seek to exploit man's horror of war by confronting the nations, particularly small nations, with an apparent choice between supine surrender, or war.

This tactic reappeared during the recent Near East crisis. Some might call it "ballistic blackmail."

In most communities it is illegal to cry "fire" in a crowded assembly. Should it not be considered serious international misconduct to manufacture a general war scare in an effort to achieve local political aims?

Pressures such as these will never be successfully practiced against America, but they do create dangers which could affect each and every one of us. That is why I have asked for the privilege of again addressing you.

The immediate reason is two small countries--Lebanon and Jordan. The cause is one of universal concern.

The lawful and freely elected Government of Lebanon, feeling itself endangered by civil strife fomented from without, sent the United States a desperate call for instant help. We responded to that call.

On the basis of that response an effort has been made to create a war hysteria. The impression is sought to be created that if small nations are assisted in their desire to survive, that endangers the peace.

This is truly an "upside down" portrayal. If it is made an international crime to help a small nation maintain its independence, then indeed the possibilities of conquest are unlimited. We will have nullified the provision of our Charter which recognizes the inherent right of collective self-defense. We will have let loose forces that could generate great disasters.

The United Nations has, of course, a primary responsibility to maintain not only international peace but also "security." That is an important fact. But we must not evade a second fact, namely, that in the circumstances of the world since 1945, the United Nations has sometimes been blocked in its attempt to fulfill that function.

Respect for the liberty and freedom of all nations has always been a guiding principle of the United States. This respect has been consistently demonstrated by our unswerving adherence to the principles of the Charter, particularly in its opposition to aggression, direct or indirect. Sometimes we have made that demonstration in terms of collective measures called for by the United Nations. Sometimes we have done so pursuant to what the Charter calls "the inherent right of collective self-defense."

I recall the moments of clear danger we have faced since the end of the Second World War--Iran, Greece and Turkey, the Berlin blockade, Korea, the Straits of Taiwan.

A common principle guided the position of the United States on all of these occasions. That principle was that aggression, direct or indirect, must be checked before it gathered sufficient momentum to destroy us all--aggressor and defender alike.

It was this principle that was applied once again when the urgent appeals of the governments of Lebanon and Jordan were answered.

I would be less than candid if I did not tell you that the United States reserves, within the spirit of the Charter, the right to answer the legitimate appeal of any nation, particularly small nations.

I doubt that a single free government in all the world would willingly forego the right to ask for help if its sovereignty were imperiled.

But I must again emphasize that the United States seeks always to keep within the spirit of the Charter.

Thus when President Truman responded in 1947 to the urgent plea of Greece, the United States stipulated that our assistance would be withdrawn whenever the United Nations felt that its action could take the place of ours.

Similarly, when the United States responded to the urgent plea of Lebanon, we went at once to the Security Council and sought United Nations assistance for Lebanon so as to permit the withdrawal of United States forces.

United Nations action would have been taken, the United States forces already withdrawn, had it not been that two resolutions, one proposed by the United States, the other proposed by the Government of Japan, failed to pass because of one negative vote--a veto.

But nothing that I have said is to be construed as indicating that I regard the status quo as sacrosanct. Change is indeed the law of life and progress. But when change reflects the will of the people, then change can and should be brought about in peaceful ways.

In this context the United States respects the right of every Arab nation of the Near East to live in freedom without domination from any source, far of near.

In the same context, we believe that the Charter of the United Nations places on all of us certain solemn obligations. Without respect for each other's sovereignty and the exercise of great care in the means by which new patterns of international life are achieved, the projection of the peaceful vision of the Charter would become a mockery.


Let me turn now specifically to the problem of Lebanon.

When the United States military assistance began moving into Lebanon, I reported to the American people that we had immediately reacted to the plea of Lebanon because the situation was such that only prompt action would suffice.

I repeat to you the solemn pledge I then made: our assistance to Lebanon has but one single purpose--that is the purpose of the Charter and of such historic resolutions of the United Nations as the "Essentials for Peace" Resolution of 1949 and the "Peace through Deeds" Resolution of 1950. These denounce, as a form of aggression and as an international crime, the fomenting of civil strife in the interest of a foreign power.

We want to prevent that crime--or at least prevent its having fatal consequences. We have no other purpose whatsoever.

The United States troops will be totally withdrawn whenever this is requested by the duly constituted government of Lebanon or whenever, through action by the United Nations or otherwise, Lebanon is no longer exposed to the original danger.

It is my earnest hope that this Assembly, free of the veto, will consider how it can assure the continued independence and integrity of Lebanon, so that the political destiny of the Lebanese people will continue to lie in their own hands.

The United States Delegation will support measures to this end.


Another urgent problem is Jordan.

If we do not act promptly in Jordan a further dangerous crisis may result, for the method of indirect aggression discernible in Jordan may lead to conflicts endangering the peace.

We must recognize that peace in this area is fragile, and we must also recognize that the end of peace in Jordan could have consequences of a far-reaching nature. The United Nations has a particular responsibility in this matter, since it sponsored the Palestine Armistice Agreements upon which peace in the area rests and since it also sponsors the care of the Palestine refugees.

I hope this Assembly will be able to give expression to the interest of the United Nations in preserving the peace in Jordan.


There is another matter which this Assembly should face in seeking to promote stability in the Near East. That is the question of inflammatory propaganda. The United Nations Assembly has on three occasions-in 1947, 1949 and 1950--passed resolutions designed to stop the projecting of irresponsible broadcasts from one nation into the homes of citizens of other nations, thereby "fomenting civil strife and subverting the will of the people in any State." We all know that these resolutions have recently been violated in many directions in the Near East.

If we, the United States, have been at fault we stand ready to be corrected.

I believe that this Assembly should reaffirm its enunciated policy and should consider means for monitoring the radio broadcasts directed across national frontiers in the troubled Near East area and for examining complaints from these nations which consider their national security jeopardized by external propaganda.


The countries of this area should also be freed from armed pressure and infiltration coming across their borders. When such interference threatens they should be able to get from the United Nations prompt and effective action to help safeguard their independence. This requires that adequate machinery be available to make the United Nations presence manifest in the area of trouble.

Therefore I believe this Assembly should take action looking toward the creation of a standby United Nations Peace force. The need for such a force in being is clearly demonstrated by recent events involving imminent danger to the integrity of two of our members.

I understand that this general subject is to be discussed at the 13th General Assembly and that our distinguished Secretary-General has taken an initiative in this matter. Recent events clearly demonstrate that this is a matter for urgent and positive action.


I have proposed four areas of action for the consideration of the Assembly-in respect to Lebanon, Jordan, subversive propaganda and a standby United Nations force. These measures, basically, are designed to do one thing: to preserve the right of a nation and its people to determine their own destiny, consistent with the obligation to respect the rights of others.

This clearly applies to the great surge of Arab nationalism.

Let me state the position of my country unmistakably. The peoples of the Arab nations of the Near East clearly possess the right of determining and expressing their own destiny. Other nations should not interfere so long as this expression is found in ways compatible with international peace and security.

However, here as in other areas we have an opportunity to share in a great international task. That is the task of assisting the peoples of that area, under programs which they may desire, to make further progress toward the goals of human welfare they have set. Only on the basis of progressing economies can truly independent governments sustain themselves.

This is a real challenge to the Arab people and to us all.

To help the Arab countries fulfill these aspirations, here is what I propose:

First--that consultations be immediately undertaken by the Secretary-general with the Arab nations of the Near East to ascertain whether an agreement can be reached to establish an Arab development institution on a regional basis.

Second--that these consultations consider the composition and the possible functions of a regional Arab development institution, whose task would be to accelerate progress in such fields as industry, agriculture, water supply, health and education.

Third--other nations and private organizations which might be prepared to support this institution should also be consulted at an appropriate time.

Should the Arab States agree on the usefulness of such a soundly organized regional institution, and should they be prepared to support it with their own resources, the United States would also be prepared to support it.

The institution would be set up to provide loans to the Arab States as well as the technical assistance required in the formulation of development projects.

The institution should be governed by the Arab States themselves. This proposal for a regional Arab development institution can, I believe, be realized on a basis which would attract international capital, both public and private.

I also believe that the best and quickest way to achieve the most desirable result would be for the Secretary-General to make two parallel approaches. first, to consult with the Arab States of the Near East to determine an area of agreement. Then to invite the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has vast experience in this field, to make available its facilities for the planning of the organizational and operating techniques needed to establish the institution on a progressive course.

I hope it is clear that I am not suggesting a position of leadership for my own country in the work of creating such an institution. If this institution is to be a success, the function of leadership must belong to the Arab States themselves.

I would hope that high on the agenda of this institution would be action to meet one of the major challenges of the Near East, the great common shortage--water.

Much scientific and engineering work is already under way in the field of water development. for instance, atomic isotopes now permit us to chart the course of the great underground rivers. And new horizons are opening in the desalting of water. The ancient problem of water is on the threshold of solution. Energy, determination and science will carry it over that threshold.

Another great challenge facing the area is disease.

Already there is substantial effort among the peoples and governments of the Near East to conquer disease and disability. But much more remains to be done.

The United States is prepared to join with other governments and the World Health Organization in an all-out, joint attack on preventable disease in the Near East.

But to see the desert blossom again and preventable disease conquered is only a first step. As I look into the future I see the emergence of modern Arab States that would bring to this century contributions surpassing those we cannot forget from the past. We remember that Western arithmetic and algebra owe much to Arabic mathematicians and that much of the foundation of the world's medical science and astronomy was laid by Arab scholars. Above all, we remember that three of the world's great religions were born in the Near East.

But a true Arab renaissance can only develop in a healthy human setting. Material progress should not be an overriding objective in itself; but it is an important condition for achieving higher human, cultural and spiritual objectives.

But I repeat, if this vision of the modern Arab community is to come to life, the goals must be Arab goals.


With the assistance of the United Nations, the countries of the Near East now have a unique opportunity to advance, in freedom, their security and their political and economic interests. If a plan for peace of the kind I am proposing can be carded forward, in a few short years we may be able to look back on the Lebanon and Jordan crises as the beginning of a great new era of Arab history.

But there is an important consideration which must remain in mind today and in the future.

If there is an end to external interference in the internal affairs of the Arab States of the Near East--

If an adequate United Nations Peace force is in existence ready for call by countries fearful for their security: --

If a regional development institution exists and is at work on the basic projects and programs designed to lift the living standards of the area, supported by friendly aid from abroad and governed by the Arab States themselves:--

Then with this good prospect, and indeed as a necessary condition for its fulfillment, I hope and believe that the nations of the area, intellectually and emotionally, will no longer feel the need to seek national security through spiralling military buildups which lead not only to economic impotence but to war.

Perhaps the nations involved in the 1948 hostilities may, as a first step, wish to call for a United Nations study of the flow of heavy armaments to those nations. My country would be glad to support the establishment of an appropriate United Nations body to examine this problem. This body would discus it individually with these countries and see what arms control arrangements could be worked out under which the security of all these nations could be maintained more effectively than under a continued wasteful, dangerous competition in armaments. I recognize that any such arrangements must reflect these countries' own views.


I have tried to present to you the framework of a plan for peace in the Near East which would provide a setting of political order responsive to the rights of the people in each nation; which would avoid the dangers of a regional arms race; which would permit the peoples of the Near East to devote their energies wholeheartedly to the tasks of development and human progress in the widest sense.

It is important that the six elements of this program be viewed as a whole. They are:

( 1 ) United Nations concern for Lebanon.

( 2 ) United Nations measures to preserve peace in Jordan.

( 3 ) An end to the fomenting from without of civil strife.

( 4 ) A United Nations Peace force.

( 5 ) A regional economic development plan to assist and accelerate improvement in the living standards of the people in these Arab nations.

( 6 ) Steps to avoid a new arms race spiral in the area.

To have solidity, the different elements of this plan for peace and progress should be considered and acted on together, as integral elements of a single concerted effort.

Therefore, I hope that this Assembly will seek simultaneously to set in motion measures that would create a climate of security in the Near East consonant with the principles of the United Nations Charter, and at the same time create the framework for a common effort to raise the standard of living of the Arab peoples.


But the peoples of the Near East are not alone in their ambition for independence and development. We are living in a time when the whole world has become alive to the possibilities for modernizing their societies.

The American government has been steadily enlarging its allocations to foreign economic development in response to these worldwide hopes. We have joined in partnership with such groupings as the Organization of American States and the Colombo Plan; and we are working on methods to strengthen these regional arrangements. for example, in the case of the Organization of American States, we are consulting with our sister republics of this hemisphere to strengthen its role in economic development. And the government of the United States has not been alone in supporting development efforts. The British Commonwealth, the countries of Western Europe, and Japan have all made significant contributions.

But in many parts of the world both geography and wise economic planning favor national rather than regional development programs. The United States will, of course, continue its firm support of such national programs. Only where the desire for a regional approach is clearly manifested and where the advantage of regional over national is evident will the United States change to regional methods.

The United States is proud of the scope and variety of its development activities throughout the world. Those who know our history will realize that this is no sudden, new policy of my government. Ever since its birth, the United States has gladly shared its wealth with others. This it has done without thought of conquest or economic domination. After victory in two world wars and the expenditure of vast treasure there is no world map, either geographic or economic, on which anyone can find that the force of American arms or the power of the American Treasury has absorbed any foreign land or political or economic system. As we cherish our freedom, we believe in freedom for others.


The things I have talked about today are real and await our grasp. Within the Near East and within this Assembly are the forces of good sense, restraint, and wisdom to make, with time and patience, a framework of political order and of peace in that region.

But we also know that all these possibilities are shadowed, all our hopes are dimmed, by the fact of the arms race in nuclear weapons--a contest which drains off our best talents and vast resources, straining the nerves of all our peoples.

As I look out on this Assembly, with so many of you representing new nations, one thought above all impresses me.

The world that is being remade on our planet is going to be a world of many mature nations. As one after another of these new nations moves through the difficult transition to modernization and learns the methods of growth, from this travail new levels of prosperity and productivity will emerge.

This world of individual nations is not going to be controlled by any one power or group of powers. This world is not going to be committed to any one ideology.

Please believe me when I say that the dream of world domination by one power or of world conformity is an impossible dream.

The nature of today's weapons, the nature of modern communications, and the widening circle of new nations make it plain that we must, in the end, be a world community of open societies.

And the concept of the open society is the ultimate key to a system of arms control we can all trust.

We must, then, seek with new vigor, new initiative, the path to a peace based on the effective control of armaments, on economic advancement and on the freedom of all peoples to be ruled by governments of their choice. Only thus can we exercise the full capacity God has given us to enrich the lives of the individual human beings who are our ultimate concern, our responsibility and our strength.

In this memorable task there lies enough work and enough reward to satisfy the energies and ambitions of all leaders, everywhere.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address to the Third Special Emergency Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233851

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