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July 7, 1959

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday 7 July 1959, Committee on Finance - Vote 59--External Affairs [Excerpt]

New Taoiseach Seán Lemass took the unusual step of intervening in a Foreign Affairs debate in July 1959 to defend Frank Aiken’s conduct at the United Nations. Trenchant critics on the opposition benches in the Fine Gael party had berated Aiken repeatedly since 1957. Critics inside and outside of the lower house of parliament (Dáil Éireann) asserted that Ireland, “a tiny country” with limited interests, had no right to voice an opinion on global matters which was more appropriately dealt with by the “Great Powers.” Worse, Aiken’s interventions would create enemies among Irish friends worldwide, most notably in the United Sstates. The tenor of the arguments was that Ireland had no nuclear energy industry and no nuclear weapons aspirations, so such matters should be left to the nuclear powers. It is difficult to avoid the sense that elements in Irish political life appreciated that American and NATO nuclear forces informally protected the anti-communist Republic of Ireland. Lemass ended speculation that he was less of a supporter of Aiken than his predecessor, de Valera. He affirmed that Ireland had a significant contribution to make to the global commons in terms of reinforcing peace and order. Aiken was empowered to continue.

September 19, 1958

Address by Mr. Frank Aiken to the United Nations General Assembly Official, 23th Session, 751st Plenary Meeting

Aiken’s landmark address to the plenary of the UN General Assembly on 19 September 1958 launched his non-proliferation campaign. It is the first time he publicly identified stopping the spread of nuclear weapons as a concrete step in the collective interest to unblock the disarmament impasse, preventing a runaway arms race among the powers of the Earth. It was clearly framed as part of his wider campaign for global governance based on the rule of law rather than the threat of force. For Aiken, the challenge was stabilizing the arms race and generating trust to construct a world order based on justice and law – “to preserve a Pax Atomica while we build a Pax Mundi.” This speech was a critical departure. The widespread positive reception encouraged Aiken, persuading him to draft a formal resolution.

March 1, 1967

Note for the Record [about a Meeting between the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and Lord Chalfont at 6:50p.m. on 1 March 1967]

Two "Notes for the Record" from March 1, 1967, describe the vigorous discussions between senior UK government figures, including Harold Wilson, Foreign Secretary George Brown, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Lord Chalfont, and chief scientific adviser to the government Solly Zuckerman. Brown argued that "our posture on the matter should be distinctively European rather than one of supporting the United States against other European countries." Wilson was even more explicit, stating that "our approach should be that of a European power discussing the matter with European partners and not seeking to fight American battles." Wilson was keen to let Washington take the lead so that his government might avoid upsetting the French, as had happened with the debates over De Gaulle's 1966 withdrawal from the NATO command structure.

February 11, 2021

Interview with Bishara Bahbah

Bishara Bahbah is a Palestinian professor. He was the associate director of Harvard’s Middle East Institute and served as a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) talks following the Oslo Accords.

November 7, 1975

Report of the United Nations Visiting Mission to Spanish Sahara, 1975

Spain first entered the Western Sahara in 1884, but it took its troops five decades to firmly establish control over an area whose borders were drawn by agreements with France between 1886 and 1912. In the 1940s, engineers discovered that the area held important mineral deposits. Early hopes for oil did not quite materialize. Like its northern Moroccan neighbor, however, the West Sahara turned out to be one of the world’s largest sources of phosphate, a key ingredient for fertilizers. Financed by US and French capital, extraction began in the 1950s—the start of a story told in Lino Camprubi’s “Resource Geopolitics: Cold War Technologies, Global Fertilizer, and the Fate of the West Sahara” (2015).

Unlike Morocco, though, the West Sahara did not become independent in the 1950s. At the time, Sahrawis did not quite have a nationalist conscience. They were principally camel-herding nomads organized into fiercely autonomous tribes. It was as such, too, that some fought on Morocco’s side in short clashes with France and Spain in 1956. They were suppressed in 1958 by the Franco-Spanish operation Ouragan. In the selfsame decade, the 1950s, the phosphate mines and the infrastructure around them started affecting the Sahrawis—first socioeconomically. Urbanization began in serious, an industrial labor force grew, and scholarization increased. By the later 1960s, these changes had political knock-on effects, as Tony Hodges has shown in his classic Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War (1983). Certain Sahrawis who had progressed to a university degree, some in Morocco, became politically active at home, together with some workers. Sahrawis began to develop a distinct national conscience. While somewhat open to ideas about associating with Mauritania, to the West Sahara’s south, they now sharply turned against Spain. Thus, although Madrid was able to organize some loyalists, in 1973 the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario) was founded, a liberation organization that immediately started a guerilla war backed by Algeria. Sahrawis’ crystallizing national conscience also faced Morocco, which claimed their homeland, arguing it had historically ruled that area. In October 1975, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague rejected this claim as irrelevant, asserting the primacy of self-determination.

This verdict mirrored the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) stance. From 1966, the UNGA had passed several resolutions asserting that the Spanish colony’s fate had to be settled by a popular referendum. This followed established procedure. Thus, in 1960 UN resolution 1514—which the ICJ would cite in 1975—stated that a decolonized area could be attached to another postcolonial state only after its people had been consulted by referendum. Though delaying the referendum, Spain accepted it in principle, and in May 1975 agreed to a UN mission of inquiry.

This mission, whose report constitutes the text here, turned out to be pivotal. It did not simply document Sahrawis’ demand. Rather, its very presence on the ground affected the political reality: it allowed Sahrawis in town after town to publicly and vociferously assert what they in their overwhelming majority wanted: independence. In November, however, the Spanish government made an about-face, weakened by the protracted moribund state of its head, General Francisco Franco (1892-1975; r. from 1939), and impressed by the force of Moroccan King Hassan II’s (1929-1999; r. from 1961) populist mobilization over the West Sahara, to which the UN reacted hesitantly. In return for a 35% share in the biggest West Saharan phosphate mine, Fosbucraa, Spain transferred power to Morocco and Mauritania. The two states divided the West Sahara, and Polisario continued its war. In 1979 Mauritania sued for peace and withdrew from its territory—of which Morocco rather than the Polisario was able to take control, however.

June 13, 1938

Jawaharlal Nehru, 'A Letter from the Mediterranean'

In June 1938 Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), a Indian National Congress (INC) leader, one of the earliest INC members calling for full independence in 1927, and the main responsible for INC’s foreign relations, took a ship to Europe. This trip was not a first for India’s inaugural prime minister (1947-1964) to be. Already in 1905 he had left India to enroll at the elite British boarding school of Harrow, going on to study at Cambridge and work as a lawyer in London before returning home in 1912. And the last time he had sailed was in 1935, staying until 1936 as the INC representative in meetings with fellow Asian and increasingly also African anti-imperialists in Britain and Europe. Sure, by then the League against Imperialism (LAI), whose Comintern-organized foundational conference Nehru had attended in 1927, was defunct. (For the LAI see the 1927 document on Messali Hadj in this collection.) Even so, Nehru continued to see his secularist Indian nation-statist goals within an international leftist-anti-imperialist and now anti-fascist framework and web, as Michele Louro’s Comrades against Imperialism: Nehru, India, and Interwar Internationalism (2020) argues.

Hence, when on the ship en route to Europe in 1938 he received an invitation from Egypt’s leading nationalist wafd party and agreed to meet their leaders. Having been in contact with Egyptian nationalists before, a story told in Noor Khan’s Egyptian-Indian Nationalist Collaboration and the British Empire (2011), and having detailed their anti-imperialism in Glimpses of World History (1934), he saw the wafd as INC’s appropriately leading anti-imperialist counterpart in Egypt. Sure, in confidential INC memoranda, he criticized the wafd’sinsufficient attention to the masses, especially the peasants, which cost them an election in early 1938, he thought; indeed, the wafdistswere liberal nationalists whereas Nehru was a leftist nationalist. Nonetheless, sitting down with the wafd and exchanging views about world politics and anti-imperialist strategies was called for, in his and the wafd’s view,at a time when fascism was rising and Britain continued to rule India and be very present in Egypt. Reproduced in the massive compilation Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, this text is a letter by Nehru, the first to the INC while he was on the ship en route to London.

September 17, 1947

George C. Marshall, 'A Program for a More Effective United Nations: Address by the Chief of the U.S. Delegation to the General Assembly'

Marshall speaks about Greece, Palestine, and Korea, as well as the international control of atomic energy and the role and structure of the United Nations.

July 27, 1990

National Intelligence Daily for Friday, 27 July 1990

The CIA’s National Intelligence Daily for 27 July 1990 describes the latest developments in Iraq, Kuwait, Liberia, the Soviet Union, Peru, Eastern Europe, Poland, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Japan.

July 25, 1990

National Intelligence Daily for Wednesday, 25 July 1990

The CIA’s National Intelligence Daily for 25 July 1990 describes the latest developments in Iraq, Kuwait, Liberia, the Soviet Union, China, Taiwan, European Community, Hungary and Germany.

December 5, 1989

National Intelligence Daily for Tuesday, 5 December 1989

The CIA’s National Intelligence Daily for 5 December 1989 describes the latest developments in Philippines, East Germany, the Soviet Union, South Korea, Cambodia, Chile, Warsaw Pact, European Community, Czechoslovakia and Eastern Europe.

Pagination