THE year 1960 may come to be known as the year neutralism became respectable. Only four years ago many a small nation felt required to stand up and be counted, either for or against the U.S. John Foster Dulles, then Secretary of State, condemned "the principle of neutrality [which] pretends that a nation can best gain safety for itself by being indifferent to the fate of others." Such neutralism, warned Dulles, "except under very exceptional circumstances, is an immoral and shortsighted conception."
Today the U.S. position has radically changed. In Washington last week President Dwight Eisenhower told the delegates of 15 new African nations: "We do not urgeindeed we do not desirethat you should belong to one camp or the other. You cannot afford to waste your money, which is needed to build the hospitals, the schools, the roads that your people needyou cannot afford to put that money into costly armaments."
Tender Grass. This was heartening news for the world's neutrals who, in the words of a Burmese diplomat, have sometimes felt like "the tender grass between the feet of two savage buffaloes locked in mortal combat." At this U.N. session the neutralist nations have thrown themselves between the colossi of East and West in the prayerful hope of ending the cold war. Feelings of alarm swept the uncommitted countries at the table thumpings and rocket rattlings of Nikita Khrushchev. They were dismayed by the parliamentary maneuvering of the U.S., which saw no advantage to "renewed" talks between Eisenhower and Khrushchev.
The neutrals have made their weight felt, no longer consider themselves mere spear carriers but movers and shakers.
The neutrals form a U.N. majority of the center, but a negative one, having little in common except neutrality. Some, like Togo, Gabon and Congo, are just emerging from the jungle. Others, like India and Thailand and Burma, feel themselves heirs to ancient civilizations. Sweden and Nor way are welfare states with highly developed technologies, while Afghanistan and Nepal have only begun to brush aside the mists of feudalism. Secretary of State Christian Herter recently, and unnecessarily, abandoned Ghana and Guinea to the Communist camp. Nikita Khrushchev sneers at the Philippines and Argentina as U.S. puppets.
Whatever their differences in outlook, the nations of the center cling to three beliefs: 1) they see the U.N. as the bulwark of their independence, 2) they fear nuclear doom from the angry opposition of East and West, 3) they do not want to be pushed around by the great powers. The Big Five of neutralismTito of Yugoslavia, Nehru of India, Nkrumah of Ghana, Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia are magnetic, colorful and messianic personalities, but too much so. The most effective work has often been done by second-echelon diplomats: men like Burma's U Thant, Nepal's Rishikesh Shaha and Tunisia's Mongi Slim.
The usual mark of the neutral is to abstain on issues tied closely to the cold war. When the Soviet Union moved to debate the flights of the U-2 and RB-47, the U.S. won the balloting 54 to 10, but one third of the U.N. membership abstained, including countries generally considered pro-Western (Austria, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Liberia).