The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Monday—A correspondent writes: "The best way the U.N. can regain the confidence of the American people is to have all of the friendly member countries contribute real troop support to the Korean defense. It also will show the Soviets that the free world really means that collective security will be enforced against an aggressor. Russia fears a powerful military force, and if she could see the manpower of over 50 nations in Korea, she would realize that we are all united against her. The endless debate and lip service occurring at the U.N. could be put to rest."

This correspondent happens to be a man, and, therefore, I am surprised that he doesn't realize that the troops in Korea are there on a voluntary basis.

We have no agreements within the U.N. for any military force whatsoever. This has never been possible because the United States and the Soviet Union could never agree on how to control atomic energy. That being the case, the only real troops—and I think there are now 21 nations with troops in Korea—are there on a voluntary basis and not a compulsory one.

If you have ever done anything on a voluntary basis you will realize that to get up to one-third of the people concerned committed to steady and unremitting work is rather a high ratio.

This correspondent particularly complains because certain member states of the U.N. have not contributed their men. I would like to point out that it is not just a case of contributing men. These countries have to have a base of supply and the cash available to keep these men paid and fed and clothed and provided with ammunition and generally taken care of. If wounded, the men must be cared for and eventually brought home.

All this is extremely costly, and there are a number a member nations that find it difficult enough to keep their home governments running and to pay their contributions to the U.N. For them to meet an emergency of this kind would be next to impossible. They feel that because Korea was our mandate it is quite obviously more our concern than theirs and they are, in any case, not very anxious to assume responsibility outside of their own countries.

Once upon a time we were a weak country, just a few colonies along the Atlantic coast, not very well developed, and, above all, not anxious to take on any interest in any other nations in the world. That was a time when we gladly let Great Britain rule the seas, if she would just leave us alone.

Now that day is past. We have an ocean-to-ocean continent, a well organized country with great natural resources to back it and to rely on. Many of the burdens carried in the old days by Great Britain have been shifted to our shoulders.

Even as recently as World War II we did not accept any of the burden of fighting until we were very sure that the war concerned our safety. It takes time, my dear man, to educate people to voluntary contributions of troops even though aggression anywhere threatens all the peace-loving nations of the world.



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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 30, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.