INTERVIEW WITH HARLAN CLEVELAND
9th Annual World Future Meeting
by Joan M. Veon
July 31, 1999
In my book Global Straitjacket, I spend one full chapter on explaining what the Report From Iron Mountain is and how it's Orwellian goals and objectives just happen to be the same goals and objectives of the United Nations today. Obviously when this secret report was made public by one of the 15 members who served on its commission, the Kennedy Administration and all other administrations have denied its existence. When I was able to interview Mr. Cleveland at this conference, my whole objective, since he served in a key position during that time, was to get him to either affirm or deny The Report From Iron Mountain. As you read this report, you will see that he never denied the report but affirmed it by the way he answered my questions.
JV: I first started covering you in conferences 5 years ago. I don't remember where I first saw your name. Then I saw a book that you wrote. Forgive me, it has a black cover and it has the globe on it. I don't remember the name.
HC: Birth of a New World.
JV: Yes, I read it. I was surprised. I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, and where did you write it? Wingspread. I've been to the Social Summit, a number of places. My question to you is, as I am learning, I'm just a couple years younger than you. You started with the Kennedy administration. Is that where you first came to public service?
HC: No. I got into the government before the second world war. I was in the Board of Economic Warfare during the war. I went to Italy toward the end of the war and became part of the military government there although I was a civilian. I ran what we now call the foreign aide side of the economic aide. Transferred to UNRRA, UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, in Italy. They eventually sent me to China to head the mission in China. Then I came back and was in the Marshall Plan through the whole Marshall Plan. So I had a long period of public service before I then left the government and went into the magazine business and became dean of the maxwell School at Syracuse. Then came back with the Kennedy administration when I was already in my early 40's, just a year younger than Kennedy himself was.
JV: I look at John Kennedy and his era as starting a number of things that have brought us into where we're at now--part of the new world you wrote about. What do you look as being your greatest achievement in the Kennedy and then the Johnson administration?
HC: Well I think there were many different things that we did in those days. The spirit then was so different from now. It was a can-do spirit. We started the World Weather Watch which is the system everybody uses now for forecasting the weather all around the world. We had a whole series of institutional innovations that really set the framework for what's happened since in the international arena. We were involved in the eradication of small pox and other diseases. We managed to develop a peace-keeping function for the UN which has been very useful in the last 30 years in all sorts of places around the world. So I feel it was a great accomplishment to develop a UN with the capacity to act. It's still only a primitive capacity to act, but it's a beginning. It's gonna have to be very much more developed in the 21st century.
JV: In what way?
HC: In the way of developing a large, I hope, volunteer force that can go immediately in to keep people from fighting with each other and to settle down all these small wars and internal wars which now seem to be what we've got ahead of us. We're not gonna have the big war because we invented a weapon, an explosion that's too big to use. That means we've put a ceiling on the scale of warfare which is a first in world history. But we haven't got hold of the problem of settling down small wars and internal wars which more and more of the wars now are. So that's gonna be the great challenge for the UN, I think. The capacity to act, that we started building during the 60's I think is an important piece of that picture.
JV: Do you see NATO as a substitute for the UN, a UN army?
HC: No. I think NATO, as described in the UN Charter, is a regional body. It was explicitly set up within the framework of the UN Charter as a regional body. I believe that it can be useful and it has been useful in the Kosovo situation. When the UN was temporarily paralyzed by the fact that the Chinese and the Russians weren't interested in participating, (pause) interestingly once it was successful they came around; the Russians voted for it; the Chinese abstained and didn't use their veto. So it can work. I think the possibility of developing a world consensus on many important issues has been proven time and time again in the last half century.
JV: When we look at a world without war, I know Kennedy worked on that idea of a world without war where in your estimation are we? What needs to be done?
HC: I think we're probably never gonna have a world where nobody ever fights with each other. But we've already produced a situation where nuclear deterrence produces a standoff that didn't resolve in war over those 50 years. As I say, I think that the next step is to develop the peace-keeping and peace-building machinery that will tackle the next issue on the world horizon which is the proliferation of small wars and internal wars and try to develop situations in which it's possible for people to be different; and yet together and not have to go to war with each other just because they're different.
JV: Do you think we'll have to wait until we come into a time of spirituality versus the information age?
HC: I don't think it's versus the information age because it's a more sophisticated way of thinking about information [to] think about spiritual information. I think it will require a more spiritual quality to decision-making in the future. I think we're already moving toward that. A generation ago you couldn't have mentioned the word spiritual in a luncheon meeting like this without being regarded like a kook or something. Now it's on everybody's tongue.
JV: When you were at the Social Summit, I wasn't able to go to your workshop, but I think you did one on the global tax? Where do you see that now?
HC: I think that there's still a very strong case for developing a taxation system to enable international organizations not to have to wait for a hundred parliaments to do annual appropriations and so on. There are a lot of functions that are provided to human beings by the environment around us. We fly through the air that doesn't belong to anybody. We use satellites in space that doesn't belong to anybody. We float across oceans that don't belong to anybody. We use the electronic vibrations that enable us to keep in communication with each other. All those functions are naturals for taxing the use of those facilities. Paying to humankind as a whole, some tithe on the value of those environments to the people who use them, the communication companies and others that use them. So I think something like that will develop in the next century.
JV: Most recently I read, having now read about 3,000 pages of UN documents, I'm trying to catch up. I read the report called "Report from Iron Mountain". I myself was surprised at the number of goals and objectives that the Kennedy administration set that are the same goals and objectives of the UN. Would you agree with that assessment?
HC: That was what we were trying to do. I was the person in Washington at the State Department responsible for UN Affairs. We were trying to get the UN to say the things that we thought ought to be said, but we were also trying to get the Kennedy administration to say the things that would be compatible with a peaceful world. And he did. The substance for many of his speeches, particularly the ones at the UN, were developed in our office. So I feel very good about that literature. I think it stands up very well 40 years later.
JV: You mean the "Report from Iron Mountain"?
HC: Yeah. In general what Kennedy stood for when he said the purpose of our foreign policy is to make the world safe for diversity, it's a pretty good one-sentence summary of a very enlightened foreign policy.
JV: Was it democracy or diversity?
HC: No. Democracy was back in Woodrow Wilson's time. He changed the phrase to make the world safe for diversity. That, I think, was a very wonderful solvent? generalization.
JV: Kennedy also, according to the Report from Iron Mountain, they wanted to disarm and he really took a big step forward in disarmament. Based on that, where do you think we are at this point in disarmament?
HC: Well, not nearly far enough along and we're still, unfortunately, the world's biggest supplier of arms--the United States is. I think we got somewhere on tamping down the nuclear, made all of that stalled by the action in the Duma, new parliament of Russia. But I think those are good possibilities for the future. I think that we'll manage to get some certainly control on weapons of mass destruction. There have been some good developments both on biological and chemical warfare. I think if we keep our eye on that ball, we'll manage to hit it out of the park.
JV: One last question, sir. I have to go back to the "Report from Iron Mountain" for a moment. Report from Iron Mountain, would you say that today's goals and objectives of the UN pretty much are the "Report from Iron Mountain"?
HC: Well, I'd have to look at that particular paper again to make that judgment, which was a long time ago. But I think that in general what we were pushing for in the Kennedy administration is very much the current doctrine. The problem is that too many people who have either forgotten or never learned a lesson that the peoples of the world are gonna have to learn to be different yet together.
JV: What would you say in your long vast career, what would you say has been your greatest, biggest,...what's your shining star?
HC: Whatever I was doing at the time. I've been lucky to have a whole series of jobs both in government and academia each of which was enthralling at the time. So I think that if I had to make a judgment as to what was most important, I think it was my tendency to keep writing around the edges of whatever else I was doing so that I kept leaving a sort of legacy of philosophy as I went along.
Harlan Cleveland, political scientist and public executive (Taken from his book, Birth of a New World)
- currently, President, World Academy of Art and Science and President emeritus, Univ. of Hawaii
- founding dean, University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Inst. of Public Affairs and became
professor emeritus in 1988
- economic analyst, Board of Economic Warfare, during WWII
- Executive Director, economic section of Allied Control Commission in Italy
- Dep. Chief of mission for UNRRA (UN Relief and Rehabilitation Admin.) following WWII
- 1947, last director of UNRRA China Office, Shanghai
- 1948-1953, official of the Marshall Plan, building crescent of foreign aid programs in Far East, then asst. dir. of U.S. Mutual Security Agency for Europe, 1952-53
- 1953, Exec. Editor, then publisher, Reporter magazine
- 1956, appointed dean of Maxwell Graduate School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse Univ.
- Asst. Sec. of State for International Organization Affairs, Kennedy administration
- U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Johnson administration
- 1965, chair of Cabinet Committee on International Cooperation Year
- 1969-74, President, University of Hawaii
- 1974-80, developed and directed Program in International Affairs, Aspen Institute
- 1979, appointed distinguished visiting Tom Slick Professor of World Peace, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas
- 1980's, served two 3-year terms as trustee at large, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO
- Princeton University graduate
- Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in 1930's
- also served on numerous boards and is the recipient of 20 honorary degrees, U.S. Medal of Freedom, and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Award
- 1981, received Prix de Talloires, a Switzerland-based international award for "accomplished generalists"