Hoping to avoid the meltdown in world trade that followed WWI, especially after the Smoot-Hawley Tariff , Americans and Western Europeans set up GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), which later became known as the WTO (World Trade Organization). Later, other countries joined the group. The WTO arbitrates trade disputes between countries, refereeing global commerce and encouraging low trade barriers. In the late 20th century, the head of the WTO kept photos of Senator Reed Smoot and Representative Willis Hawley over his desk as a reminder of what can happen with too much protectionism. As we saw in Chapter 8, world trade plummeted after the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff. Unlike its predecessor, the League of Nations , the U.N. had authority to act militarily, but only with the authorization of its Security Council – an upper tier made up of WWII’s victors: the United States, USSR (Soviet Union), England, France and China. All countries in the world belonged to the 2nd tier, but any one vote on the Security Council could nix an initiative. With the U.S. and USSR both on the Security Council, the Cold War trumped any idealistic notions that the U.N. could usher in an age of world peace. Nonetheless, the organization has done more good than harm in terms of battling hunger, disease, poverty, etc., intervened in two major conflicts (Korea and the 1st Gulf War), and conducts nuclear weapons inspections in rogue countries. The U.N. had a curious religious implication as well. It inadvertently helped fuel a cottage industry in apocalyptic novels like the best-selling Left Behind series, since some Fundamentalists see world government as a portal for the Anti-Christ. That contributes to the U.N.'s unpopularity among some Americans. Most U.N. skeptics, though, just don't like seeing the U.S. subordinated to a higher authority. So far, the U.N. has never become an actual world government that subordinates anyone's ultimate authority. It's more of a forum for countries to meet in and argue or air out problems. It doesn't have any power beyond that which individual nation-states like the U.S. give it. Like corporations, charity organizations (UNICEF, Amnesty International) and smaller political units (in the U.S., states, counties and cities), the U.N. is ruled by nation-states (i.e. countries). Containment The U.S. had a range of policy options to pick from in fighting the Cold War. They could have taken a live-and-let-live approach, and hoped Soviet communism wouldn’t impact them directly. That would have been difficult given the aforementioned importance of global trade, and the importance of military spending to the U.S. economy. Joseph Stalin’s combative speeches spoke of the long-term incompatibility of the two systems. Another option would’ve been pre-emptive nuclear strikes to rid the world of Soviet communism before it could pose a threat; the USSR didn't develop the bomb until 1949. Aside from moral and logistical problems with that approach (though it was favored by some), most Americans were not in the mood for World War III in the late 1940s. President Truman arrived at a middle option called
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