To convince you, I will use a hypothetical:
The position of U.N. Secretary General becomes vacant. The President of the United States, Harry S. Tompkins, nominates an American for the post: Commodore Dora “Old Mac” MacIntyre. Old Mac garners sufficient votes among U.N. member states, and she becomes Secretary General. (Yes, I know—an American Secretary General is very unlikely—but cut me some slack—this is a hypothetical.) Mac is a busy woman, and for whatever reason, she fails to take herself off the list of actively serving U.S. naval officers.
A year into Old Mac’s term (as Secretary General), and three years into Tompkins first term (as President), the U.N. Security Council authorizes a
President Harry Tompkins is running for reelection. He does not want a high American body count (at least not quite yet), but at the same time he had directed the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the mission. So he cannot withdraw U.S. forces either. What to do? The legal advisor to the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon sends President Tompkins a memorandum reminding the President that Old Mac is still very much on the U.S. Navy’s active duty list. The legal advisor says, Just order Old Mac to take U.S. troops out of Port Kelvin. The President issues his “order”—marked “Top Secret: for your eyes only”—and sends it to Old Mac through the Joint Chiefs, and then via special messenger. The Security Council was not in the loop; indeed, Old Mac felt duty bound to disclose the “order” to the Security Council, which proceeded to disclose the order to the world.
My fellow Americans—I was born an American, I am an American, and I will remain a loyal American until I die. I am also—for a short time—Secretary General of the United Nations.
I have this position only because during World War II, the United States lawfully ratified the U.N. Charter, making that treaty part of the supreme law of our land. I have this position only because President Tompkins nominated me to this post, to be held by me while on loan from my regular duties in the United States Navy, to which I hope to return one day. I am only here because the General Assembly elected me to this post. And, I am only here because the U.N. Security Council authorized this mission and also gave me personal operational control over Road to Ranzibar. As long as I hold the position of Secretary General, and in regard to my responsibilities relating to this or any other U.N. authorized mission, I am not amenable to so-called orders issued by the President and/or the Joint Chiefs. I say that with respect and with regret. Today, I stand before you not as a Commodore in the U.S. Navy; instead, I stand before you as an international civil servant and the military commander of an international peacekeeping force. During this time, I am answerable exclusively to the Security Council, and I am obligated to obey its orders, and not the President’s.
When the President’s purported order reached me, I was duty bound to turn that document over to the Security Council. Again, I say all this with considerable respect and with regret. The President’s legal advisers have given him poor advice. The reality is that a functioning United Nations, as embodied by the Charter, and the conventions of customary international law, positively mandate that U.N. officers are answerable to the U.N. and the Security Council, and not to the member state governments from which they came.
The President may have put me here, but I am not answerable to him. Indeed, other nations are only willing to participate in U.N. actions because they believe that U.N. officers are acting independently of instructions from member state governments. We all know this. Strict obedience to the President’s order would be the very death knell of the U.N. It is the President’s so-called order which threatens the rule of law, not my failure to obey it.
As a legal matter, the President’s order is void, but I acknowledge that as a practical matter I cannot successfully pursue my duties, and Road to Ranzibar cannot succeed, without the active support of the President. Too many lives may be lost, too much treasure will be wasted, if I allow this mission’s success to be hindered by personalities, stubbornness, and error—from whatever source it may have sprung. For all these reasons, I choose to resign from my position as Secretary General, and I will continue to stay out of politics, as I have in the past, and as I have up until and including this very day.
Having now resigned all international offices and responsibilities, I close with: May God bless and keep our armed forces in safety, everywhere.
So here is my question:
Under what authority could Truman order MacArthur to do anything during the Korean conflict?