This could almost be called a monumental volume, not so much because of its considerable size as because it is complete and impressive in the scope and quantity of its data. It is a reference work of the first quality. The first chapter traces the evolution of inter-American organization from its beginning in the abortive Panama Conference of 1826 to the Protocol of Amendment to the Charter of the Organization of American States in 1967. This provides a compact and useful survey, with emphasis on the period since 1945, and indicates some of the difference between the United States and the Latin American states in their approach to and intentions for an Inter-American system. Subsequent chapters, dealing with the principles, organization, and activities of the Organization of American States contain much additional material regarding the growth of the organization.
Having surveyed in general the evolution of the OAS, Margaret Ball logically considers next the principles underlying the Inter-American system. She notes that Latin American states have traditionally been particularly interested in the sovereignty and equality of states, the rule of law, and nonintervention. While the United States did not fully commit itself to nonintervention without reservations until the Inter-American Conference at Buenos Aires in 1936, it did so then in treaty form and has reaffirmed the principle in subsequent treaties, including the original Charter of the OAS and the so-called Revised Charter of 1967, referred to above, which was ratified by the United States in 1968 and proclaimed as in effect early in 1970 after this volume was published. Miss Ball notes, however, that the principle of nonintervention has been “honored in the breach as well as the observance” (p. 54). Other principles are also considered: self-determination, nonrecognition of territorial conquests, an armed attack against one to be regarded as an attack against all, and general responsibility for the improving of living standards. The application of these principles is more fully considered in Part III of the volume, where attention is given to the evolution of ideas as well as to specific events.
After these two chapters on the evolution and principles of the Inter-American system the book considers the general structure of the OAS under both the old and the revised Charters, and this discussion leads to Part II, dealing in detail with the structure and functioning of all the varied agencies of the organization. Save for a brief concluding chapter, the third section is a history of OAS activities. These are considered in a highly objective fashion although Miss Ball does not refrain from an occasional value judgment when the evidence for a conclusion is inescapable. She makes it clear, as other writers on Latin American relations have done, that the United States has been preoccupied with security matters, while the Latin American states have been more concerned with economic enterprise and with massive American economic assistance. She notes the growing tendency of the Latin American states to give primary attention to the economic and social aspects of the OAS.
It is implicit in Miss Ball’s account that the evolution and activities of the OAS have been achieved through endless conferences, almost innumerable resolutions and declarations, many treaties, and an enormous outpouring of words. She notes that a good many important matters in inter-American relations have been dealt with outside the institutions of the OAS, and that economic growth in Latin America falls far short of optimistic goals. Her tendency is to be generous, however, in appraising the accomplishments of the OAS and optimistic concerning its future usefulness. The volume contains several key documents, including the old and revised Charters and an extensive bibliography.