24. Paper Prepared in the Policy Planning Council1


Domination of the headlines by current crises such as Laos2 and Cuba3 has tended to give too negative an impression of the new and positive aspects of the Administration’s foreign policy. Positive themes should therefore be emphasized wherever possible. This paper cites examples of positive foreign policy themes immediately available and furnishes a basic inventory to which new themes can be added as they are developed.

1. Putting our own house in order. We are tackling the problems of our own society—accelerating our economic growth and setting an example of liberal democracy at work—because what we do at home is the necessary foundation of all genuine effectiveness abroad. The President’s domestic programs illustrate this, notably those concerned with economic growth, minimum wages, unemployment, depressed areas and racial discrimination.4

2. Civility of relations with friend and foe. In a new effort to influence the emergence of a world environment of peace and orderly politics, we are concentrating on understanding the essential interests of others, and the relationship of these interests to our own. Civility and a patient effort to understand and negotiate differences of viewpoint characterize our diplomacy toward friend and foe alike, in order that we may never be accused of prejudgment or a lack of honest effort.

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We are striking toward a new diplomatic style: talking less and listening more, and we shall always listen well before we talk firmly. Thus we are consulting more with other nations and leaders in Washington and at the UN, receiving more foreign visitors and spending more time with them, and exchanging more communications with heads of foreign governments and foreign ministers. We are trying to keep our differences with the Soviets and Chinese Communists in low key and are urgently reviewing the nature and extent of these differences in an effort to reduce tensions and ameliorate problems which we have inherited.

3. Political rather than military solutions. We have taken steps to show that we are not “trigger-happy” or “bomb rattlers”. We have exercised patience and restraint in Laos, Cuba and the Congo, for example, though the world knows that we possess the military strength to intervene unilaterally. Another example: The President has requested our military to mute their claims about American arms and their estimates of enemy intentions and strength; a conscious effort is being made to tailor Pentagon statements to the new White House specifications for diplomacy.

4. Military responsibilities in the nuclear age require flexibility of military response. World realities demand that we maintain military strength and the invulnerability of our deterrent power (step-up in Polaris and Minuteman production; emphasis on hardening and shelter concept). But we are no longer committed to a rigid doctrine of “massive retaliation”; instead “any potential aggressor . . . must know that our response will be suitable, selective, swift and effective.” (President’s Defense Budget message5—new emphasis on build-up of conventional forces, development of Special Forces and counter-guerrilla doctrine and operations, strengthening of STRAC airlift capabilities, etc.)

5. We arm to parley and to disarm. Notwithstanding the necessity of improving and balancing our military posture in important respects—in order that we may be the better able to negotiate and to defend essential interests during prolonged negotiations—, the President has recommitted us to serious and patient efforts to effect a suspension of nuclear testing and an amelioration of the present arms race under viable, secure and verifiable safeguards. This effort, which we regard as both important and urgent, is proceeding under Mr. McCloy’s lead[Page 77]ership.6 Complementary to the general theme of disarmament and arms control is the theme, enunciated by Secretary of State Rusk in his Charter Day (University of California) address,7 that as we take progressive steps in arms control we must also work toward bringing into being a world of law and order by strengthening the constitutional structure for settling disputes and supporting the processes of law with effective international police forces.

6. Sanctity of alliances. We have reassured our allies that we shall continue to live up to our collective security commitments (new sense of SEATO cohesion effected at Bangkok meeting;8 review of NATO).9 Though we are starting a new chapter (see below) in our relations with the non-committed neutralist nations, improved relations with these nations will not devalue or diminish the importance of our existing alliances. Where possible and practicable, we are seeking to broaden military alliances into alliances which promise closer political and economic ties (NATO review political and economic recommendations, regional economic plans for CENTO, the Alliance for Progress10).

7. More positive roles for NATO . We have extensively reviewed the nature of the NATO military alliance (reaching conclusions which will support constructive new military programs). We have also reap[Page 78]praised the potential for NATO’s becoming a more positive political force which can point toward closer integration of the Atlantic Community (the Vice President’s speech to NATO).11

8. Closer Atlantic Community economic cooperation. Through the OECD we will encourage close consultation and coordination on economic policy between the member countries in order to promote more effective utilization of their productive capacities and the highest sustainable stability and growth of their economies (efforts to ameliorate divisive effects of the Inner Six and Outer Seven).12

9. Responsibilities of Atlantic Community toward less developed world. We have reviewed the forms of assistance which we and the principal industrialized nations of the West, together with Japan, can make to the new and modernizing nations and to the few remaining colonial territories which aspire to independence. We have launched programs through OECD and DAG which will proceed on a basis of joint international responsibility and the earmarking of long-term financial resources in support of the efforts of the less developed portions of the world to modernize.

10. Support of the United Nations. We continue to support the purposes and programs of the UN, in the Congo and elsewhere, and the integrity of the office of its Secretary General. We favor creation of a permanent UN force, held in readiness for immediate use when the Secretary General is empowered to act in emergencies like that of the Congo. We have strengthened our representation at the UN and have widened our consultative processes there. In particular, we are taking advantage of the opportunities the UN forum offers for collaboration with newly independent countries. To those who aver that the recent dramatic increase in UN membership has produced problems, we respond that each problem thus produced offers new opportunities for understanding and creative diplomacy.

11. Multilateral as well as bilateral solutions. We have widened our approaches on specific problems to embrace multilateral approaches, through UN agencies or otherwise, when such promise beneficial results or are preferred by the recipient country. Examples are the Congo, US contributions to the UN Special Fund,13 and the President’s [Page 79] recommendation that the bulk of the Act of Bogota14 funds be expended through the Inter-American Development Bank.

12. The torch of the American revolution still burns. In his Inaugural Address,15 President Kennedy recommitted our national purpose to the verities of our own revolution and to the fulfillment of these verities within our domestic society and in our conduct of foreign relations. Because we profoundly believe in the truths and purposes of the American revolution, we shall, while eschewing any pretentions to cultural “imperialism”, continue to hold out a helping and protective hand to all people whose purposes coincide with our own. By word and action we will continue to show that we do not stand for the status quo, that we recognize the nature of the revolutionary changes at work throughout the world, and that we are capable of developing new diplomatic and economic tools with which we can more constructively influence the forces at work.

13. Diversity within a world of freedom. The President, on the basis of our own revolution, has recommitted us to the survival and success of both personal and national liberty. Thus our concept of a Free World of orderly polities admits of diversities from our own way of life and system of institutions. For example, we are giving aid to many governments committed to forms of neutralism in foreign policy, or state socialism or mixed economies at home—e.g., centrally prepared and directed development plans, or public-owned enterprises.

14. Understanding of neutralism. We no longer condemn nations which wish to remain non-committed in the world struggle. Though we can never ourselves again return to our former isolationism and disentanglement from the world’s other continents, and we naturally recognize and cherish the special ties that link some nations with us, we can understand that non-alignment may serve the national interests of some new nations better than does a policy of military alliance or active participation in the Cold War. We recognize in any case that the most constructive contributions to human progress which many developing nations can make is to build the strength to protect their own genuine national independence. Toward nations so situated and motivated, our relationship will be one of cooperation and sympathetic understanding.

15. Sympathy toward aspirations of colonial peoples. We are encouraging the preparation of the few remaining colonial areas of the world [Page 80] for responsible self-government and ultimate independence (Angola Resolution).16 We sympathize with the aspirations of colonial peoples to join the family of free nations. But we maintain that independence without adequate preparations can be as dangerous as failure to prepare for the inevitability of independence. Our encouragement of colonial “liberation” in the world’s remaining colonial areas will generally proceed therefore in consultation with the metropoles involved; our effort will be one of helping metropole and colony alike to achieve as rational and orderly a solution of the problems of transition as human nature permits.

16. Reduction of racist tensions and discriminations. While working on our own racial problem, we are inviting other nations to do the same (US position on UN resolution on South Africa).17 We have made special efforts to censure and bring an end to unwarranted discriminations visited on foreign colored diplomats and visitors and to set a style of dealing with the new Afro-Asian nations on a basis which will fortify their own aspirations toward being accepted on a basis of dignity and equality. Examples: new procedures employed by Department’s Office of Protocol and USUN.

17. Crusade against mankind’s common enemies. Across the many diversities of today’s world, we appeal to all nations to join with us in a crusade against mankind’s common enemies: tyranny, poverty, disease, illiteracy, and war itself. Examples: Act of Bogota, Alliance for Progress, new approach to foreign aid, support of the UN in the Congo and elsewhere.

18. Scientific cooperation. The President has repeatedly (Inaugural Address, State of Union Message, Alliance for Progress speech)18 called for increased scientific cooperation between ourselves and the Soviets, as well as others.

19. Campaign for education and cultural exchange. Within the context of our foreign aid program, as supplemented by other resources, we are focusing greater effort and resources to programs to combat illiteracy, to raise the levels of technical and vocational education within developing societies, and to increase the extent and richness of cultural exchange between our society and others. (Alliance for Progress speech, Coombs’ program.)

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20. The East-West Center at the University of Hawaii has been established to promote further technical and cultural exchanges between the United States and Asia.19 Ninety individuals are now enrolled on the basis of scholarships—80 from Asia and 10 from the United States.

21. Cultural America. The President and Mrs. Kennedy have taken a lead in re-emphasizing the importance in our national life of our own rich heritage of literature, music, and the arts (Robert Frost as unofficial poet-laureate, selections of paintings and Colonial period furniture for White House, personal tastes and reading habits, etc.) and of our appreciation for the cultural achievements of other nations and of expatriates from other nations who have found a home in this country.

22. The return of the intellectual to government is a concomitant of a new emphasis on the less material aspects of our civilization. A large number of our leaders in a variety of fields of political and economic thought—and from the field of science—have been brought into government from both parties for posts at home and abroad from which they can contribute to a ferment of new ideas for new frontiers.

23. Leadership of change through foreign aid. While recognizing the obvious limitations and difficulties, we propose to accept the challenge of change throughout the world and to exert more effective leadership over change by reorganizing our foreign aid effort. For the first time, we propose to unify the various instrumentalities of foreign assistance, to provide a central focus on all aspects of a country’s development problem, and to provide aid within carefully conceived country and regional development plans which will maintain, insofar as possible, a balance between social progress, political and institutional development, and economic growth.20

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24. Aid for social development. We have learned that economic growth within a society does not guarantee the advancement of the whole society, or promise progress within free institutions, unless the fruits of economic growth are equitably distributed. The accomplishment of such social justice will be a major consideration in our future foreign aid effort.

25. Alliance for Progress: A new ideal of Pan-Americanism. In his March 13 and April 14 speeches,21 the President launched and carried forward the most dynamic and far-reaching program for socio-economic development ever announced for the Pan-American community of nations. He called for the “completion of the American revolution” and defined “a new ideal of Pan-Americanism” as “recreating our social systems so that they will better serve both men and our people”. The President’s new Alianza para (el) Progreso, which in large part is based on the Act of Bogota, not only fixed the framework of US-Latin American relations in the developmental field for the next decade but sets a model for forms of assistance and cooperation with other less developed areas. The President’s Message to Congress of March 1422 requested the appropriation of the $500 million initially required to commence implementation of the Act of Bogota.

26. Long-term financing for long-term development. We seek to cross another new frontier which we believe vital to the development process. In return for long-term financial commitments on our part, we hope to influence developing nations to formulate realistic and viable development plans which fix goals, priorities and self-help targets, and which place adequate and balanced attention on the social, institutional and economic components of the development process.

27. Stabilization of commodity prices. We have indicated that we, together with the industrialized nations of Western Europe, intend to work harder at resolving the problem of effecting more stable prices for exports of primary products—a problem which is acute to most of Latin America and Africa, and to many countries in Free Asia.

28. Trade and let trade. We continue to press ahead in GATT 23 and other forums for the future liberalization of trade. New frontiers in this area are intimately related to new approaches to foreign aid, to the stabilization of commodity prices, to the problem of imports from low-wage countries, and to the closer integration of the European and Atlantic Communities.

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29. Food for Peace is another positive program which can make an increasingly vital US contribution to the Free World’s crusade against mankind’s enemies of hunger and malnutrition. We have gloriously achieved abundance which we must find ever more effective ways of sharing.

30. Regional development. We have let it be known that we shall support multinational development projects which promise regional development and integration. The Mekong River Project of Southeast Asia24 is a recent example in point (Harriman speech to ECAFE).25 We have recently authorized funds to promote the Central American Customs Union and are similarly willing to assist in implementing the regional integration plans of certain West African and South American nations. We are similarly assisting regional economic projects of CENTO.

31. Research in the development process. A sustained effort on the part of the industrialized nations of the West, and Japan, to assist in nourishing democratic development throughout the less developed world, will require research into the various aspects of the development process, including the education of people in the phenomena of development and modernization. Substantial programs of research are being undertaken in these fields.

32. The Peace Corps is a positive program for action which has met with a wide and enthusiastic response at home and abroad because of its concept of returning to the “true” America of personal sacrifice and constructive deed. The concept of Young America volunteering for non-remunerative service abroad in assistance of less privileged people is the more appealing because of the somewhat false image of our youth which is extant in many parts of the world by reason of our movies and publicity on US juvenile delinquency. The discharge of the great purpose and concept of the Peace Corps by carefully selected and trained American youth, especially if done with adaptive empathy and good manners, can have an enormous positive effect in improving the American image and in developing a greater appreciation abroad for the American system of values. The internationalization of the Peace Corps which is being discussed, could make it even more effective and acceptable.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of Plans, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Acc. #65A175, Entry UD WW 288, Box 131, State—Policy Planning 1961 IOP/823. Official Use Only. McGhee sent the paper to Murrow under an April 19 covering memorandum, in which he commented: “I thought you might be interested in the attached paper, ‘Positive Foreign Policy Themes’, from the standpoint both of action and of public relations. I should in any event appreciate your reactions, together with any additional positive themes which occur to you.” (Ibid.) Murrow’s May 2 response to McGhee is ibid.
  2. Three factions were vying for control of Laos. At his March 23 news conference (see footnote 3, Document 21), the President called for an end to hostilities and for negotiations leading to a neutral and independent Laos.
  3. The Bay of Pigs operation began on April 17.
  4. The President outlined several initiatives related to housing, unemployment, minimum wage, distressed area redevelopment, disability insurance, and surplus commodity distribution in his February 2 special message to Congress regarding a program for economic recovery and growth. For the text of the message, see Public Papers: Kennedy, 1961, pp. 41–53.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 19. The message stated: “Our defense posture must be both flexible and determined. Any potential aggressor contemplating an attack on any part of the Free World with any kind of weapons, conventional or nuclear, must know that our response will be suitable, selective, swift, and effective.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1961, p. 232)
  6. In a January 27 letter to McCloy, the President designated him as his adviser on disarmament and arms control; see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. VII, Arms Control and Disarmament, Document 2. Documentation on the Geneva Conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests is ibid.
  7. In his March 20 address at the University of California at Berkeley, Rusk remarked: “Disarmament would be simple in a world in which the major political issues have been resolved. Since we cannot expect an early end to rivalry and discord, and since an arms race adds to tension, our present task is the far more difficult one of finding measures which will safely permit reductions in arms while a world of law and order is coming into being. This is why effective inspection and control are required, why progressive steps appear to be a prudent procedure, why the constitutional structure for settling disputes must be strengthened, and why effective international police forces are needed to support the processes of law.” (Department of State Bulletin, April 10, 1961, p. 518)
  8. The seventh meeting of the SEATO Council took place in Bangkok March 27–29. For Rusk’s statement at the March 27 opening session, see Department of State Bulletin, April 17, 1961, pp. 547–549.
  9. At his February 8 news conference, the President indicated that Rusk was undertaking a study of U.S. policy regarding NATO and would be aided by an advisory group headed by former Secretary of State Dean Acheson. (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1961, p. 67) On April 12, U.S. and West German officials met to discuss NATO. According to the memorandum of conversation of the meeting, Rusk “noted that the Chancellor [Adenauer] had spoken of the need for United States leadership in NATO. He said that the President had taken this very seriously and had asked the various branches of this government to examine very carefully what the United States could do to put new life and strength into NATO.” ( Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XIII, Western Europe and Canada, Document 98) For the resultant policy statement, drafted by members of an interagency NATO working group, see ibid., Document 100.
  10. See footnotes 2 and 4, Document 17.
  11. Reference is to Vice President Johnson’s November 21, 1960, speech, made while he was Vice President-elect, before members of parliament from the NATO countries, meeting in Paris. (A.M. Rosenthal, “Johnson Suggests Wider NATO Role In Economic Field,” The New York Times, November 22, 1960, pp. 1, 4) For the text of the speech, see “Text of Johnson’s Address Before NATO Parliamentary Conference,” ibid., p. 4.
  12. The Inner Six were Belgium, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The Outer Seven were Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
  13. Resolution 1240 (XIII), adopted by the UN General Assembly on October 14, 1958, provided for the establishment of a special fund to provide assistance in the fields of technical, economic, and social development of “less developed” nations.
  14. Adopted and approved by the Organization of American States in September and October 1960, the Act recommended various measures for social improvement and economic development in Latin America. The text of the Act is printed in Department of State Bulletin, October 3, 1960, pp. 537–540.
  15. See footnote 2, Document 7.
  16. Presumable reference to U.S. support of a draft UN Security Council resolution urging Portugal to introduce reforms in Angola; see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXI, Africa, footnote 2, Document 347.
  17. Presumable reference to Resolution 1596 (XV), adopted by the UN General Assembly on April 17.
  18. See footnote 2, Document 9, and footnote 4, Document 17.
  19. The Mutual Security Act of 1960 (P.L. 86–472; 74 Stat. 134), which Eisenhower signed into law on May 16, 1960, contained provisions for the establishment of the East-West Center.
  20. On March 22, the President sent a special message to Congress regarding foreign assistance, noting that the current structure would be inadequate to meet the needs of the next decade. He expressed his administration’s objective of consolidating all of the programs of the International Cooperation Administration (ICA), Development Loan Fund (DLF), Food for Peace (FFP), Peace Corps, and Export-Import Bank (Ex–Im) into a single agency. For the text of the President’s message, see Public Papers: Kennedy, 1961, pp. 203–212. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87–195; 75 Stat. 424), which the President signed into law on September 4, assigned responsibility and authority for foreign development aid programs to a single entity—the Agency for International Development (AID)—within the Department of State. The Agency would replace both ICA and DLF. For additional information about the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the establishment of AID, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXV, Organization of Foreign Policy; Information Policy; United Nations; Scientific Matters, Documents 69 and 72 and Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. IX, Foreign Economic Policy, Documents 100, 103, and 116.
  21. See footnotes 4 and 8, Document 17.
  22. Reference is to the President’s special message to Congress, dated March 14, requesting appropriations for the Inter-American Fund for Social Progress and for reconstruction in Chile. For the text, see Public Papers: Kennedy, 1961, pp. 176–181.
  23. The Dillon Round of the GATT began in Geneva in September 1960.
  24. In 1957 the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East initiated the Mekong River Basin Development Project, designed to improve the uses of the Mekong River for navigation, irrigation, and hydroelectric power, thus contributing to increased development in the area.
  25. On March 17, Harriman addressed the delegates attending the annual ECAFE meeting in New Delhi. (“Harriman Favors Rise in Aid to Asia,” The New York Times, March 18, 1961, p. 2)