Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Brazilian Affairs (Chalmers)

Intervention in Paraguayan Affairs

I find it very difficult to follow the reasoning in Mr. Halle’s memorandum of August 22 on the above subject. It seems to me that there is much confusion over the meaning of the word “intervention”.

The United States is committed, by convention and otherwise, to assist in the solution of the economic problems of our Latin American neighbors. One of the implied conditions of such assistance, however, is that the nations to be assisted conduct their own internal affairs in a manner which will permit such assistance to accomplish its objectives. [Page 1307] This condition is in no way weakened because it is implied rather than express[ed].

The American people should not, and will not, long tolerate the extension of “loans” to nations unable to put their own houses in order, especially if the funds in question are diverted to useless armed forces. We have no obligation of any kind to support uneconomic conditions or to assist our neighbors to the south in digging their own graves by buttressing wasteful and unnecessary military establishments. On the other hand, we have a positive obligation to inform these countries in clear and unmistakable terms of the minimum conditions under which our assistance can reasonably be expected. If this is “intervention”, then let us have a great deal more of it.

Our own welfare depends to a large extent on the soundness of economic conditions in this Hemisphere. We cannot dodge our responsibilities in this connection by hiding behind the nebulous curtain of “non-intervention”. In fact some countries are so dependent on the United States that whatever is done, or not done, is intervention in any event, according to the interpretation which some persons have persistently put upon that word.

I consider that RPA’s draft64 of a reply to Asunción’s 429, August 17, noon, is excellent. It states a sound, realistic policy. Personally, I should like to see some of its qualifying phraseology removed and the policy set forth adopted in toto by this Government as a guide in its economic relations with all of Latin America. I recognize the political aspects of the problem, but we cannot overlook the fact that political actualities, more often than not, have their ultimate source in economic considerations.

  1. Draft not found in Department files, but see telegram 284, August 27, 6 p.m., to Asunción, infra.