Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson) to the Secretary of State


It is not believed that the policy outlined in the attached telegram42 is inconsistent with our policy in China.

The communists in various countries and areas of the world pursue tactics which differ widely according to the political, economic and social situation in these territories. Since their tactics vary, it is not possible for us to approach the communist problem in each country in the same manner.

The situation in Burma differs widely from that in China and the communist tactics also differ:

In the first place, the communists in China are in physical control of large portions of that country; they are fairly well supplied with arms and are in a position, if they so desire, to wage civil war on a large scale. In Burma, on the other hand, the communists are not as yet in possession of any defined areas, but are dispersed throughout the whole country.
Burma, which has heretofore been under British rule, is in the process of achieving full self-government. We are anxious that this process will be completed without the outbreak of civil war. On the other hand, the communists, if permitted to strengthen their influence in Burma, would not be adverse to armed conflict. Our policy, therefore, of preventing them from gaining influence by obtaining a foothold in the government is similar to that in China in that it is one of preventing, if possible, civil war.
In this connection, it should be pointed out that an amicable understanding with the British has recently been reached in London only because the Burmese national leaders broke away from a united front with the communists several months ago. Restoration of this united front is almost sure to mean the sabotaging of the agreement and of a return to a policy based upon threat of force.
The present Burmese national leadership is by no means reactionary and advocates a liberal program of social and economic reform. In this respect these leaders differ from the more reactionary elements in the Kuomintang.

In our opinion, therefore, only by excluding the communists will the nationalist democratic elements in Burma be able to unite among themselves to an extent which will make possible the setting up of enlightened self-government in that country.

It is, of course, possible that the communists will in any event endeavor to stir up armed conflict. Nevertheless, their exclusion from the government offers our best hope that this conflict will not develop into hostilities on a broad scale.

Loy W. Henderson
  1. Infra.