Memorandum by Mr. Charles S. Reed of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs to the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Butterworth)


As requested the following comments and suggestions are submitted relative to the subject matter of Mr. Rusk’s memorandum of July 27, transmitting a copy of Mr. Jessup’s1 letter to him.2 It will be recalled that that memorandum and letter asked how we could meet anti-American propaganda directed by Moscow to the emergent nations of Southeast Asia.

There is every indication that Moscow is turning more and more attention to the Far East, particularly to Southeast Asia, and it can be expected that that attention will be expressed by intensified propaganda stressing Soviet friendship for colonial peoples and attacking the US as condoning and even leading the imperialist exploitation of such peoples. We have, therefore, the pressing problem, and one that will continue so long as the Soviet and the US are in diametrically opposed camps and accept fundamentally contradictory ideologies, of convincing the peoples of Southeast Asia that Moscow is not their real champion, that Soviet tactics have an ulterior and far from altruistic motive, that the US is desirous of their ultimate obtention of independence, and that the US is sincerely and unselfishly interested in their progress.

Propaganda countering that of Moscow is the first means of orienting the peoples of Southeast Asia away from the Soviets and towards the US. Our propaganda program should be aggressive as we are laying the foundation for the future—in a few years most if not all of the major oriental races will have emerged as nations and will be in a position to form an oriental bloc for or against us.

One part of our attack should emphasize the inequities of Soviet policy and purpose by making clear to the peoples of Southeast Asia that communism and nationalism are not one and the same thing, that communist penetration is incompatible with and spells the end of independence, and that a communist state is but a satellite of Moscow with no scope for uncontrolled action or thought. We have plenty of ammunition for this attack in the examples of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and others.

In contrast to the Soviet record of infiltration, broken pledges, [Page 608] elimination of sincere nationalists, and smothering of liberties, we should present our case by employing some if not all of the following:

Make known that US policy towards emergent nations is to grant full political recognition at the earliest possible moment and to support their active participation in the family of nations. In this we can make use of our record in the Philippines, in the Good Offices Committee in Indonesia,3 our approval of the liberal British policy in Burma and Malaya, et cetera.
Publicize our readiness to loan technical experts in the fields of economic and social endeavor to emergent nations, so as to prepare them to take their place and compete in the modern world. As a part of this we can encourage American business interests to initiate and enlarge their efforts in trade and industrial relations, stressing the positive contribution American business can make and disabusing the peoples of Southeast Asia of the idea that American business means exploitation per se.
Initiate and advertise a substantial program of bringing qualified students to the US for educational and training purposes, so that these students may take back to their countries a full knowledge of our ideas and ways of life and be able to contrast our freedoms with the lack of liberties in Soviet-controlled lands.

The efforts of missionary and religious organizations which emphasize educational and medical work should be of propaganda value.

By the above we should be able to demonstrate the fallacies extant and inherent in Soviet propaganda, to bring into the clear the practical benefits of orientation towards the US and, by implication, the unhappy results of not following such orientation. In all this we should definitely avoid the appearance of being dependent upon the emergent nations but should endeavor to “put across” the idea that their independence and future prosperity depend solely upon the US.

Much can be done in the immediate future and as a long-range program by USIS activities expressed through the printed word, by visual means, and with the radio. We should outdo by repetition and emphasis the repetitious anti-US propaganda now flowing from Soviet and Soviet-controlled sources.

Mention has been made above as to the possible formation of an oriental bloc. This is a development for the future, for there is at present a distinct lack of regional cohesion in Southeast Asia. The nearest approach to such a development has been the Southeast Asia League, which has had to date remarkably little success. A hinted approach to such a development has been the rather nebulous movement to league together Indonesia, Malaya and the four southern provinces of [Page 609] Siam—the basis for the movement being the Muslim populations and the inspiration coming from Muslim leaders. The foregoing would explain the overall interest of the Islamic world in the emergent nations of Southeast Asia and the Islamic appeal for assistance for Southeast Asia nationalism. In this connection we should endeavor to strengthen our ties with the Islamic world, by which the US has been highly regarded hitherto by reason of a tradition of fairness and altruism, and in such an endeavor we might find it advantageous to back Turkey, an important figure in the Islamic world, for one of the non-permanent seats on the Security Council.

In sum, our answer to Soviet anti-US propaganda should be to attack along the lines indicated—our present appeal to emergent nations should be to harp incessantly upon our willingness to assist them to attain national independence to the extent of their capacity therefor, with our record in the Philippines ever in the foreground. But we should keep in mind that it may well not be in the interest of the US to contribute at this time to regionalism in national movements in Southeast Asia and that it may be advantageous to play one country off against another until we are certain that regionalism in Southeast Asia will be oriented towards the US. Our long-range policy will naturally be guided by developments in Soviet-US relations.

  1. Philip C. Jessup, Deputy Chief of the United States Mission at the United Nations.
  2. Neither the memorandum nor the letter is printed.
  3. For documentation on the interest of the United States in nationalist opposition to the restoration of Netherlands rule in the East Indies and consideration by the United Nations Security Council of the Indonesian case, see vol. vi, pp. 57 ff.