Under Secretary’s Meetings1

Record of the Under Secretary’s Meeting, Department of State, April 15, 1949 2

top secret

1. Measures Required To Achieve U.S. Objectives With Respect to the U.S.S.R. (D–28) (Top Secret)3

Mr. Kennan pointed out that the Military, because of the nature of its own planning, seems to be unable to realize that in a field of foreign policy specific planning cannot be undertaken as they propose in the above paper. He said he had all along raised objection to this approach. He felt that once the President had approved the broad objectives paper, no further detailed programming was necessary or desirable. He criticized the paper because of its assumption that a war with Russia is necessary, whereas the Department has drawn the assumption that some modus vivendi was possible.
Mr. Webb recognized the merit of Mr. Kennan’s comment but asked whether it was adequate. If this is not the paper that the President needs, what then is the character of the paper that the President [Page 284]needs? Can it not be pointed out to the Military that the Department has in fact had some very specific programs in implementation of the objectives papers; for example, Yugoslav Economic Relations, Korea, Formosa, The Pact, Military Assistance.
Mr. Bohlen generally criticized the constant reference to objectives in foreign policy. He damned “peace” as an objective and said it is not an objective. Rather, in foreign policy it is a question of direction and method. Particularly important is the estimate of time periods. We are not now in the military phase in our relations with the Russians. But we must look ahead. Certain things must be done now in terms of a long-range projection. He cited hypothetically that if in 1953 we should find that the Russian war wounds are healed, her industry re-established, her military on a firm footing and in possession of the atom bomb, we might be in a position to say: “What should we have done in 1949?[”] Will it be a question of too little and too late? Furthermore, whereas he would agree that the present paper must be rejected, he seemed to agree with Mr. Webb’s approach that there should be, taking into account the time phasing, a flexible blueprint or method.
Mr. Rusk cautioned that the NSC procedure may be getting into the condition which confronts us in the UN, namely, that no question can be talked about unless there is a resolution on the problem. He argued that there is considerable merit in discussing objectives (or direction, as Mr. Bohlen prefers) without necessarily signing a document on means of implementation.
The Staff generally and roundly condemned the paper as being extremely dangerous and one which could be pointed to by agencies in the future saying: “See, the President has given his approval for this or that action”.4
[Here, as in other recent instances, the Staff reflected the uncertainty of the purpose and use of the National Security Council. However, Mr. Webb threw in an interesting point, that he felt it necessary for the Department to work with Admiral Souers in order that the State Department could give direction to the use which the President would make of the NSC.…]5

[Here follow an informal expression of Reber’s opinion inserted by him when drafting the record of the meeting, and discussion of other subjects.]

  1. Lot 53D250, retired by the Department’s Executive Secretariat, contains the records of the Under Secretary of State’s Staff Meetings for the years 1949–1952.
  2. Under Secretary of State James E. Webb held regular staff meetings beginning in February 1949, attended’ by the principal officers of the Department. It was decided at the first meeting, February 3, that meetings would generally be held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings and would be confined to one hour. Webb explained that he expected the meetings to provide him with a closer relationship with those attending, to permit examination of problems at an early stage, to make certain that lines of responsibility were clearly understood, and where practicable to reach agreement on policy matters. (Under Secretary’s Meetings: Lot 53D250)

    The following Department officers attended the meeting of April 15: Webb; Rusk; Bohlen; Kennan; George V. Allen, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs; W. Park Armstrong, Jr., Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Research and Intelligence; W. Walton Butterworth, Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs; Paul C. Daniels, Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs; Ernest A. Gross, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations and Chairman of FACC; John D. Hickerson, Director of the Office of European Affairs; Robert D. Murphy, Director of the Office of German and Austrian Affairs; Walter A. Radius, Director of the Office of Transport and Communications; Charles E. Saltzman, Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas; Joseph C. Satterthwaite, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs; Jack B. Tate, Assistant Legal Adviser; Paul Nitze, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs; Carlisle H. Humelsine, Director of the Executive Secretariat; and James Q. Reber of the Executive Secretariat.

    The record was prepared by Reber.

  3. Same as Draft Report by the National Security Council Staff, March 30, p. 271.
  4. According to the Action Summary of this meeting, not printed, it was decided that Kennan would request NSC Executive Secretary Souers to remove the draft report from the agenda of the NSC. Kennan was also to arrange a conversation between Webb, Souers, and himself to discuss why the Department of State did not consider the paper the proper approach and what type of paper was actually required. (Under Secretary’s Meetings: Lot 53D250)
  5. Brackets appear in the source text.