The Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Rusk)1 to the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Burns)

top secret

Dear General Burns: In the light of your assurances this morning that the roles which we shall seek to have the governments of Latin America accept for their armed forces in the collective defense of the hemisphere will be fully coordinated with the Department of State before and during the process of discussion with Latin American military representatives, we can agree to your suggestion to delete the latter half of paragraph 17 of the NSC Staff draft dated March 21, 1950.2 The paragraph would then end with the following sentence: “Beyond these roles applicable to each Latin American armed force, certain countries should be capable of performing additional tasks as appropriate”.3

[Page 625]

It is clear that one of the basic elements of the policies which we are recommending to the President in this paper is that of the military role which we hope and expect each of the Latin American countries will play in the collective defense of the hemisphere, or in assisting the United States in extra-hemisphere operations. Accordingly the approval of the Department of State to this paper must be predicated on the assumption that these roles will follow the general lines of those indicated in the draft, before the deletion which you have suggested and which we have accepted. Should it later develop that United States military policy calls for a significant change in the scope or nature of those roles, the Department of State might or might not find it necessary to ask that the overall policy be reviewed in the light of the changed roles.

In recommending these policies to the President, we must recognize that successful implementation will encounter many practical difficulties, particularly the necessity constantly to weigh the various political, economic, and military factors which will bear upon the desirability from the standpoint of this country of proceeding step by step with the implementation of the program. It was for this reason that I emphasized this morning in our conversation the desirability of exercising great care to make the policy statement as explicit as possible and thereby to facilitate a clear understanding and meeting of the minds on the part of both State and Defense officers who will be charged with its implementation.

In conclusion, I want to express again my full and cordial agreement with you that the realization of the objectives of the policies of this paper can be accomplished only through the cooperative efforts of our two Departments acting as a team in an atmosphere of mutual confidence. I can assure you that the responsible officers in this Department will do everything possible in a spirit of cooperation on that team to bring about prompt and successful implementation of these policies.

Dean Busk
  1. Mr. Rusk participated in the drafting of NSC 56/2 in his capacity as the Department’s Consultant to the National Security Council.
  2. Draft not printed. (710.5/3–2050)
  3. Reference is to a deletion from a section that became paragraph 17a of NSC 56/2; for the final text, see p. 634. The deleted portion read:

    Argentina: forces for protection of the sea lines of communication to the River Plate and the Straits of Magellan, defense of contiguous waters against air, submarine and surface raiders, and operations outside her own territory.

    Brazil: forces for extra-hemisphere operations as well as forces for complete protection of contiguous waters and sea lines of communication against air, submarine and surface raiders.

    Chile and Peru: forces for assistance in protecting west coast sea lines of communication.

    Colombia: forces for assistance in protecting contiguous waters against air, submarine and surface raiders.

    Cuba: forces to assist in protecting Caribbean communication lines.

    Ecuador and Uruguay: forces to assist in convoying in waters adjacent to the coast.

    Mexico: forces capable of action anywhere in the hemisphere and of completely defending Mexican waters against air, submarine and surface raiders.

    Venezuela: forces for protection of contiguous waters (including the oil installations) against air, submarine and surface raiders.” (710.5/3–2050)

    In a memorandum of April 13, Max W. Bishop, a Special Assistant to Mr. Rusk, summarized differences between the Departments of State and Defense over paragraph 17 of the March 21 draft as follows:

    “The problem hinges around Defense’s desire to delete paragraph 17 which deals in general terms with the roles of the Latin American Armed Forces for collective Hemisphere defense. It is Defense’s contention that this paragraph deals with “implementation” and not with “military policy”. They feel the paragraph therefore has no place in the paper. It seems to me that the question of the roles which we wish the armed forces of any foreign country to accept is a matter of important military policy in which there is an obvious political implication and need for coordination of politico-military policies.

    ARA feels strongly the substance of this paragraph should be included.” (S/PNSC Files: Lot 60D167: Folder “Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, NSC 56 Series”)