Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs ( Miller ) to the Secretary of State

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Subject: NSC Paper 56—United States Policy Toward Inter-American Military Collaboration


At the National Security Council meeting on Thursday, May 18, the above-mentioned document will be submitted for approval. This [Page 626] memorandum recommends a position to be taken by the Department at that time.


The present paper represents several months of work to harmonize the views of this Department and the Defense Department on military relations with Latin America. For many years, difficulties have been encountered on this subject as a result of conflicting objectives sometimes pursued by the two Departments. It is the Defense Department’s desire to develop in the Latin American countries small but competent military establishments capable of performing limited defense functions in time of war, in order that United States manpower may not need to be tied up there. Development of such armed forces frequently involves expenditures for armaments by the Latin American countries which they can ill afford. Encouragement of such expenditures runs counter to the Department’s policies of seeking to develop stronger, more productive economies in Latin America, recognizing that the production of raw materials may well be Latin America’s major contribution to hemisphere defense in time of war.

The present paper has set forth fully the basic considerations of both Departments and suggests methods for harmonizing these views in a basic national policy.

First, the paper recognizes (paragraph 8) that individual problems cannot be settled on the basis of political, economic or military factors alone, but only by a weighing of United States interests in respect to all three areas of policy. The net result of the paper in this regard is primarily to indicate an approach to problems with perhaps a greater comprehension on the part of each Department of the requirements and interests of the other.

Second, the paper sets forth a method for developing a clear understanding of the role of each Latin American country in a hemisphere defense plan. On the basis of such roles, this Government will have a better idea of the character and extent of armament which each of the Latin American countries should possess for hemisphere defense.

The paper at present gives a very elementary indication of the thinking of the Defense Department regarding the role of Latin American countries (paragraph 17).1 At various times in the discussion the Defense Department has insisted upon whittling down its references to the strategic roles of other countries. It is believed that [Page 627] the present reference to this subject represents a bare minimum which should not be reduced any further.

The paper states the importance of standardization of the armed forces in Latin America on United States lines as a long range objective, but recognizes that standardization cannot be an overriding consideration taking precedence over all other military or political factors. This is a highly important statement in view of the political difficulties facing the standardization policy at this time.2


It is recommended that the paper be approved in its present form.

It is also recommended that during the discussion the Secretary take an opportunity to express the following points:

The present document is an acceptable statement on military objectives and an outline of the proper steps which should be taken at the appropriate time to reach a clearer understanding of the role of each American republic in hemisphere defense. To be realistic, we must recognize, however, that the successful implementation of this policy paper will encounter many practical difficulties. As the paper itself indicates (paragraph 8), it will be necessary constantly to weigh the various political, economic and military factors which bear upon the desirability, from the viewpoint of the United States, of proceeding with any given step in regard to each country.3
The above fact emphasizes the need for continued consultation between the two Departments in regard to the implementation of this program, and the need for full agreement at each stage. It would be highly desirable for this point to be emphasized to the officers of both Departments not only in Washington but also in the field.

Edward G. Miller, Jr.
  1. See footnote 3 to the letter from Mr. Rusk to General Burns, April 25, 1950, p. 624.
  2. Further information on views within the Department with regard to arms standardization in the Western Hemisphere is in files 710.5, 720.5, and 720.5 MAP for 1950.
  3. Mr. Dreier’s memorandum of March 20, 1950 to Mr. Barber said in part: “As people in the NME have pointed out, it will be some time before the procedure outlined in this paper results in any actual estimates of the amounts and types of armaments required by the armed forces of other American republics. It will, therefore, not for some time be of assistance to the Department in reaching opinions as to whether individual requests for arms should be approved. This fact should not, in my opinion, prevent us from concurring in what is a greatly improved paper, setting forth a policy to which we can willingly subscribe.” (710.5/3–2050)