Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (McFall) to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)
Subject: Meeting with Several Senators.
In a recent meeting of the Secretary with several senior United States Senators, some disturbing opinions were expressed on the world situation and our policy with respect thereto.
One Senator stated it as his opinion that the time had now come when we could no longer subject ourselves to the hazard of the possibility of Russia having the hydrogen bomb and that because of its devastating effect, beyond all comprehension, that we must not gamble any longer with time but rather must make a démarche upon Russia indicating that we must consider the failure of Russia to agree to international control and inspection of instruments of mass destruction to be in itself an act of aggression which would provoke a declaration of war on our part.
Another Senator, while indorsing the above sentiments in terms of the seriousness of the situation with which we are confronted, indicated that he did not feel that he would go quite that far but, nonetheless, he believed that we must turn our thoughts to building up a much larger military establishment and that “the only possible way to insure any peace was first to prepare mightily for war.” He indicated that his information was that “we could not, at best, equip thirty military divisions in Europe in less than fifteen years” and that that time, in his opinion, was too long a period to wait in terms of the military potentials that are developing.
Still another Senator expressed the view that his constituents were constantly after him with statements like “why don’t we get into this thing now and get it over with before the time is too late”. This Senator stated that that attitude was growing by leaps and bounds in his State and that he was compelled to take note of it. While he did not go as far either as the first-named Senator, he nonetheless felt that we must pursue every scientific means possible to prepare any kind of a weapon that might insure our preeminence in the field of military implements of warfare.
Two other senior Senators took studied exception to all of the views heretofore expressed and indicated that they felt that we had to exercise patience; to move along aggressively with economic aid in areas that might be subject to subsequent Communist penetration but they acknowledged that they were being severely pressed by their constituents to reduce government expenditures and they were frankly [Page 141] worried that their political fate might he determined adversely if they pressed the subject of economic aid too far.
Needless to say, the Secretary took violent opposition to all of the observations of the first three named Senators and pleaded with them to give serious mental reflection on their attitudes and try to bring their thinking around to his own views that Russia does not want war and that all of our energies must be directed toward supplying the necessary funds to do the many things now in process of doing dedicated to winning the cold war. The Secretary was very fervent in the espousal of his views and told the Senators that if the attitudes that they had expressed should develop into policies, that as far as he was concerned he would never want to remain Secretary of State.
As the conversation closed the writer asked two of the Senators that had expressed these disturbing thoughts if they honestly believed that, even admitting for the sake of the argument that we should endeavor to espouse such a policy, that the American people would be willing to declare a war without any overt action on the part of Russia, and I was greeted with the retort that they both felt strongly that as far as their own constituency were concerned, that they would back any such move to the hilt.