Policy Planning Staff Files


Record of the Meeting of the state–Defense Policy Review Group, Department of State, Thursday, March 16, 1950, 3 p. m. to 6:43 p. m.

top secret
Present: Department of State
Paul H. Nitze
R. Gordon Arneson
George Butler
Carlton Savage
Robert Tufts
Harry H. Schwartz
Department of Defense
Major General James H. Burns
Major General T. H. Landon
Robert LeBaron
Najeeb Halaby
National Security Council
James Lay
S. Everett Gleason1
Robert A. Lovett2

Mr. Lovett spent the morning studying the group’s working drafts as of this date3 and, as suggested by Mr. Nitze, his first comments were specific, chapter by chapter, followed by general observations and suggestions. The minutes are divided into three parts covering

The general observations and suggestions as to the paper’s conclusions and recommendations
The chapter by chapter suggestions
Suggestions not covered in either of the two foregoing categories.

I. General Observations and Suggestions

a. Mr. Lovett’s overall comment was that the paper is very good and its logic sound, and that it contains some portions which are excellent material for speeches. He agreed with the general conclusion that we must build up our strength, and he said that this requires, in the first instance, giving the facts to the public.

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In addition, he made three general observations: (1) Our national policy must maintain the maximum possible flexibility. We must not saddle ourselves with self-denying ordinances which may prevent or seem to prevent us from doing certain things under any circumstances. There are very few things that a democracy cannot do if given a particular combination of circumstances and necessity. It is impossible to draw a sharp line between democratic principles and immoral actions, and an attempt to do so constitutes a dangerous and unnecessary handicap. (2) We should refrain from making any commitments which are neither absolutely necessary nor within our capacity to fulfill. (3) We must realize that we are now in a mortal conflict; that we are now in a war worse than any we have ever experienced. Just because there is not much shooting as yet does not mean that we are in a cold war. It is not a cold war; it is a hot war. The only difference between this and previous hot wars is that death comes more slowly and in a different fashion.

Mr. Lovett suggested that the Conclusions should be stated simply, clearly, and in almost telegraphic style, or in what he referred to as “Hemingway sentences”. He suggested that they should be along the following lines: The Soviet expenditures on their military establishment are obviously too large to be for defensive purposes. The Soviet Union’s military establishment is obviously, designed for offense. The Russians have demonstrated a willingness to use threats, compulsion, and force to accomplish their ends. They have been and are now using invisible means of aggression. By the desire and explicit choice of the Soviet Union we have been designated the prime enemy of the Soviet Union. In view of these facts, the present course of the United States is inadequate to such an extent that it increases the dangers to freedom. It is, therefore, our duty immediately to bring our military competence up to a higher level than has previously been planned and to place in our hands, and those of our allies of proven courage and determination, the weapons designed to meet our objectives.

Mr. Lovett’s Recommendations would be along the following lines:

The public must be supplied with the facts.
Our intelligence facilities, which are our first line of defense and which are grossly inadequate, should be brought to a high state of efficiency.
Our national efforts in the cold war must be specifically allocated to a group headed by a man of recognized stature who has the equivalent of a Cabinet rank and the equivalent of the authority vested in wartime, in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This man and his agency should have a clear directive from the President and appropriate Congressional authorities.
Our strategic plans for a shooting war and our covert devices in the cold war must be so designed as mutually to complement each other.
Administrative techniques must be modernized so that policy can be translated into action with the minimum of delay.
The time factor which divides our potential strength and forces in being must be cut down by large-scale tooling and planning efforts.
We should use every method of economic warfare which could possibly throw the enemy off schedule or off balance. This would have a good psychological effect both in our camp and in the camp of the enemy. In other words, the efforts of a “Department of Dirty Tricks” should be commensurate with that of all other agencies.
We must have a much vaster propaganda machine to tell our story at home and abroad.

[Here follows Part II, “Specific Comments.”]

Part III. Additional Comments

We must meet the threat of international communism in the field of ideas and this means we must capitalize on our standard of living, the role of the individual, and the fact that our system is based on a freedom of choice. Mr. Lovett is convinced that we have the latent competence to do this job; because if we can sell every useless article known to man in large quantities, we should be able to sell our very fine story in larger quantities.

He suggested that we need not wait for a build-up of our material power to accept the challenge of the communists in the cold war and start acting exactly as though we were under fire from an invading army. In the war in which we are presently engaged, we should fight with no holds barred. We should find every weak spot in the enemy’s armor, both on the periphery and at the center, and hit him with anything that comes to hand. Anything we do short of an all-out effort is inexcusable. We should cause them trouble wherever we can. There are plenty of partisans and dissidents on the enemy’s borders and within his camp who are willing to fight with their lives if we give them some leadership and if they are convinced that we are going to stick with the job until we have finished it.

The fact that the Kremlin can make up its mind and move faster than we can is partly due to the difference in our objectives, partly due to the inherent nature of the democratic system, but also due to poor operating procedures on our side—and this last can be and must be corrected. He suggested that we make a thorough study of all economic warfare possibilities, including preemptive buying. Mr. Nitze said that a great deal of study and a great deal of action have been taken in this field, and that from what we can see now we cannot [Page 199] expect very great results. Mr. Lovett said that that was quite possibly true, but that if our needling tactics are sharp and nasty enough we may have psychological results which will make them well worth-while.

He suggested that the paper might also anticipate and discuss in the chapter on “Possible Courses of Action” the suggestion that has been made before, and may be made again, that the U.S.S.R. and the the United States divide the world into spheres of influence.

He also thought a part of our program should be to spend more money on defense of the United States with radar and automatic weapons. The defense of the home-land is a very popular subject with most people and at the present time the citizens of the United States are very nervous because they don’t see anything being done in that field. If something were done it would give them more composure and result in a better atmosphere in which to conduct the cold war.

Mr. Lovett said he had no doubts whatsoever about our economic capabilities. In fact, he thought that the economy of the United States might benefit from the kind of build-up which we were suggesting. In this connection he added that he thought there was practically nothing that the country could not do if it wanted to do it. It becomes stronger economically every day. Except for a few minor items, the far West, which he had just visited, is self-sufficient economically. That part of our exports which we have had to subsidize has amounted to about 1% of our national income, which is a very small price to pay for the results achieved. It is, however, in the interest of our national security to increase our imports. He sees no financial problems worthy of the name involved in the build-up which we shall have to make. He pointed out that the Committee on Economic Development has proven that there are between 1 and 3 billion dollars of fat in our present budget which could be converted to cash for other purposes.

He said that we had a terrible problem of public information and support and made several suggestions: (1) that we get in what he called a “group of paraphrasers” who could turn what it is we have to say to the American people into understandable terms for the average man on the street. (2) that we parcel out our message to a number of the best speakers in the Government to be reiterated and reiterated and reiterated. (3) we should enlist the aid of schools, colleges, churches, and other groups. In tapping all the sources we will find that somewhere in this Government is a specialist in almost everything in the world and as the story gets underway and the people gradually begin to see some leadership we will get help from all kinds of sources. (4) he suggested that we get a group of elder statesmen [Page 200] (very much like that suggested by Mr. Barnard) which would “audit and certify” our findings and thereby back up the Administration’s; statement of the facts. It would probably be better, in his opinion, if such a group were not appointed as a commission by the President because it might thereby be tarred with the Administration’s brush in the eyes of the people.

  1. Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Security Council.
  2. Banker; Under Secretary of State, July 1947–January 1949; appointed Deputy Secretary of Defense, September 1950. Earlier, he served as Assistant Secretary of War for Air, April 1941–November 1945.
  3. For the text of the report in its final form, see NSC 68, April 7, p. 235.