Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

I have carefully studied the two papers resulting from the work of the State–Defense study group which were sent to me with Mr. Webb’s memorandum of March 30, 1950.

I agree with the conclusions set forth in these papers and with the recommendations to the President, subject to the following comments:

Our principal allies, certainly the United Kingdom and France, and perhaps Canada, should be consulted before we reach a decision in this matter. The facts should be laid before them and those governments should concur in the decision and agree to do their full part in the buildup of political, economic and military strength recommended in these papers. I have every confidence that they will agree, but there must be no doubt whatever about their agreement and their [Page 217] willingness fully to participate in this undertaking. They must participate to such a degree that every sacrifice we make will be matched by them and that this will be a great cooperative undertaking of the principal countries of the free world. If, contrary to my expectations, our principal allies should not be willing to assume the risks and make sacrifices involved in this undertaking, we should say to them that we will have to reexamine our position in relation to them in the light of this new situation created by their refusal to do the things which we think are necessary to preserve the free world.
Report to the President (Page 24) sets forth the outline of a comprehensive program to win the peace and frustrate the Kremlin design. The first point of this is “The development of an adequate political and economic framework for the achievement of our long-range objectives.” If the recommendations in the report are approved and we embark upon the program it contemplates, in my opinion we will have to spell out this first point in the program in simple, clear, understandable terms that will capture the imagination of our people and make them willing to assume additional burdens which will be involved. It will not be sufficient to talk merely of strengthening the United Nations. I think we can build up such a program around the United Nations but it will have to be bold and dramatic. We must recognize frankly that our people want a collective system of security which will actually work. I think our people will be willing to face the extra burdens if the facts are clearly laid before them. It will help if the program presented to them shows some light at the end of the tunnel. For this reason, we should make our program as concrete and as definite as we can. I shall at the appropriate time make specific recommendations on this aspect of the program.
On Page 8 of the report to the President, it is suggested that if a decision and a start is made on the program, it might be desirable for the United States to “take the initiative in seeking negotiations with the U.S.S.R. in the hope that it might facilitate the process of accommodation by the Kremlin to the new situation.” I see several advantages in this but it seems to me on balance that the dangers outweigh the advantages. If this were done, surely the U.S.S.R. would follow its usual tactics of making a response that would sufficiently “fuzz up” the situation as to cause differences between us and our allies and dissension at home. Could not the same purpose be served with less risk by a major speech of the President setting forth publicly our willingness to negotiate and the terms which would be acceptable to us?

John D. Hickerson
  1. Transmitted through Under Secretary Webb.