Memorandum by Mr. John Paton Davies, Jr., Member of the Policy Planning Staff2
Spring and Summer Prospects
There can be little doubt that the Chinese Communists intend to attempt the conquest of Formosa as soon as they attain a capability of doing so. They may even undertake such an adventure before they are prepared, as a provocative action. This may occur at any time from now on, but more probably in the Spring. In undertaking this action the Communists would necessarily, unless our policy is changed, engage the 7th Fleet and such aircraft as we may commit. This clash would probably lead to extensive and protracted hostilities between the United States and the mainland of China.
It is possible that simultaneously the Peiping regime will extend whatever aid is necessary to enable the Vietminh to make an all-out and successful effort to expel the French from Indochina.
It is also possible that at the same time the Chinese Communists will attack and take-over Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, if we succeed in holding on in Korea along the lines laid down by our present policy, we shall continue to have a major share of our armed forces tied down on and in the vicinity of that peninsula.
Thus, we may look forward to seeing our military forces deeply embroiled from Korea to Cambodia before Spring is over.
If this is so, the political consequences which would flow from such developments are indeed melancholy to contemplate. Excepting for the Latin Americans (who have no real feeling of responsibility or interest in Eurasia), and those who hope for the advent of World War III by whatever means possible, the rest of the Free World would view with dismay the further extension of Sino-American hostilities. There would be a decrease in the already slim confidence in American leadership, statesmanship and political acumen. If the Europeans are now nervous because of our involvement in the Far East, they would become terrified by the outbreak of hostilities with China Proper. Rather than improving the European frame of mind the extension of hostilities to Indochina and Hong Kong would only aggravate their-fears.
The creation of such a political climate in Europe would present the Kremlin with opportunities which would be so tempting that we [Page 20] cannot really expect it to resist them. Moving through its satellite proxies, the Kremlin could proceed to turn the heat on Yugoslavia.3 This, after all, would be a feud within the Communist family and it would be made plain to the Western Europeans, Greeks and Turks that if they minded their own business, the small unpleasantness would be quickly disposed of. If, however, they insisted on interfering in somebody else’s affairs, they would live to regret it. As for the Americans, the Kremlin could intimate, they obviously have their conventional forces tied down in the Far East fighting a “colonial war”—but if they are so rash as to use the atomic weapon, Western Europe would be overrun.
We would be wise to assume that such a presentation would be most persuasive to our NATO allies and that we would come to realize that the present tugging at our coattails with regard to Korea and Formosa are nothing compared with what we would experience in these circumstances. The ground work is already being done—Duclos’s pronouncements on neutralism are ominously significant.4
Pressing this war of nerves for all that it is worth, the Kremlin may be able to cause political disintegration in Western Europe so that, if we decide to resist aggression against Yugoslavia, we shall have to do so without allies—save for Turkey, Spain, Portugal and probably the U.K. and Greece. And if we do not go to the aid of Yugoslavia, the collapse in Europe and the Middle East will be, perhaps less dramatic, but no less certain.
- Files of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State, 1947–1953.↩
- The source text is labeled “Draft No. 1.” No indication that a subsequent draft was prepared has been found.↩
- Documentation on United States policy with respect to Yugoslavia is presented in volume iv.↩
- Jacques Duclos, Secretary of the French Communist Party. Information on French Communist activities and pronouncements is included in documentation on United States relations with France, ibid. ↩