Memorandum by Mr. Ivan B. White of the Office of Regional American Affairs to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Miller)

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Subject: Inter-American Military Cooperation

In my judgment, the U.S. has reached a point in its history where, for the first time, the prompt and effective military cooperation of the Latin American countries is of real importance. The evolution of this, cooperation over the period of the next several years will be an important test of the efficacy of the Good Neighbor Policy. If these conclusions are correct, it follows that the orientation of U.S. diplomatic efforts in Latin America in the immediate future should be in the direction of a heavy concentration on obtaining prompt and effective military collaboration.

[Page 995]

The key considerations which have led to the conclusions stated above are as follows:

It is generally regarded that the period of the next eighteen months, during which our own defense mobilization will be in the course of preparation, and the effective defenses of Western Europe in the process of erection, will be a vital one in the world’s history.
The need to create situations of strength as set forth last year by Secretary Acheson is a real one. In its assessment of the world situation, the Soviet Union has probably appraised Latin America as being important as a producer of strategic materials but as a negligible factor, at least over the short term, in the military sphere, should there be an outbreak of general hostilities.
If a collective inter-American military force could be created in the near future, with a portion available to combat current aggression and the balance available for overseas operations in case of a widening of hostilities, this force would constitute a new factor in the world balance of power situation.
From the standpoint of the most effective utilization of resources, the creation and activation of the force outlined above would be most beneficial to the U.S. during this period of shortage of military manpower and equipment because:
Latin America has available ground forces of 500,000 men who have already had varying degrees of military training and experience (attached is a country list of these forces), and
the larger countries of Latin America already have a good nucleus of U.S. equipment, as a result of lend-lease and war surplus property operations, and, therefore, the need for equipment is a supplementary rather than a complete one.
The above considerations are important up to the point where Latin American countries could contribute forces within their economic capabilities so that no appreciable additional strain would be created on U.S. economic and financial resources.
With a rapidly growing U.S. public opinion that our allies should assume a more proportionate share of the military burden abroad, active military participation by the Latin American countries would greatly strengthen U.S.-Latin American relations during the coming years.
Finally, active military participation by the Latin American countries may, over the long run, accrue to their advantage. As larger percentages of U.S. and Western European output go into defense production, the chances of a Latin American country getting, in practice, a reasonable break on material supply will be greatly enhanced if it is in the position of a full ally. Furthermore, Latin America now has an opportunity to come of age, politically speaking, and to establish a real position in the world power framework.

The things we would like to have from Latin America in the near future in the military field may be summarized as follows:

1) Participation in Korean Operations. The need in this category is for ground forces. Latin American units sent to Korea will make it possible for the U.S. to accelerate the rate of dispatch of its own units to the European theater during the coming critical months. According [Page 996] to the Department of Defense, several Latin American countries have the military capability of making available immediately for Korea units of the size indicated below:

  • Brazil—1 Division
  • Argentina—1 Division
  • Mexico—1 Regimental combat team
  • Chile—1 Battalion

In addition, it would be most helpful if Uruguay and Peru could supply a battalion each.

It is my understanding that the Department of Defense is prepared, as in the Colombian and Cuban cases, to assist in the training, equipment and supply of these units.

2) Approval of the Inter-American Defense Scheme.1 I attach2 a copy of the Inter-American Defense scheme and of the Department’s airgram3 regarding our desire to obtain the prompt approval of the Latin American Governments to this document. It would be most helpful if the Latin American countries could make an affirmative decision on this matter in time for formal action to be taken by the Consultation of Foreign Ministers. Although this document is primarily concerned with hemisphere defense in the narrow sense, it does have two advantages; (1) it names the probable aggressor specifically, and (2) it recognizes that in case of general hostilities, the Western Hemisphere should take the offensive.

3) Adoption by the Consultation of Foreign Ministers of Adeguate Resolutions on Military Cooperation. There is attached a copy of the Draft Military Resolution4 which is now before the Joint Chiefs of Staff for consideration. The key policy question raised by the Draft Resolution is whether the American Republics at this juncture are prepared to recognize that the defense of the hemisphere requires the projection of its military forces beyond the lines of demarcation set forth in Article IV of the Rio Pact.5

4) Implementation of Resolutions. Once the meeting of Foreign Ministers is concluded and the active planning of the Inter-American Defense Board is under way, it is hoped that favorable Congressional action on military aid for Latin America will make possible bilateral negotiations looking forward to the earmarking, training and equipment of a coordinated force which would be available for action wherever necessary, should there be an outbreak of general hostilities. In my judgment, the minimum force of this type which could be created in Latin America without undue strain on the economies of those countries [Page 997] would be along the following lines, including such units as may be made available for Korea:

  • Brazil—2 Divisions
  • Argentina—1 Division
  • Mexico—1 Division
    Regimental combat teams from the medium-sized countries of Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba.
  • Battalions from the 12 smaller Latin American countries.

I am fully cognizant of the political difficulties which will have to be overcome to make effective a program of the type outlined above. I believe it is most important, however, that we proceed as promptly and vigorously as is possible, recognizing that in some cases, governmental leaders, even if favorably disposed, will need a period of time to obtain acceptance from their own people of the concept of active military participation. In some cases, we may very well find that certain countries will count themselves out of this enterprise and that we may have to offset their non-participation by greater participation from more cooperative countries. In such an event, it seems inescapable to me that we will have to review our policy of economic cooperation with individual countries for the purpose of adopting a selective approach, rather than the general one envisaged in the U.S. position paper6 prepared for the coming Conference.

  1. Reference is to the Inter-American Common Defense Scheme, approved by the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) on October 27, 1950, and by the Department of State on January 15, 1951; for information, see Secretary Marshall’s letter to Secretary Acheson, December 16, 1950, Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i p. 679.
  2. No attachments were found with the source text.
  3. Circular airgram, dated January 30, 1951, not printed (710.5/1–3051).
  4. For text of the draft resolution on inter-American military cooperation as submitted to the Fourth Meeting of Consultation by the U.S. and several Latin American countries, see Pan American Union, Fourth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of American States, held in Washington, March 26–April 7, 1951: Proceedings (Washington, 1951), pp. 52–53, hereinafter cited as Proceedings.
  5. Rio Treaty; see footnote 7, p. 986.
  6. Presumably a reference to the position paper prepared in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, the final draft of which was designated IAM D–1/1a and dated March 21, 1951; for text, see p. 949.