No. 260


Memorandum by the Acting Assistant Director of International Security Affairs (Bell) to Norman S. Paul of the Economic Cooperation Administration


Subject: U.S. Aid for Italian Rearmament.

We are apparently confronted at this moment with an impasse at the working level regarding the Italian program. It is obviously desirable to break this quickly. This memorandum outlines the issue. I am hopeful you can either obtain ECA acceptance of our view or arrange for a high level meeting where the issue can be pursued.

The single question involved is one of judgment as to effect of U.S. actions on Italian actions; that is, whether we are more likely to get Italian action by giving an aid commitment. In my opinion, this is a political judgment.

Your people feel strongly that it is both unnecessary and unwise to give a commitment. The State Department feels that there is a clear record of evidence to the contrary. (I append a copy of pertinent [Page 581] factors cited to me.)1 I am sure there is ample justification for both opinions, at least in the minds of those who hold them.

To my notion this issue is a repetition of several which arose earlier in our Italian series–at least it involves the same problem—where should the best judgment exist with respect to the effect on Italy of our decision. I thought we solved this by the answer: Rome. Now I gather your people are unwilling to rely on Rome’s judgment, at least on this question, because they fear it will differ with the view to which they strongly subscribe.

After considerable thought I am persuaded that we should and must leave to Rome to decide whether and when it should advance U.S. objectives to give a commitment on U.S. and consequently desire to use alternate paragraph 4 (excepting (b) thereof) in the cable to go to Rome.2 This seems to me to leave responsibility for a political judgment where it properly belongs.

Our common goal is to get a greater Italian effort. We obviously would like them to do more and with less cost to us. We can go on forever debating what might be or have been. I agree with OSR that it is essential to concentrate on the doing of the present bite. If a commitment to aid will help get that done, I would much rather defend some over-payment of aid above the absolute possible minimum than to have to report no effort had been made because we were too busy debating how much aid we would give if one did take place. I also am impressed with the absurdity of the quibbling over a difference between possible economic aid figures which is a small fraction of the value of military end items being given. If we are going to use U.S. aid for pressure we better realize that the only real effective club is the whole of our aid and not just the economic part.

Will you take this up please, as quickly as possible? We are now pretty strong in our view and I doubt can compromise on this point.

John O. Bell
  1. Not printed; it was a memorandum by Stanley B. Wolff in which he cited numerous reasons why it would be advisable to cite an aid figure in Department of State negotiations with the Italians.
  2. The reference is presumably to an early draft of telegram 4212 to Rome, Document 265.