Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at the 189th Meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, March 18, 19541

top secret
eyes only

The following were present at the 189th meeting of the Council: The President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; Mr. Kyes for the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Foreign Operations Administration; the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General (for Items 2 and 3); the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Civil Service Commission (for Item 3); the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission (for Item 4); Admiral Carney for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Assistant to the President; Mr. Cutler and Mr. Jackson, Special Assistants to the President; Ralph N. Stohl and John G. Connell, Jr., Department of Defense (for Item 3); Gen. Porter, Foreign Operations Administration (for Item 4); the NSC Representative on Internal Security; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the chief points taken.

At the outset of the meeting the President referred to the draft letter to Prime Minister Churchill on controls on East-West trade, which had been prepared for his signature.2 The President said that he believed that from time to time it was desirable and useful for him to write personally to the Prime Minister. But in so doing he believed that these letters should concern themselves with general principles rather than details. The Prime Minister was a master at the art of using details to obscure directions, and the President said he did not wish to engage in a contest in which the Prime Minister might well emerge the victor. Accordingly, in future drafts of letters of this sort, the President wished the stress put on the main points and the details omitted.

Apropos of the President’s remarks, Secretary Dulles commented that most of our troubles with the British came from the fact that the Prime Minister so often takes matters of foreign policy out of the hands of his Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden. As we all knew, he had done this in the matter of controls on East-West trade. But it was also the case on such issues as the Iranian oil settlement3 and [Page 1118] the issue of uniforms in the negotiations between the British and the Egyptians. In view of Churchill’s tendency to pick up and run with the ball, the United States should make every effort to build up Mr. Eden rather than to play up to Prime Minister Churchill, for Churchill’s interference has caused us great difficulty on a number of points.

Mr. Cutler pointed out that the NSC Planning Board had not recommended that the President’s letter to the Prime Minister emphasize detail, but had confined itself to listing the more general points which such a letter should contain. Did the President wish the present draft to be done over? The President indicated that he was concerned only with less detailed letters in the future.

Secretary Dulles said that it was necessary to be sure that Mr. Eden got a copy of the President’s letter to the Prime Minister, since it was evident that the latter often tried to keep such letters out of Eden’s hands.

The President then inquired whether he should add something in his letter to the Prime Minister to indicate his anxiety about the deterioration in the Iranian oil negotiations in London. In response, Secretary Dulles informed the President that he had called in the British Ambassador the previous day and spoken to him very firmly, not only about our concern with the British attitude toward the oil negotiations, but also on their recent failures to cooperate with us in matters concerning the Middle East generally. He had pointed out to the Ambassador that this Government had done its utmost to be loyal to its partnership with Britain in solving the serious problems of the Middle East. If, however, the British insisted on pursuing courses of action in the Middle East which always ended in failure, it would be obviously necessary for us to reconsider our whole approach to the Middle East problem.

The Vice President commented that he was very concerned about the situation that Governor Stassen would face when he came before Congress to ask for money for assistance to Iran. This might prove the occasion of an outcry in Congress against the British for delaying a settlement of the oil controversy and forcing the United States to pay out large sums to support the Iranian economy in the absence of such a settlement.

The President then volunteered some observations in explanation of Prime Minister Churchill’s recent actions. As he grew older, said the President, the Prime Minister was more and more vulnerable to any and all who advised him to take the strongest possible stand in support of Britain’s colonial and imperial prestige. After all, we should not forget his famous observation that he had not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire. Essentially, his attitude toward the [Page 1119] British Empire was Victorian in many respects, and the vanished grandeur of the Empire became, as he grew older, more and more compelling.

[Here follow discussion of the Caracas Conference, the question of subversives in industry, security requirements for government employment, electromagnetic communications; and an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on significant world developments affecting United States security.]

  1. This memorandum of discussion was prepared on Mar. 19 by Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Security Council Gleason.
  2. Infra.
  3. For documentation concerning the Iranian oil settlement, see volume x.