PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “Review of Basic National Policy”

Notes Taken at the First Plenary Session of Project Solarium, Washington, June 26, 19531

top secret

Project Solarium; Development of Various Task Forces’ Thinking as Expressed at Plenary Session June 26, 1953

task force a—mr. kennan

For Task Force A it is difficult, in fact not possible, to sponsor a course of action which would drastically alter present policies. We are fairly well bound to NSC 153/1.2 We have studied the latter carefully and have come to the conclusion that a definite improvement in results can be achieved within this framework. We accept the general terms of the objectives. Whether or not time is on our side will be analyzed from various aspects but our position is generally that this concept only has meaning in terms of what we, the U.S., will do with it.

The continued maintenance of U.S. military strength to meet and deter Soviet threat will be proposed. War is not inevitable. It need not be regarded either as most likely or probable. Whether it is to come or not will depend much on our own action. Task Force A will not be able to come to grips with the budgetary problem as it relates to the foreign policy to be proposed, but will indicate certain [Page 389]studies which might be made by the Administration in order to make final decisions in this matter easier.

On the question of the relation of our defense effort to domestic economic problems, the position will be stressed that the U.S. economy can stand for a considerable length of time a higher level of defense expenditures than the currently operative ones. If a higher level of defense spending is possible politically, it is possible economically.

The question of the maintenance of American free institutions will be discussed frankly. Greater frankness with the American people will be recommended. Emphasis [will be] on respectful and sympathetic treatment of our allies’ problems. Attention called to the effect of our internal security measures on public opinion abroad. Modifications will be proposed.

On the problem of strengthening the free world, the danger of having blanket policies is to be noted. We must discriminate between countries and conditions.

Europe: Less pressure on the NATO nations to up their defense goals. (We can be more relaxed.)

Germany: A better U.S. stance on the unification of Germany issue, which may mean letting EDC die a quiet death. Then it will be necessary to create independent military strength in West Germany. Some constructive proposals on the long term economic and trade problems of Europe will be set forth.

France: A special approach to the French problem is needed due to the very bad effect which their current domestic and foreign policy is having.

East-West Trade: Relaxation of pressures but attempt to discourage by diplomatic efforts. Need to discover alternative patterns of trade as well as work against U.S. protectionism.

Asia: Korean war situation to be by-passed as evolving too rapidly. Strengthen the offshore positions of the U.S. (Japan, Philippines and Formosa). Allow Japan a certain amount of trade with China. Continue to treat China as an enemy as long as the Korean and Indo-Chinese situations are not very materially improved. Watch opportunities for inflicting a major political set-back to Communist China, though it is not yet possible to foresee how this may be done.

The Soviet Threat: Will question the wording of NSC 153/1 which seems to commit the U.S. to intervene everywhere. More freedom of action to be reserved to the U.S. The reduction of Soviet power is not to be emphasized, but the carrying of a propaganda offensive to the Kremlin aimed at questioning and revising their analysis of the U.S. and the West will be proposed.

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Some ideas on using the UN better will be set forth. The question of negotiations with the USSR have not yet been discussed by the task force. With regard to the Soviet peace offensive the emphasis may be placed on the big responsibility of the U.S. not to appear as a result as the party that does not want an end to the Cold War.

Indo-China: The U.S. must try a policy which will ease the French out in a couple of years in order to develop indigenous forces as in Korea. The approach to the French should be a global one. We should help to ease their prestige problem.

task force b—general mccormack

B’s approach will be a rather rigid one in order not to muddy the water between B and A. For the sake of clarity certain interpretations are put on the instructions. In the “completing the line” instruction the change is made by defining “General war” as war in which the full weight of U.S. resources is committed to securing the defeat of the Soviet bloc including the USSR, the Satellites, and Red China. Secondly, “to make clear to the Soviet rulers”, this change of policy is understood to mean making “publicly” clear. Since one of the great assets of this policy is the stabilization it would bring to the U.S. and its allies, merely to inform the USSR secretly would not be satisfactory.

In general the line is moved up to the Soviet periphery. This gives a moral justification in reacting to aggression, leaving countries outside the line who have not yet fallen poses disturbing problems for those countries and is questionable morally.

The question of drawing a line to include only the minimum allies necessary to U.S. security will be investigated. However, it is felt that such a withdrawal and limitation of the line would be of little use. The present military capabilities of the U.S. depend much on overseas bases in foreign countries all over the world. The withdrawal of guarantees against aggression to these allies would perhaps mean a gain of political freedom to the U.S., but this would be more than offset if we lost the bases.

Economy Aspect

It will be contended that alternative C will require much more money than the present level of expenditures but that B need not involve a necessarily higher level than A. Furthermore, B enables the creation of a greater regularity and rationality with regard to expenditures than A. There will be an economy in defense preparations since the military forces will be conserved as being the best forces to wage general war, i.e., not forces specialized to win war, [Page 391]say in Indo-China. There will be a much greater cohesion in the defense effort.

The policy is considered as being essentially a unilateral one. It will be discussed with our allies and every effort made to get them to go along with it, but the policy would be carried through regardless of their attitude.

The Task Force was instructed to examine the two world thesis. B’s policy already puts a military seal around the Soviet Union but it is felt that an economic one will not work. The latter could at best only delay Soviet bloc economic build-up and would at the same time create too many difficulties to be feasible.

Alternative B is envisaged as the policy least likely to cause general war. Illustration: Peripheral wars (Korea, Indo-China) can happen under A; under B they cannot. Under B you need only small forces along the actual periphery to maintain some semblance of order. Task Force B will probably take the attitude that the U.S. does have the preponderance of force now and can continue to maintain it without denying that the Soviets can improve relatively their position.

Colonel Bonesteel: What if they call our bluff and do move: how do you convince the American people and the U.S. Congress to declare war?

General McCormack: This is a problem. But it must be a sober and irrevocable commitment by the U.S. to make war immediately.

Afghanistan: Here the U.S. would reserve freedom of action. General McCormack stated that in some places the line might “ebb and flow” a bit as situations changed. The essence of Policy B is that it adds to Policy A the sanction of general war. Mr. Kennan remarked that general war was not excluded from the considerations of A. General McCormack replied that the principle was different. B involved a commitment and “a clear warning” of general war.

It is felt probable that the NATO nations would fall into line since it is doubtful that there would not be some NATO nation which would demand resistance to aggression if the line was crossed. Any nation so wobbly as not to follow such a policy most probably is doomed to fall off our band wagon sooner or later anyway. Policy B gives the best chances that war will be deterred for the longest possible time.

Impossible at the minute to apply it to Korea or Indo-China but “our policy doesn’t make these questions any more difficult to answer than do the other policies”.

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task force c—admiral conolly

Admits that Task Force C is somewhat behind the others, particularly in getting things on paper.

The Soviet threat will be assessed and it will be concluded that the U.S. cannot live with the Soviet Union if the latter’s present increasing strength continues. Hence, this strength will be attacked with the objective of its reduction. Provided our military posture is strong enough no overwhelming risks of general war are envisaged. The initiative must be seized and general political warfare conducted on the Soviet Union. There are two basic requirements: an adequate military posture (build-up); the preparation of public opinion, Congress, leadership, and our allies to go along with such a policy. Our reward in the results cannot be calculated in terms of economic cost. In starting this campaign in general our war objectives as set forth in 153/1 are accepted with some modification. The time period envisaged is 10 years, which does not mean that we would have been successful at the end of this time, but that we would be at least in a position where we could see the end of the task. At some time during this period before the enemy has the maximum atomic potential the tempo of our attack must increase in order to turn the tide. Chiang Kai-shek3 would be built up so he can prepare to capture Hainan and help insure the success of an operation to clean out Indo-China. An attempt will be made to drive a wedge between China and the USSR. The former will be blockaded and other measures will be used in order to make China an expensive ally to the USSR and to make it painful for China.

As regards Korea, Task Force C’s position is generally one that they hope the hostilities would continue since then they would be enabled to recommend a final offensive to conclude the war on the Yalu and/or to destroy and capture in Korea a large part of the Chinese army and its supplies. C would also make some use of B’s technique of threatening the sanction of general war.

As regards negotiations with the Soviet Union, Task Force C will not accept the sincerity of any offers of the Soviets short of those fulfilling U.S. war aims as set forth in NSC 153/1.

U.S. Allies: Admits they have to be brought along one way or another. Have thought of invoking sanctions on them but it is hoped that with the initial success of the policy more support would be forthcoming from the allies and others, and eventually this support would snowball as the Soviets retreated. No offensive action to be taken until adequate defense posture achieved to enable successful prosecution of a general war. B’s assumption about eliminating peripheral [Page 393]wars is questioned. Undoubtedly any general war would involve peripheral wars (theaters of minor operations).

The implementation of this policy in the U.S. Government requires the ability to act and respond quickly with much more vigor and rapid pace than is now the case. The U.S. will want to be prepared for a “break through”, and be able to react in hours, not days. The military build-up of the U.S. should be predicated on the assumption that this program can be completed in 10 years but at the end of that time, success can be foreseen in the not too distant future. On the other hand, the time might be less since it is possible that after the first set-backs, Soviet power might become demoralized and rapidly collapse.

Task Force C denies the assertion that the internal threat is of equal gravity to the external threat.

Mr. Kennan remarked that A has the right to do all these things under NSC 153/1. Admiral Conolly replied that C would assume the risk of general war much more than A, and that furthermore, they were trying to carry out—not the peace aims, but the war aims of NSC 153/1.

  1. A covering memorandum by T. B. Koons of the Special Staff of the National Security Council to S. Everett Gleason, dated June 30, reads: “Attached please find notes taken at the first plenary session of Project Solarium of June 26, 1953. The purpose of the session was to enable each task force chairman to sum up in general the major themes they would develop. However, it should be noted that although this may be said to be a fairly good indication of the line which will be taken by each task force, there is considerable disagreement on many points between the members of the task forces and the chairmen, and accordingly the points made by the chairmen should not be considered as in any degree final or non-controversial ones.”
  2. Dated June 10, p. 378.
  3. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Republic of China.