Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file
Memorandum of Discussion at the 165th Meeting of the National Security Council, Wednesday, October 7, 1953 1
Present at the 165th Council meeting were the following: The President of the United States, presiding; the Secretary of State; 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; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; the Federal Civil Defense Administrator; the Secretary of the Army; the Secretary of the Navy; the Secretary of the Air Force; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Chief of Staff of the Army; the Chief of Naval Operations; the Chief of Staff of the Air [Page 515] Force; the Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; the Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers; Robert R. Bowie, Department of State; the Director of Central Intelligence; Robert Amory, Jr., Central Intelligence Agency; Sherman Adams, the Assistant to the President; Maj. Gen. Wilton B. Persons, Deputy Assistant to the President; Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; C.D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; Brig. Gen. Paul T. Carroll, Acting White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.
Following is a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the chief points taken.
. . . . . . .
3. Review of Basic National Security Policy (NSC 162)2
Mr. Cutler first briefed the Council on the historical background of NSC 162. He then explained the manner in which the present report had been drafted, the important differences which NSC 162 contained, and expressed the hope that the Council would be able in the course of its consideration to resolve these differences of opinion and arrive at an agreed statement of policy. In order to assist in this process, Mr. Cutler said that he had attempted to reduce the statement of these differences in each case to a paragraph and suggested that the Council discuss each of these paragraphs and come to an agreement to resolve the differences.
The first of these differences concerned the nature of the Soviet threat. Side “A”, Mr. Cutler pointed out, sees the threat to the United States as the basic Soviet hostility to the United States and the Soviet’s formidable military power. While acknowledging a sound U.S. economy is essential, Side “A” believes the United States must first meet necessary security costs.
Side “B”, on the other hand, sees the threat to the United States as a dual threat—the external threat of Soviet power; the internal threat of weakening our economy and changing our way of life. Side “B” believes the U.S. must strike a proper balance between the risks arising from these two threats.
When Mr. Cutler finished his exposition of this difference, the President inquired whether Side “A” would sustain its position even if it proved necessary to go to the lengths of general mobilization and the imposition of tight controls on the economy. The President readily agreed that you could get the American people steamed up to do whatever you told them was necessary for a certain length of time. If, however, this process was to go on indefinitely, it would be necessary to resort to compulsory controls. If Side “A”, said the President, backs up its position to the ultimate [Page 516] limit it would lead to both general mobilization and out-and-out regimentation.
In reply to the President’s question, Mr. Cutler stated that, by implication at least, Side “A’s” answer was to be found on page 27 of the report, which contained the statement in paragraph 39–b “The United States must, however, meet the necessary costs of the policies essential for its security.”
Although the President observed that he thought that this amounted to hedging and that the statement contained contradictions, Mr. Cutler answered that by implication at least Side “A” was prepared to go to full mobilization and controls if this were necessary to safeguard the national security.
The Director of the Budget explained that the basic objection of the Budget and the Treasury to Side “A’s” statement as to the nature of the threat was that it ignored the economic threat at the very outset of the report. It chose to do this even though all of us know that it is an objective of Soviet strategy to destroy our capitalist economy by means of economic warfare. Mr. Dodge gave it as his opinion that this was a very successful element of the Soviet strategy although it was not so dangerous as the H-bomb. In sum, Mr. Dodge argued that as the threat to the economy was part and parcel of the Soviet threat, it should be mentioned at the beginning and not relegated to later pages in the report.
The President digressed for a moment to discuss statements by Government officials with regard to the H-bomb (see previous item) and then went back to comment on the view just expressed by Mr. Dodge. He expressed agreement with Mr. Dodge that if you ignored this economic threat, you are simply refusing to be realistic. If Side “A” was really prepared to envisage expenditures to a point which would produce compulsory controls or general mobilization it should say so and the President would understand.
Secretary Wilson stated that he could not agree with Mr. Dodge’s position. While the threat to the economy was real, it was not clearly set forth by the Treasury and the Bureau of the Budget in the language of Side “B”. Incidentally, said Secretary Wilson, he would like to know who was on side “A” and who on Side “B”. The President replied that he would prefer not to know who was on what side and that the Council could accomplish its task more effectively if the identity of the members of the two sides was not an issue.
Secretary Humphrey said that it was essential to get beyond disagreements in language to divergences of thought which were obviously very deep. Actually the issue of the nature of the threat was the number one problem facing the Administration. It must, therefore, be thoroughly talked out among friends whose only interest [Page 517] was to save their country. The issue, continued Secretary Humphrey, was even more clearly posed on the first page of the comments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on NSC 162.3 On this page the Joint Chiefs had argued against including a reference to the economic threat as more than an incidental threat. Moreover, the Joint Chiefs’ paper had argued that we must take measures to defeat the external Soviet threat even if in the process we changed our way of life. At least, said Secretary Humphrey, these statements clearly posed the real issue. The great difficulty, of course, was that we don’t really have all the facts we need either on the nature of the Soviet threat or on the nature of the economic threat. On top of this problem was the question of timing. There were plenty of things that you could stand for one year that you might not be able to stand for ten years. Are we going to meet this threat, asked Secretary Humphrey, in the same way that the previous Administration had tried to meet it. To decide on some future D-day and then try desperately and in the shortest possible time to rearm the country to a point which might enable it to meet this threat; or do we propose to consider ways and means of meeting a threat which will be with us over a very long time. It was important to decide this, thought Secretary Humphrey, because over the long haul we could easily be destroyed by either of the two threats, external or internal. If we mean to face this Soviet threat over a long time we must spend less than we are now spending and do less than we are now doing. If, on the other hand, we believe that we must anticipate a Soviet attack in a year’s time or that we might be compelled to attack the Soviet Union, then obviously we ought to do and spend more than we are doing and spending now. This, said Secretary Humphrey, seemed to him the essence of the issue.
The Secretary of State commented that it was not wholly clear to him what adoption of the present report would really decide. If adoption of the paper meant that the United States was going ahead to balance its budget and cut its taxes and that everything else must give way to this objective, he was strongly against it. This would be a decision reached in the dark. With obvious emotion, Secretary Dulles pointed out that as yet the National Security Council had been presented with no precise estimates of the costs to maintain the defense system of the free world coalition. No one knew as yet what this would cost but we certainly couldn’t throw the common defense system out the window because we had to balance the budget. Furthermore, continued Secretary Dulles, it [Page 518] seemed significant to him that there was never any talk of making any drastic cuts except in defense expenditures. What about cutting in other areas. Why do we continue spending $2 billion annually for price supports of agriculture. I believe, concluded Secretary Dulles, that we might quite possibly accomplish all the security objectives we have in mind and at the same time succeed in bringing the budget substantially into balance. I don’t know for sure and we can’t know until we have more information.
Both the President and Secretary Humphrey questioned the justice of Secretary Dulles’ contention that Side “B” was arguing that the budget must be balanced at whatever cost to the national security programs. They also pointed out that cuts and reductions had been made in other areas than the national security programs. Director Dodge added figures to show that there was no hope of balancing the budget unless cuts were made in appropriations for the national security.
Secretary Dulles remained unconvinced by these arguments and insisted that paragraph 39–a proposed by the Treasury and the Budget seemed to him to call for balancing the budget at whatever cost, “barring basic change in the world situation.” This seemed to Secretary Dulles an absolute. But Secretary Humphrey responded in defense of this paragraph by insisting that you could reach a balanced budget by increasing taxes. All this paragraph argued was that you must approach a balanced budget at some level—a higher if not a lower level.
Secretary Dulles said that in any case he could not accept the argument that a completely balanced budget was essential under existing conditions. This was the argument of a doctrinaire and indeed it was adherence to this view which had caused the Hoover Administration to blow up. The facts simply did not justify the conclusion that you have got to balance the budget. There was still leeway.
Secretary Humphrey repeated his insistence that he was not saying that the budget must be balanced come what may. Rather, we were talking of a trend—the direction in which we propose to go. Treasury and Budget were indeed seeking a suitable posture of defense that would square with what the country could afford to pay for. Secretary Dulles answered that if this was the view of the Budget and the Treasury it was all he could ask. Mr. Dodge pointed out that the discussion was beginning to be confused. We were supposed to be directing our thought to the first difference of opinion, namely, the nature of the threat to the United States and actually the discussion had moved on to the third issue, namely, how to finance United States security programs.[Page 519]
The President expressed agreement and said that the issue before the Council at this point was the long-term capacity of the United States to survive. All of us, said the President, admit that we can endure anything for a year or two and he added that this Administration had never issued any promise to balance the budget in any specific year such as 1953 or 1954. Nevertheless, in the long run this country must have a sound dollar. Moreover, this sound dollar lies at the very basis of a sound capability for defense.
Governor Stassen then proposed a formula which he said might produce agreement between the two sides. This formula would run along the lines that we must do the maximum to meet the external threat, which is possible to do without changing our way of life.
Secretary Wilson expressed agreement with Governor Stassen’s statement. Secretary Humphrey did not. Governor Stassen went on to point out to the President that he had “freed up” the economy of this country in the last eight months. The standard of living in large parts of Europe was on the upgrade. This was also the case in Japan. At the very same time that we are thus strengthening and expanding these economies, we are building our defenses. The way in which we now move to maximize our defense posture is substantially the same way we would move if later on we have to force an issue with the Soviet Union. This, said Governor Stassen, was in response to the President’s concern with the threat posed by Soviet possession of the H-bomb.
Mr. Flemming explained that he found himself in agreement with Secretary Dulles that it was very difficult to decide on this issue in the absence of specific and concrete information as to the costs of an adequate defense and security program. If, however, Side “A” was maintaining that we need more taxes and controls in order to meet the threat posed by the Soviet Union, he, Mr. Flemming, favored Side “A’s” position, more taxes and controls.
The President, however, reverted to his earlier argument that Side “A” seemed to assume that everything that was necessary for national defense could be accomplished without grave damage to the economy. The Joint Chiefs had gone even further and said that we should do what was necessary even if the result was to change the American way of life. We could lick the whole world, said the President, if we were willing to adopt the system of Adolph Hitler. He wished, said the President, that some of the other members of the Council could see the daily beating which he was taking from exponents of the balanced budget and greater economy. I feel sure, said the President, that I can get what we need for a period of time but if these necessities are to continue over a long period, I am inclined to go along with Secretary Humphrey. The real issue is how [Page 520] long can we afford to do all that Side “A” feels we must do to meet the threat.
Mr. Cutler expressed concern that the meeting of the National Security Council was degenerating into a debating society. He pointed out that the economic issues had been broken down into three parts and invited the Council to return to consideration of the first issue which was the statement of the nature of the threat facing the United States.
Mr. C.D. Jackson then inquired if he might have the floor for a moment. He expressed the opinion that both sides had actually “fudged” because it was apparent that the mood of those who had prepared NSC 162 was that equal weight should be assigned to adequate defense and to a balanced budget. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Jackson contended, had done better in recognizing clearly that our way of life may have to be upset. As he saw it, concluded Mr. Jackson, the National Security Council must decide that the defense of this nation is much more important than balancing budgets or lowering taxes.
Mr. Cutler observed that while the Joint Chiefs’ paper may have taken a bolder approach to the issue, their paper had not done complete justice to Side “B’s” evaluation of the external threat. After all, Side “B” did agree that the Soviet threat was primary.
The President observed that he didn’t think anyone present here thought that the cost of winning a global war against the Soviet Union was a cost too high to pay. He, too, however, preferred the Joint Chiefs’ statement since he doubted if we could get this so-called adequate defense over a sustained period without drastically changing our whole way of life.
Secretary Wilson, speaking with strong conviction, said he wanted to point out that if we ever go to the American people and tell them that we are putting a balanced budget ahead of national defense it would be a terrible day. What we are really trying to do is to ascertain and reach a reasonable posture of defense over a long period. If we can do this within a balanced budget, fine. If not, we will simply have to postpone balancing the budget. We can’t balance the budget over night in any case in view of what we have inherited from the previous Administration, but at least we have been doing better in the last few months and we can’t throw all these gains away in order to save a couple of billion dollars.
The President said it was more than a couple of billion dollars. NSC 1414 which had been left on our doorstep by the outgoing Administration had called for additional expenditures in the neighborhood of $20 billions in order to provide adequately for the national [Page 521] security. I think, said the President, that the American people ought to know when and how the law of diminishing returns sets in so heavy as to prove fatal.
Secretary Wilson replied that, of course, he was not advocating an additional $20 billions nor defending NSC 141. Secretary Humphrey added that likewise no one wanted to balance the budget at the sacrifice of the national security. Secretary Wilson interrupted to say that he wished Secretary Humphrey would make this last statement publicly. Secretary Humphrey went on to add that while we did not propose to balance the budget by sacrificing our security, we are, nevertheless, making every effort to revise and perfect our defense establishment and to get it within the limits of the means available to us. If all of us set out to reach this objective we can achieve it. Secretary Humphrey then referred to Admiral Radford’s comments on this subject at a previous meeting of the National Security Council in which Secretary Humphrey said he had detected a genuine meeting of minds. Returning to the point at issue Secretary Humphrey said that he could not believe that it was right that there should be no reference to the internal threat in a basic statement of policy before page 17. The military ought to be so damned dollar conscious that it hurts.
The President commented that after all we were engaged in defending a way of life as well as a territory, a population, or our dollar. This being the case, a recognition of this fact should comprise the first statement in the policy paper. If so, all subsequent statements in the paper would reflect this fundamental fact. If such a statement were included, it would be a satisfactory solution of this first issue. Secretary Humphrey said that such a statement as the President suggested would certainly satisfy him, but Secretary Wilson argued that it was perfectly possible for the United States to spend more money on defense than it was now spending without radically changing the American way of life and provided people realize that the added expenditure is vital. In view of the fact that the American standard of living had never been higher than it was at the present time it was foolish to insist that we can spend no more.
The President again pointed out to Mr. Wilson the importance of the time element. You could get the American people to make these sacrifices voluntarily for a year or for two or for three years but no eloquence would sell this proposition to the American people for the indefinite future.
Secretary Humphrey agreed with the President and added that you could mulct the country for five years but not for twenty. Governor Stassen, addressing himself to Secretary Humphrey, asked whether we had been mulcting the country or building it.[Page 522]
Governor Peterson said he believed that Side “B’s” proposal should be inserted in paragraph 1. Mr. Flemming expressed vigorous preference for the wording that the President had just suggested as a solution. He warned that if the language of Side “B” were admitted into the policy statement, it would presently become current throughout all the departments and agencies and could have very dangerous repercussions. Secretary Dulles supported Mr. Flemming’s contention and pointed out that every word in these NSC policy statements is taken very literally by the staffs of the departments and agencies. While we at the National Security Council level may not differ fundamentally, dangerous differences could develop at the staff level to the point of actually wrecking our whole security program.
The Attorney General expressed the opinion that in trying to reconcile Side “A” and Side “B” on this issue the Council was actually rendering a disservice to the President and to the country. The President should have both the statements before him and take them into consideration in making decisions on concrete programs and budget problems as these were presented to him for decision.
In response to this suggestion from Mr. Brownell, Mr. Cutler pointed out that it was essential to have an agreed written statement as a guide to the departments and agencies. If we are unable to resolve differences at the NSC level we can be certain they won’t be resolved at any other level, nor will we have any real economies in the conduct of this Government.
The President then referred to paragraph 30-a and b of NSC 162 which pointed out that the basic problem of national security policy was to “meet the Soviet threat to United States security” and “in doing so to avoid seriously weakening the United States economy or undermining our fundamental values and institutions.” Do both sides, asked the President, agree with that statement of the basic problem. If they do, why not substitute similar language for what now appears on page 1 of the present paper.
Mr. Cutler posed this question and the Council agreed with the President’s suggestion. Mr. Cutler pointed out that this solved the problem as it was set forth on page 1 but that the Council must now deal with the same problem as it was set forth on page 19. In short, the Council should decide whether the Soviet threat had one or two aspects—external and internal.
After thinking a moment, in response to Mr. Cutler’s posing of the question, the President said he felt that he had little to quarrel with in the text on the right hand side of page 20 (paragraph 32–a and b).
Mr. Dodge pointed out that the members of the Council should realize that this basic statement of policy would constitute a guide [Page 523] to all departments and agencies of the Executive Branch. Accordingly, it was necessary for the report to contain adequate recognition of the economic threat to the nation.
With a smile, the President turned to Mr. Dodge and said, “Joe, fundamentally you think all soldiers are spendthrifts.” Mr. Cutler then asked whether members of the Council who supported Side “A” were willing to agree to accept paragraphs 32–a and 32–b on the necessity for a sound and growing economy as set forth by Side “B”. Secretary Dulles replied that while he had no particular opposition to this proposal, he questioned whether the National Security Council was the appropriate body to pass judgments on problems of taxation. There was general agreement, however, to the insertion of a modified version of Side “B’s” paragraph 32.
Mr. Cutler then said that the Council was ready to consider the second major divergence in the paper, namely, as to the effect on the economy of existing United States tax reates and tax structure. He pointed out that Side “A” believed that the rates and structure of the tax system tend to restrict normal incentives for long-term growth. Side “B” believed that tax rates are so high and the structure of the tax system so bad that normal incentives for long-term economic growth are already seriously restricted.
At the conclusion of Mr. Cutler’s explanation of this second issue, the President expressed doubt as to whether the National Security Council was the appropriate body to deal with this issue. When, however, Mr. Cutler pressed for a solution of this issue, the President went on to say that he would not be inclined to quarrel with the view of Side “B” since, after all, the Treasury and Budget were the experts in this field. Secretary Wilson said that in so far as this issue was posed in paragraph 20, he favored leaving out the paragraph altogether. He felt that the paragraph had no point since we cannot be said to have at the present time “normal peacetime boom conditions.”
Secretary Humphrey and the other members of the Council agreed to the elimination of this paragraph and subsequently also agreed to the elimination of the bracketed portion of paragraph 23, which posed the same issue. The President commented that there seemed to be some evidence that the present report had been prepared for a wider audience than he hoped a Top Secret report would get. This occasioned laughter, and the President went on to say that some of the exposition of this problem in the paper contained redundancies.
Mr. Cutler then raised the third major issue in the present report, namely, how to finance United States security programs. He pointed out that Side “A” believed that in meeting necessary U.S. security costs and maintaining a sound U.S. economy, we [Page 524] must be prepared to maintain or increase present tax levels; and the American people can be persuaded to support such measures. Side “B”, consisting of the Treasury and the Bureau of the Budget, believed that barring basic changes in the world situation, the Budget should be brought into substantial balance by reducing expenditures while not increasing taxes above the January 1954 levels. This issue appeared in paragraphs 39–a–b and c on page 27.
After Mr. Dodge had explained the reasons why Budget and Treasury believed their view more correct, the President asked if anyone wanted to take on Representative Reed 5 in the matter of arguing for tax increases. After the laughter had subsided, Secretary Humphrey posed the question: What is the real objective of the Administration. Was it to live within our means or not. Over the long haul, said Secretary Humphrey, he was convinced that we must live within our means.
Secretary Dulles said he feared that the language proposed by Side “B” would be interpreted as an absolute commitment to balance the budget and he felt such a commitment at this time to be very dangerous.
The President observed that in view of the vital importance of a sound U.S. economy, it was necessary every time an expenditure was proposed to consider the effect of this expenditure on the economy. Wasn’t this, he inquired, the essence of the problem. If we give this view as a clear-cut directive to all the staffs of Government agencies, we need not bother with philosophic dissertations on the problem. With a chuckle, the President said that he now seemed to be with Side “A”.
Secretary Humphrey suggested that he would buy Side “A’s” version of paragraph 39 if it could be revised to include the phrase “over a long period of time.” It was agreed, after further discussion, to accept the version of paragraphs 39–a and b as set forth in Side “A’s” version but to strike subparagraph c in Side “A’s” version and to put in its place as 39–c the paragraph 39–a proposed by Side “B”.
Mr. Cutler then explained the fourth area of disagreement, namely, foreign economic assistance, pointing out that Side “A” believed that U.S. economic grant aid and loans to other nations of the free world should be progressively reduced only if modification of U.S. trade and tariff policies permits these nations to substitute trade for aid. Side “B” believed that in subsequent fiscal years the United States should further curtail economic grant aid and loans to other nations without conditioning such curtailment upon a [Page 525] modification of U.S. trade and tariff policies. The President’s first comment was to point out the difficulty of generalizing on this kind of a problem. The real criterion was what our true interests dictated. The President went on to say that he was very weary of hearing our efforts to assist other nations described as the real cause of our unbalanced budget. Much of the money we had spent abroad, said the President, had been very well spent indeed.
Mr. Dodge pointed out that Side “B” simply did not wish to predicate any reduction of foreign economic assistance on a reduction of U.S. tariffs. A mere reduction of these tariffs, he insisted, would not really answer in its entirety the problem of stable economies in foreign countries. Secretary Wilson supported the view of Side “A” and suggested the omission of paragraph 35–e which Side “B” desired to include. The President then invited Secretary Dulles to speak to this issue.
Secretary Dulles pointed out that we might well find a number of foreign areas where an immediate increase in American economic assistance would not only confer great advantage from the point of view of security but would later on permit actual savings. As instances, Secretary Dulles cited Japan and Germany. Appropriate assistance to these nations now might well enable us soon to bring back U.S. divisions stationed in these countries with the saving of money which would naturally follow.
Though the prevailing view seemed to favor Side “A”, Secretary Humphrey pointed out how much he disliked to leave the statements with regard to U.S. economic assistance without any qualification whatsoever on the degree of this assistance. He cited the loans to Brazil as an example of the danger. After further discussion, in the course of which the President and the Secretary of State cited the example of India and pointed out that if India collapsed, the whole of Asia would unquestionably go down the drain, the Council accepted a revision of paragraph 35–a which placed a limitation on further economic grant aid and loans “based on the best interests of the United States.”
Mr. Cutler then raised the next difference of view which concerned foreign military assistance as opposed to foreign economic assistance. On this issue Mr. Cutler pointed out Side “A” believes that military aid to Europe should be reduced only as rapidly as the European economies can assume the burden of maintaining agreed adequate forces. Side “B” believed that the progressive reduction of U.S. military aid to Europe should not be primarily dependent upon the capability of the European economies to assume this burden. The President commented with some warmth that he would never agree to the progressive reduction suggested by Side “B” as long as we were still desperately trying to add twelve [Page 526] German divisions to the defense forces of Western Europe. He said he wanted General Ridgway to make a statement as to the importance of these divisions.
General Ridgway replied that in his view these twelve divisions were absolutely indispensable to the accomplishment of our mission in Europe.
Mr. Dodge replied that if the Council adopted the view of Side “A” as set forth in paragraph 36–a, it would amount to stating that we cannot reduce our military aid until these nations state that they are able to carry the load. After further discussion it was agreed to accept the version of paragraph 36–a proposed by Side “A”, dropping out the last phrase which read “as rapidly as the United States concludes that the European economies can assume this burden” and to substitute therefor the phrase “as rapidly as the United States security interests permit.”
The next issue, said General Cutler, concerned the redeployment of U.S. forces overseas. Side “A”, said Mr. Cutler, maintained that a major redeployment of U.S. forces from Europe and the Far East at the present time would seriously undermine the strength of the coalition. While partial redeployment might improve the United States and Allied military posture, only further study can determine our most effective deployment. Side “B” maintained that, because the United States and Allied military posture is weakened by the present over-extended deployment of U.S. forces, an early determination should be made whether, with the understanding of our Allies, the redeployment toward the United States of the bulk of our land and other forces should soon be initiated and carried during the next few years.
As Mr. Cutler called on Admiral Radford for his views on this issue, the President observed that the critical phrase in this statement was the phrase “with the understanding of our Allies.”
Before Admiral Radford could make his statement, Secretary Wilson pointed out that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had reached an agreed position on this issue and that it was set forth on page 8 of their written memorandum in the language which, in substance, adopted the position of Side “B” as contained in the righthand text of paragraph 37–a–b and c of NSC 162. Admiral Radford confirmed Secretary Wilson’s remark by stating that the Joint Chiefs were prepared to accept Side “B’s” language for paragraph 37–a with only two changes. He wished to strike out the phrase “reasonably soon” in subparagraph c.
Secretary Dulles said that on the basis of his “embryonic military knowledge” the position taken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff seemed sound. He felt obliged to say, however, that unless this redeployment were handled with the greatest delicacy and under the [Page 527] cover of another and larger operation, the redeployment could bring about the complete collapse of our coalition in Europe. He repeated that the redeployment simply could not be done as a separate and distinct move. He hoped and believed that it could be done, however, as part of an “over-all operation” in Europe in which the redeployment would stand out as a constructive and not a destructive step. In concluding his remarks, Secretary Dulles indicated that this whole matter was so delicate that he was fearful of even having it set forth as it was in paragraph 37–c for fear that the report might leak out with terrible repercussions abroad.
The President commented philosophically that we seemed to be hoist on our own petard. On the one hand we wanted our policy set forth clearly in the present report. On the other we couldn’t afford to let such matters get into the hands of the columnists. On the whole, continued the President, he thought paragraph 37 constituted a good statement of military policy. On the other hand it was vitally important that no inkling of the proposed redeployment should be made public until our Allies had also been brought to realize that such a redeployment was really good military policy. The President went on to point out that properly speaking the stationing of U.S. divisions in Europe had been at the outset an emergency measure not intended to last indefinitely. Unhappily, however, the European nations have been slow in building up their own military forces and had now come to expect our forces to remain in Europe indefinitely.
The discussion then centered on the fact that while everybody agreed with the sense of paragraph c, for reasons of prudence and to avoid a leak, it was thought best to omit subparagraph c. Secretary Dulles also said that he felt that subparagraph b on the left-hand or Side “A” column of page 25 should be left in since this called attention to the fact that under present conditions a major withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe could be very dangerous to the coalition.
Secretary Humphrey said that this position of the Secretary of State really went to the heart of the question and to the reality of our basic intention. Secretary Humphrey contended that the present overextended deployment of our forces represented a situation which we did not wish to perpetuate. Instead, we wished to redeploy these forces and if we had to fight, to fight a new and not an old type of war. This particular issue, said Secretary Humphrey, was the guts of our whole military program. The President cautioned Secretary Humphrey by pointing out that the caveman’s rock could kill his enemy if the enemy had no defense against it. Going on, the President observed that if the Communists succeeded in gaining control of Europe the world balance of power would be [Page 528] hopelessly upset against us. It would be necessary to spend many more billions than we are now spending to redress this balance of power. In short, said the President, that Western Europe not fall to the Communists was a sine qua non. Therefore, anxious as he was to see European nations do more to provide for the common defense, we simply could not abandon what we had begun in Europe. On the contrary, what we must do is to improve the morale of Western Europe. Bringing back our divisions in any abrupt way would not improve European morale but completely destroy it. Speaking with great emphasis, the President pointed out that the United States divisions in Europe had done marvels in restoring Europe’s faith in itself. He asked Admiral Radford to comment on the points he had made.
Admiral Radford replied that the Joint Chiefs were certainly in agreement on the vital importance of Western Europe. On the other hand, the Joint Chiefs in considering NSC 162 had thought of the report as a guidance for a limited period of time. Obviously they thought that some of the issues raised in NSC 162 were not short-term but could be resolved only over a long period of time. That was true, said Admiral Radford, for instance, of the issues with regard to the economy and the Chiefs contended that the threat to the health of the U.S. economy was part and parcel of the Soviet threat. Nevertheless, he failed to see how anyone could say at the present time that we are going to continue to do what we have been doing to meet the Soviet threat over an indefinite future. It may be essential to find some other solution to meet the threat.
The President admitted the relevance of Admiral Radford’s comment on the time issue but pointed out that even as you dealt with day-to-day problems you needed some kind of a philosophy as a general guide to action. Certainly, said the President, we cannot continue deficit financing indefinitely and, accordingly, we could not eliminate mention of the serious threat to our economy.
Secretary Wilson expressed a belief that the argument in the Council on the present report had been from the outset confused over long-term versus short-term measures. The President said that was quite possible but that the objective in the short-term was to get the United States into the posture of defense which it desired to maintain over a long term.
After further discussion the Council agreed to Mr. Cutler’s solution to the redeployment issue by accepting paragraph 37–a on the righthand of page 25, followed by 37–b on the lefthand, and followed by a new 37–c which consisted of the old 37–b on the right-hand side as revised. It was also agreed to leave out the old 37–c for security reasons though it was to be understood that the National [Page 529] Security Council was sympathetic to the contents of the omitted paragraph c calling for redeployment over the next few years of U.S. forces under certain limitations.
The Council then moved on to consider the seventh issue dealing with the reduction of the Soviet threat. Mr. Cutler pointed out that on this issue there was a measure of agreement on both sides. Both agreed that short of general war acceptable negotiated settlements with the USSR are the only means of substantially reducing the Soviet threat. (Side “B” believes that the possibility of such settlements is more remote.) Beyond this point differences occur, said General Cutler. Side “A” believed that the best way to induce the Soviets to accept such settlements is for the United States to forego pressures at least against the USSR itself; to attempt to reduce tensions on secondary issues; and to try to convince the Soviet leaders that, if they renounce aggression and domination of other peoples, the United States has no intention of interfering with the internal organization or the territorial integrity of the USSR.
On the other hand, Side “B” believed that the best way of bringing the Soviets to agree to such settlements is to maintain pressures against the USSR which do not involve grave risk of general war. Settlements which reduce tensions without a concurrent reduction of the Soviet threat could lead the free world dangerously to relax its defense.
The President immediately inquired whether, under the policy advocated by side “A”, . . . . Mr. C.D. Jackson contended that if Side “A’s” view had prevailed we could not have gone through with the food program in East Germany. Mr. Dodge said that the view of Side “A” suggested to him continuous concessions to the USSR which the record of the past had shown to be very unsuccessful.
The President pointed out that he did not mean to be too critical of any honest position. If there was anyone willing to speak to paragraph 41 according to the version of side “A”, he would be very pleased to listen.
Secretary Dulles turned around to Mr. Bowie and asked him if the Side “A” version of paragraph 41 was the position taken by the Department of State. Mr. Bowie answered in the affirmative, and the President commented, with a smile, that this was not the way that the Secretary of State usually talked to him about this problem.
Secretary Dulles then pointed out that it might be possible to reach general agreements with the Soviets, for example, on reduction of armaments, but that we were certainly not in a position to impose such settlements on them. Such settlements would have to be mutually acceptable. If we are prepared to grant a quid pro quo we are in a position to settle Korea and possibly even East Germany. [Page 530] Of course, said Secretary Dulles, his interpretation of this issue by no means excluded unilateral efforts by the United States to increase its relative power position vis-à-vis the USSR. Nor did his view exclude efforts, together with our allies, to push our power position forward against the USSR.
Mr. Cutler pointed out the relevance of this issue to the bracketed phrase in paragraph 43–a, where one side said that “measures to impose pressures on the Soviet bloc should be designed primarily to create conditions which would induce the Soviet leadership to be more receptive to acceptable negotiated settlements”, whereas the other side wanted to say “should take into account the desirability of creating” such conditions.
The Director of Central Intelligence, Secretary Wilson, the Joint Chiefs, and Mr. Stassen, all expressed the view that the bracketed subparagraph 43–c on page 31, which stated that the U.S. should not initiate aggressive actions involving force against Soviet bloc territory, should be omitted.
The President said that he personally would prefer to see this paragraph removed, pointing out that any proposal involving the use of force against such territory, whether overt or covert, would require a prior Council decision.
After further discussion of the content of paragraph 41, the President suggested that the Council take the first sentence of paragraph 41 on the left-hand side of the page, and then go on and add the subparagraphs as revised.
Secretary Dulles warned again that in his view we could not reduce tensions with the USSR if in each case we expected to gain all the advantage and the Soviets none. Such settlements, he repeated, must be mutually acceptable, and what was being proposed appeared to be reversing this Administration’s whole policy—a fact that was all the more dangerous in view of Soviet possession of the H-bomb.
Secretary Humphrey asked whether the suggestion the President had just made did not meet Secretary Dulles’ point. But Secretary Dulles continued to insist that if you subordinate the achievement of mutually acceptable settlements to improving the power position of the United States as against the USSR, you will eliminate all hope of settlements in Korea, Austria, Germany, etc.
After further discussion, satisfactory revisions were agreed upon in the wording of paragraph 41, and it was also agreed to strike paragraph 43–c.
Mr. Cutler then introduced the next major issue, namely, the character of measures to impose pressures on the Soviets. He pointed out that Side “A” believed that measures to impose pressures on the Soviet bloc should be designed primarily to create conditions [Page 531] which would induce the Soviets to be more receptive to acceptable negotiated settlements. Side “B”, on the other hand believed that measures to impose such pressures should take into account the desirability of creating such conditions, but should not be confined thereto.
The President at once stated his preference for the view expressed by Side “B” on this issue, and there was no further discussion on it.
Mr. Cutler then stated that this concluded the major areas of disagreement on NSC 162. There were, however, other points which needed to be decided, and he wished the Council would agree to taking them up seriatim.
Turning to page 8 of the report, Mr. Cutler said that there had been a difference in emphasis as to the degree that the United States should, in the interests of its leadership, meet the desires of its allies. After a brief discussion the Council agreed to strike the bracketed portion of subparagraph c page 8.
The next point, said Mr. Cutler, was paragraph 3–a, on page 3, in which the issue was whether the USSR now has the capability to attack the U.S. with atomic weapons, or whether the USSR shortly will have this capability.
The President observed that Council action on this point involved the confidence which the intelligence community in this Government had in the reliability of its information. In short, this was a question of fact.
Responding to the President, Mr. Allen Dulles stated the belief of the intelligence community that the Russians could launch an atomic attack on the United States tomorrow if they were willing to throw into this attack everything they had and take the attendant risk. He did suggest, however, the removal of the adverb “very” in front of “serious damage”.
The President and Admiral Strauss argued for the removal of the phrase “shortly will have”. Secretary Wilson thought that the phrase should remain in. The President thought that this issue was getting down to a quibble, and the Council agreed to remove the phrase in question.
In the related statement of the problem in paragraph 31–a, page 19, the Council agreed to leave the bracketed phrase, “and possibly crippling”, in the text.
The next point, said Mr. Cutler, concerned the statement of the manpower problem as set forth on page 17. This statement, said Mr. Cutler, had the approval of Assistant Secretary of Defense [Page 532] Hannah,6 but Mr. Flemming had raised the questions as to its validity.
Mr. Flemming then commented that he thought the existing statement too pessimistic and defeatist in tone. He pointed out that by Council directive the ODM was making a new study of the whole manpower situation and would report to the Council on it about December 1. While he did not wish to prejudge the findings of this new study, he had prepared a revision of the manpower statement in NSC 162 which he wished at this time to pass around to the members of the Council and to comment thereon.
Mr. Cutler then asked Admiral Radford to comment on the revision proposed by Mr. Flemming.
Admiral Radford felt, he said, that while the present paragraph might be somewhat too pessimistic, Mr. Flemming’s substitute went to the opposite extreme of being too optimistic.
Secretary Humphrey added that he felt that Mr. Flemming’s statement dodged the clear issue of the need or likelihood of controls over manpower.
Secretary Wilson stated that the situation in the Services was pretty tight right now with regard to the right kind of people.
Mr. Flemming said that he by no means denied that there were very tough manpower problems facing us, but he did wish to emphasize that they were not insurmountable. He therefore suggested that his language be taken as an interim statement and that the Council take a new look at page 17 after the receipt of ODM’s full report on manpower.
After further discussion it was agreed to omit any statement on manpower at this time, and to refer the problem to the Director of Defense Mobilization and the Secretary of Defense, with the assistance of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The next point, said Mr. Cutler, related to our policy with regard to the use of special weapons as set forth in paragraph 38–b, with particular respect to securing the understanding and approval of the use of special weapons by our allies.
The President suggested that securing this approval and understanding of our allies should precede the use of these special weapons, which was not the case in the present text of paragraph 38–b.
Mr. Cutler, however, pointed out that in their written comments the Joint Chiefs had been even firmer in their insistence on the use of these weapons.
The President commented that however that might be, nothing would so upset the whole world as an announcement at this time by the United States of a decision to use these weapons.[Page 533]
Secretary Wilson said he saw the President’s point, but that nevertheless the Defense Department must know whether or not to plan for the use of these weapons. Do we intend to use weapons on which we are spending such great sums, or do we not?
The President replied that after all, he had to make the ultimate decision as to the use of these weapons, and if the use of them was dictated by the interests of U.S. security, he would certainly decide to use them.
Admiral Radford said that he was nevertheless still very worried about this problem. Can we, he inquired, use these weapons from bases where the permission of no foreign government is required? Admiral Radford thought it vital that we should be able to make this decision.
The President reiterated his belief that we should issue no statements on this point until we have given our Government officials a chance to convince our friends as to the desirability of using these weapons. So far, however, as war plans were concerned, continued the President, he thought that the JCS should count on making use of special weapons in the event of general war. They should not, however, plan to make use of these weapons in minor affairs.
Secretary Dulles repeated his often-expressed view that somehow or other we must manage to remove the taboo from the use of these weapons.
Mr. Cutler then suggested a revision of paragraph 38–b which the President said seemed suitable to him. The President pointed out that there were certain places where you would not be able to use these weapons because if you did it would look as though the U.S. were initiating global war. If, however, we actually got into a global war, we would certainly use the weapons. The President then said for a second time that he was anxious to find out just what were the views of our allies with respect to the use of these weapons. Would the Departments of State and Defense undertake to advise him on this question?
Secretary Dulles indicated that he would comply with the President’s desire, but pointed out that in making inquiries of our allies we must be careful to avoid framing our inquiries in such language as would invite refusals or further limitations on the use of these weapons.
To this the President replied that of course he expected these inquiries to be handled with finesse. We needed, however, to be able to hit the Soviets, if necessary, from any point on the compass.
General Ridgway then stated that Prime Minister Churchill and Chancellor Adenauer 7 had recently told him in great confidence [Page 534] that they would approve the use of the bases from which these weapons would be launched in their territories in the event of war.8 The French position, however, had not yet been clarified.
The President then remarked that it was very undesirable to knock the coalition over the head by precipitate action on this issue.
The National Security Council: 9
- Noted the comments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on NSC 162, as distributed at the meeting.
- Discussed the statement of policy in NSC 162, with particular reference to the divergent views contained therein; and agreed upon amendments thereto, including the resolution of the divergent views.
- Referred NSC 162 to the NSC Planning Board to prepare for Council consideration a revised statement of basic national security policy, incorporating the agreed amendments to NSC 162, which with the addition of appropriate courses of action would supersede NSC 153/1.
. . . . . . .
- Drafted by Deputy Executive Secretary Gleason on Oct. 8.↩
- Dated Sept. 30, p. 489.↩
- A copy of the 10-page detailed comments of the JCS on NSC 162, dated Oct. 6, 1953, is in S/P–NSC files, lot 61 D 167, NSC 162.↩
- Dated Jan. 19, p. 209.↩
- Representative Daniel A. Reed (R., N.Y.), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, 83d–84th Congresses.↩
- John A. Hannah, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Personnel.↩
- Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.↩
- Documentation on discussions with the United Kingdom and Canada concerning the possible provision of overseas bases for use in the event of war, is scheduled for publication in volume vi .↩
- Paragraphs a–c constitute NSC Action No. 926. (S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Records of Action”)↩