Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at the 187th Meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, March 4, 19541

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eyes only

The following were present at the 187th NSC meeting: The President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Acting 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; Mr. Morrison for the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; the Deputy Secretary of Defense; Robert R. Bowie, Department of State; Commissioner Campbell, AEC; 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; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

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

[Here follows a discussion concerning significant world developments affecting United States security, the status of United States programs for national security as of December 31, 1953, and United States objectives in the event of general war with the Soviet bloc.]

4. United States Policy Toward South Asia (NSC 5409;2 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated March 2, 19543)

Mr. Cutler either summarized or read the entire policy statement on South Asia. In the course of his exposition of the paragraph directing the United States to attempt to discourage Ceylon from selling strategic materials, particularly rubber, to Communist China, the President interrupted to ask to whom Ceylon might be expected to sell its rubber if not to Communist China. Mr. Cutler said that he was unable to say, but he hoped that the Ceylonese would find somebody to sell it to. Secretary Wilson said that rubber made an awful smell when you had to burn it.

The President commented, with evident heat, that we were allowing a bunch of damned idiots to force us into policies with respect to trade that were absolutely foolish.

The Vice President pointed out that the Ceylonese were very shrewd and sophisticated traders. Their sale of rubber to China was merely a business deal and had nothing whatsoever to do with their political [Page 1127] beliefs. By and large, the people of Ceylon seemed to him just about as anti-Communist as the Pakistanis.

After this interruption, Mr. Cutler resumed his briefing with a discussion of the Financial Appendix to the South Asian policy paper. He explained the extraordinary difficulty of making a concise and clear statement as to the financing of the programs for this or for any other country or area. Despite the complexities, however, he felt that the Financial Appendix did offer a reasonable order of magnitude of the costs of this policy over a three-year period, and also provided some idea of the availability of funds to meet such costs. If this Financial Appendix on South Asia met the test of usefulness, and if it could stand as a model for future financial appendices regarding policies for other areas, the National Security Council would be provided with a basis upon which to determine priorities among the different policy requirements.

Secretary Humphrey expressed the earnest hope that Mr. Cutler would be able to carry through his plans for developing financial appendices, pointing out that the Council now had approved policies which called for financial assistance to some 35 foreign countries. In his opinion, said Secretary Humphrey, before any one of these policy reports had been adopted by the National Security Council, we should have had a clear idea of the total picture of financial requirements for foreign assistance.

The President said that he could not agree more with the statement that Secretary Humphrey had made, but that he nevertheless felt compelled to remind the members of the Council that the United States had passed the point of scrutinizing its programs to assist foreign nations in terms of a single fiscal year. Instead, we should be thinking in terms of decades or even of generations from the point of view of our country’s welfare. As a result of looming destructive power and the psychological appeals of Communism, this country was going to be confronted with very great and very tangled problems. We should therefore look upon the assistance we give to foreign nations as an investment which will keep us out of a catastrophic war and perhaps provide our grandchildren with a life something like our own. We must not be begrudging or small-minded in our approach to the problem of foreign assistance, and we must educate our people to understand why it is necessary. By all means let us have the most careful estimates of the cost of such assistance, but when we have all the facts together, let us do all that is required and not merely plan on the basis of the results to be anticipated in a single fiscal year. Above all, let us not behave as though the present budget and the present dollar was the be-all and end-all.

Expressing his agreement with the President’s statement, Governor Stassen observed that he wanted to emphasize that the overall [Page 1128] demands, world-wide, on the United States were declining. The problem was nothing like as difficult as when the Administration assumed office in January 1953. Our dollars now go much further and we were quite well funded to meet the decreased burdens which we still had to carry. Above all, we now knew where we were going.

At the conclusion of the discussion of the Financial Appendix, Mr. Cutler invited comments from members of the Council on the policy report as a whole.

Secretary Smith stated that he had only one comment to make, which was to congratulate the Planning Board on the high quality of the report which it had prepared.

The President said that he was moved by Secretary Smith’s remark to say that just as the run of our citizens tend to take American freedom for granted, so perhaps the members of the National Security Council took the assistance given it by the Planning Board, the Joint Chiefs, and other staff agencies, too much for granted. In his view, said the President, the Planning Board was a group of dedicated officials without whose work the National Security Council simply could not function. He said he did not desire merely to say this to the members of the Council, but that he wished Mr. Cutler to carry his statement to each and every member of the Planning Board. As for the members of the Council, they should see to it that their representatives on the Planning Board were supported to the hilt and that these Planning Board representatives were of the highest quality that could be found.

Secretary Wilson said that he had one or two minor comments to make on the South Asia paper. The first was a suggestion for deleting paragraph 17, which called on the United States to urge greater participation by South Asian countries in the various agencies of the United Nations. Secretary Smith said with some emphasis that he preferred to leave this paragraph in. Secretary Wilson replied that in that case the paragraph might be modified to suggest that in certain circumstances it was not in the best interests of the United States that such participation occur, and that it might sometimes do more harm than good.

The President said that he understood the paragraph to refer to auxiliary bodies in the UN organization. The Soviets were not represented on most such bodies, and it therefore seemed sensible to the President for us to encourage the participation of the South Asian countries in these activities.

At the suggestion of Secretary Wilson, Admiral Radford explained that the Joint Chiefs of Staff believed that occasions might well arise when such participation might prove disadvantageous to the United [Page 1129] States. The President then inquired whether we could not play this by ear. If it was agreed that such participation was generally advantageous, it was a relatively easy matter to make exceptions in particular cases which were disadvantageous.

Secretary Wilson said that his next point was to suggest a revision in paragraph 51, dealing with military assistance to Pakistan.

After the Council had agreed on a revision of this paragraph, the Vice President pointed out that in every instance in which the United States gave economic or technical assistance to the countries of South Asia, there always arose a question in the minds of the recipients of this aid whether the United States was motivated by considerations of colonialism. When such assistance was provided through UN agencies rather than directly by the United States, no such troublesome issue arose. Since, said the Vice President, he assumed that our purpose in providing assistance to these countries was not motivated primarily by a desire to gain credit or to buy friendship, but rather to build up these countries, would it not be sensible to emphasize the channel provided by the UN agencies and to put less emphasis on direct U.S. assistance? The Vice President said that in the course of his recent trip to the Far East he found that many of the Asian nations disliked one another intensely, but the UN was amazingly popular among all of them.

The President thought that this was to be explained by the fact that the membership of these newly independent countries in the UN and its auxiliary bodies provided these countries with a sense of equality. The Vice President added that it also seemed to these countries a bulwark against colonialism.

The National Security Council:

Adopted the draft statement of policy contained in NSC 5409, subject to amendment of the second line of paragraph 51, page 12, to read as follows: “military assistance, including grant, in view of Pakistan’s attitude”.

Note: NSC 5409, as amended, approved by the President and referred to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency designated by the President.4

[Here follows a consideration of Foreign Operations Administrator Stassen’s trip to the Far East, the Republic of Korea’s offer to provide troops for service in Laos, assurances to the French Government regarding the European Defense Community, legislation regarding the order of succession to the presidency, and the status of NSC projects as of March 1, 1954.]

  1. This memorandum was drafted by S. Everett Gleason, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, on Mar. 5.
  2. Dated Feb. 19, p. 1089.
  3. Supra.
  4. The final paragraph indicating the NSC’s adoption of the Draft Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council in NSC 5409 and the Note were adopted verbatim as NSC Action No. 1052 (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “Record of Actions by the NSC, 1954”).