15. Letter From the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge) to the President1


  • Economic Aid to Foreign Countries

Dear Mr. President: Stalin’s death eliminated the violent sounds which helped to keep our allies together.

In its place has now come the most effective campaign to date to break up NATO and to penetrate Africa and the Near East.

I have just seen this in Libya (Soviet offers of road building material, hospitals, doctors, etc.) and Sudan (Czech tractors for cotton). Jack McCloy has just told me of great Soviet activities in Saudi Arabia. Communists (with help from the Arabs) have created anti-American feeling in France.

Enclosed is a memorandum which sets down some ideas on how the United States should react to these Soviet tactics in the field of technical and economic assistance.

With warm and respectful regard.

Faithfully yours,

Cabot L
[Page 69]


Memorandum From the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge) to the President2


  • Proposed United States Reaction to New Soviet Tactics to Penetrate Africa by Technical, Economic and Political Means

Many of these tactics are fundamentally political and psychological. They are the type of tactics which have been used at home in American politics, but which for many reasons Americans do not use abroad.

For example:

When the late Frank Hague was Mayor of Jersey City or when James Michael Curley was Mayor of Boston, scarcely a curbstone or lamp post could be installed without its being done in such a way as to provoke a wave of gratitude, complete with speeches, publicity, etc. Yet the former head of United Nations Technical Assistance in Afghanistan told me that in the capital, Kabul, the Soviets had won considerable applause simply by paving the main streets of the city which for years had irritated everybody because it was so full of dust in the summer and mud in winter. But the United Nations and the United States have done work which was far more sincere and far more constructive without getting much credit.
Upon arriving in Geneva I was told that the Soviet representatives at Geneva always give immense tips to the chambermaids and taxi drivers and that the Soviet generosity becomes the talk of the town. When I was in Tripoli, I was told that a member of the Soviet Embassy in Tripoli pulled two Libyan pounds out of his pocket and said to his cab driver: “I have two pounds and I split them with you—one for you and one for me.” These examples were reported to me as examples of diabolical Soviet cleverness.

Yet many a man who has run for office in the United States has had the experience of spending the night in a hotel in a part of the state which was remote from his home and of giving large tips to chambermaids, bellboys, etc., knowing of the favorable talk which this produces in the community.

These incidents are not mentioned in order to prove that we should send more American politicians abroad. Nor do I think we should give up our emphasis on quality projects undertaken with a sincere desire to improve basic conditions.

But we should have every now and then a so-called “flashy” project which does create some favorable talk for the United States and we should not be in the [Page 70] position of being a “Mother Superior” who is always trying to make the little boy swallow some medicine he doesn’t like.

We cannot expect all American representatives to be politically clever or irresistibly charming, but they should all be tactful and they should make a real effort to think in psychological terms—of what the effect of our program will be on the mentality of the people of the country where he is stationed.

To meet the new Soviet tactics there should be an administrative organization which will enable American officials to move quickly. Having, in the Cabinet meetings, heard so often about our wheat surplus, it was astounding to realize the trouble and delay there has been in sending wheat to Libya. This was partly due to the necessity to get clearances from many different officials in Washington; it was also due to a desire not to send the Libyans so much wheat that they would not start their own wheat-growing program. I think there can be too much of the latter attitude. They are going to have to make their own mistakes and learn by their own experience. If they want a little more wheat than our experts think they should have, I would be for letting them have it, particularly as it would reduce our surplus by that much.
The Executive Branch should be enabled to make long-term arrangements. I believe that if the President had the authority to make a five or six-year program in Libya, it would in all probability be cheaper in dollars in the end, as compared to yielding to an endless succession of blackmail-type trades, and it certainly would put us in a bargaining position where we could get some very valuable concessions involving our own security—such as a Libyan prohibition on Soviet activity in the area of our Libyan bases.
Study should be given to making an offer to the Soviets to cease this poisonous competition, with its debilitating results for these weak countries, and joining us in a multilateral program under the United Nations on a basis of a high percentage of funds in convertible currency. We could use the nonconvertible percentage to expend our own surpluses. We could certainly control a multilateral program under the United Nations, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Soviets would refuse such an offer. If they accepted it, it would be good. If, as seems likely, the Soviets are determined to continue a bilateral program, then we have no choice but to continue with a bilateral and a multilateral program as we are now doing.
Speaking more broadly, it seems that the American people and Congress would accept as a working policy the proposition that the United States, as a country which achieved its own independence 175 years ago, is naturally interested in seeing to it that other [Page 71] nations who have just achieved their independence, maintain theirs and that economic aid can be based on this concept.
H. C. Lodge, Jr.
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series, Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1956. Top Secret.
  2. Top Secret.