361. Memorandum of Discussion at the 263d Meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, October 27, 1955, 9:30 a.m.1

Present at the 263rd Council meeting were the Vice President of the United States, presiding; the Acting Secretary of State; the Acting Secretary of Defense; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; Mr. Robert Matteson for Mr.Harold Stassen, Special Assistant to the President; Admiral Paul Foster for the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (Item 3); Mr. Ralph Spear for the Federal Civil Defense Administrator (Item 3); The Director, U.S. Information Agency; the Secretary of the Army (Item 3); the Secretary of the Navy (Item 3); the Secretary of the Air Force (Item 3); Assistant Secretary Gray of Defense (Item 3); the Deputy Director, Office of Defense Mobilization (Item 3); the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (Item 3); the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (Item 3); Admiral Donald B. Duncan for the Chief of Naval [Page 662] Operations (Item 3); the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force (Item 3); the Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps (Item 3); the Director of Central Intelligence; Special Assistants to the President Anderson, Dodge, and Rockefeller; TheWhite House Staff Secretary; the Naval Aide to the President (Item 3); the NSC Representative on Internal Security (Item 3); 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.

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows a report by Allen W. Dulles that King Saud of Saudi Arabia, as a result of a recent incident at the Buraimi Oasis, had ordered a break in diplomatic relations with Great Britain.]

Secretary Hoover said he thought that the Council would be interested in hearing his most recent reports from Secretary Dulles. Secretary Hoover proceeded to read a report of a discussion between Secretary Dulles and Foreign Secretary Macmillan on the situation in the Middle East.2 This had become so extremely serious that the possibility existed that Iraq might be permitted to take action against Syria where Communist influence had reached such a serious point.

With respect to Secretary Dulles’ conversation with Prime Minister Sharett,3 the latter had demanded that Egypt be forced to withdraw from its arms deal with Czechoslovakia. Furthermore,Sharett had asked for a security treaty for Israel without the conditions to such a treaty which had been set forth in the speech of Secretary Dulles on August 26. In reply Secretary Dulles had indicated that the United States could not sponsor an arms race in the Middle East and that the United States Senate would not ratify a security treaty in the absence of the conditions set forth in his August 26 speech. Secretary Dulles had added that the United States did not object to a modest increase in Israel armaments. Finally, Secretary Dulles had said that if a preventive war were launched, the United States would stand by its commitments in the Tripartite Declaration of 1950.

With respect to a conversation with Senator George, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee,4 Secretary Dulles had told Senator George that in his opinion the problem of Israeli-Arab relations had been handled by the prior administration wholly in terms of domestic political considerations and without reference to the true national interest of the United States. He added that he [Page 663] himself intended to handle the problem in the light of the national interest. Senator George had seemed to comprehend and sympathize with this point of view.

By way of further comment Secretary Hoover pointed out that border incidents between the Israelis and the Egyptians continued. The latter were apparently responsible for the latest incident and a much heavier Israeli retaliatory attack must now be awaited. The situation was extremely serious.

[Here follows an additional report by Hoover to the effect that Dulles and Macmillan had agreed to conclude the Geneva Foreign Ministers’ meeting by November 19 as well as an observation by Allen W. Dulles that the forthcoming vote of confidence in the French Assembly could overturn the Faure Government and could upset this timetable for the conference’s adjournment.]

The National Security Council:5

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence regarding British-Saudi Arabian relations and the forthcoming vote of confidence in the French Assembly.
Noted and discussed an oral report by the Acting Secretary of State on conversations regarding the developments in the Near East which the Secretary of State had recently had with the British Foreign Secretary, the Israeli Prime Minister, and the Turkish Foreign Minister.

2. U.S. Objectives and Policies With Respect to the Near East (NSC 5428;6NSC Actions Nos. 14477 and 1460;8 Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject, “Deterrence of Major Armed Conflict Between Israel and Egypt or Other Arab States”, dated October 17, 21, 24, and 26, 19559)

Mr.Dillon Anderson explained the revisions in Paragraphs 10 through 13 in the Supplementary Statement of Policy in NSC 5428 which had been agreed to by the Planning Board in the light of the discussion of the paper by the National Security Council last week10 and in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He pointed out that the three sub-paragraphs of Paragraph 10A, dealing with financial and economic sanctions against an aggressor or a potential [Page 664] aggressor, had been agreed to at last week’s Council meeting. With respect to the establishment of a blockade or further military action against Israel or an Arab State, he pointed out that there was still a split in the present revised draft. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in sub-Paragraph d of Paragraph 10A, were still calling for the United States to be prepared to establish a blockade with Congressional authority if it appeared that the financial and economic sanctions mentioned above seemed unlikely to end the hostilities promptly. The State Department, however, had offered its own paragraph on the subject of a blockade or further military intervention. This paragraph indicated that because the financial and economic sanctions might prove insufficient to end the hostilities promptly, a study should be made of the desirability and feasibility of taking military action including a blockade.

At the conclusion of Mr.Anderson’s briefing, the Vice President inquired whether an embargo could be established against an aggressor in the Middle East by the Executive Branch of the Government on its own initiative and without Congressional authorization. Mr.Anderson replied that he understood this to be the case and that the authority of the Executive Branch derived from two acts of Congress: The Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 and the Export Control Act of 1949. The Attorney General commented that whether or not the Executive Branch could legally resort to a blockade without further specific Congressional authorization, a serious policy question remained as to whether we would want to do so.

Referring to the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the new revised paper, Mr.Anderson suggested that either Secretary Robertson or Admiral Radford might wish to comment further on these views.

Admiral Radford stated that the Joint Chiefs of Staff preferred their own paragraph with respect to the possibility of resorting to a blockade. Personally, however, Admiral Radford said that he did not believe there was much to choose between the Joint Chiefs’ language and the paragraph proposed by the Department of State. He pointed out that it was unrealistic and impossible for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to formulate plans which contemplated U.S. military intervention beyond the phase of a blockade. Such further military intervention could not be planned for until developments between Israel and one or more of the Arab States had reached a point where we could determine which of the Arab States was going to attack Israel. Accordingly, concluded Admiral Radford, if the limitations on the capability of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make plans to meet all the possible contingencies in a war between Israel and the Arab States were clearly kept in mind, he would be willing to accept either the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the State versions of the disputed paragraphs. [Page 665] In any event, the present new draft was a great improvement on its predecessor.

The Vice President said that he judged from Admiral Radford’s statement that with certain qualifications the Joint Chiefs would be willing to accept the State version. He then asked if there were any further comments on this point.

Secretary Hoover explained the reasons why the State Department felt quite deeply that their own wording in Paragraph 10B was preferable to the wording proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Chiefs of Staff wording seemed to the State Department to make a blockade more or less mandatory. State, on the other hand, felt that, looking at the matter practically, any U.S. move to impose a blockade on an aggressor would first have to come before the National Security Council for a decision whatever the circumstances then prevailing. Accordingly, Secretary Hoover felt that the State Department’s language, calling merely for a study of the feasibility and desirability of a blockade, was preferable to the Joint Chiefs of Staff version.

Secretary Humphrey said, that as he understood the problem from Admiral Radford’s remarks, any studies of this problem undertaken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be strictly confined to advance planning but would not comprise any military or naval movements or any allocation of forces or additional expenditures until such time as the actual outbreak of war occurred. Admiral Radford replied that in the matter of a blockade, the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be in a position to formulate very detailed plans which could be implemented very promptly. Secretary Humphrey said he very much preferred the plan proposed by State to that proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Radford added that he shared Secretary Hoover’s opinion, that none of the major decisions set forth in National Security Council policy papers were ever actually made in advance of the occasion. You decided on what course of action to take at the time you were faced with the necessity for decision. That was why he had so strenuously objected to the courses of action with respect to hostilities between Israel and the Arab States set forth in the original Supplementary Statement of Policy in NSC 5428.

Dr.Flemming and Director Hughes said that they were willing to go along with the language proposed by the State Department although Mr. Hughes said that his agreement depended upon a clearer understanding that the military study called for in the State Department paragraph would not involve the actual allocation of naval vessels or additional military forces. Admiral Radford reassured Mr. Hughes that in response to the language in Paragraph 10B, the Joint Chiefs would simply proceed to make a general [Page 666] appraisal of the situation in its studies and plans. Secretary Humphrey, however, felt that the qualifications on military planning which he and Mr. Hughes had been speaking of should be made clearer so that no military plans would proceed to the point of actual programming as opposed to planning in the strictest sense.

Secretary Hoover pointed out that the courses of action set forth in the present paper would gradually become known down the line in the staffs of the various responsible departments and agencies and accordingly were likely, ultimately, to leak out. He therefore wanted to make the courses of action as tough as they could feasibly be. He believed that if there were mental reservations among the members of the Council as to the proposed courses of action, such mental reservations should be made explicit and discussed by the Council. Dr.Flemming agreed with Secretary Hoover and said that he did not want the language presently set forth in the State Department’s proposed Paragraph 10B to be watered down further by qualifications on the kind of studies and plans that the military would make for possible military action. He believed that such studies and plans should be promptly carried to their conclusions in order that the United States could act quickly if developments between Israel and the Arab States made such action necessary. Secretary Hoover said that naturally we hoped that we would never be called upon to take the courses of action outlined in the paper but, in point of fact, we might be compelled to and, accordingly, he agreed with Dr.Flemming’s point of view. Mr.Nelson Rockefeller said he also favored a tough statement to the Israelis as a deterrent to preventive war. He felt that the possible application of military force would constitute a much more effective deterrent in this instance than the financial and economic sanctions.

The Vice President recalled to the National Security Council that in their discussion of this problem last week, Secretary Dulles expressed the opinion that the financial and economic sanctions in sub-Paragraphs 10–a, b and c were sufficient to stop the Israelis from undertaking preventive war. As for the additional courses of action which contemplated military action against Israel, in the form of a blockade or actual intervention, these additional courses were “very frankly a bluff”.

Admiral Radford observed that a blockade of Israel could be very effective indeed although less so in the case of Egypt. A second step open to the United States would be to destroy certain key military installations within the territories of the aggressor state by precision bombing. Such a move, he believed, would really hamper the Egyptians and the Israelis. However, if the United States were to proceed from this step to the next step of direct military intervention with ground forces, such intervention would constitute a major [Page 667] military task. Admiral Radford estimated that in the event of hostilities between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as many as 500,000 troops might actually be involved. This figure indicated the magnitude of the task which would face any U.S. force which was to intervene in the struggle.

The Vice President warned the Council again, as he had at the previous meeting, that we could never get the Congress to agree to a course of action which involved the United States in hostilities against Israel.11 On the other hand, he thought the present draft was essentially what the Council had asked for and desired provided the Council kept clearly in mind that in certain instances we were talking about courses of action which we are very unlikely ever to take although we might threaten to take such courses of action as a deterrent.

Admiral Radford stated that if the Council had now agreed to accept the State Department Paragraph 10B on the study of desirability and feasibility of taking military action, he would like to suggest certain changes in Paragraph 11B. There ensued a considerable discussion of language appropriate to revising Paragraph 11B, the upshot of which was Council agreement to accept a revision of Paragraph 11B suggested by Mr.Dillon Anderson.

The National Security Council:12

Agreed to recommend to the President the revision of the Supplementary Statement of Policy contained in NSC 5428 by substituting the following for paragraphs 10 through 13 thereof:

  • “10. a. In the event of major armed conflict between Israel and the Arab States, the U.S. should be prepared to take the following action against the state or states which are determined by a UN finding or, if necessary, by the U.S. to be responsible for the conflict or which refuse to withdraw their forces behind the Palestine Armistice line of 1950:

    Discontinue U.S. Government aid.
    Embargo U.S. trade
    Prevent the direct or indirect transfer of funds or other assets subject to U.S. control.

    b. Because the actions in paragraph 10–a above may not be sufficient to end the hostilities promptly, study the desirability and feasibility of taking military action, including a blockade.

    [Page 668]

    c. Take the following actions either before or concurrent with measures outlined in paragraph 10–a:

    Urge other countries, as appropriate, to take action similar to that of the United States.
    Make every effort to secure United Nations sanction and support for all such actions.

  • “11. a. In collaboration with the United Kingdom, and to the extent desirable and feasible with France and Turkey, develop plans to support the measures in paragraph 10–a above.

    b. Make the studies regarding military action referred to in paragraph 10–b above unilaterally. At such time later as it may be indicated that combined military action will be taken, be prepared to collaborate in such planning with the United Kingdom and to the extent desirable with other nations.

  • “12. At a time and in a way he deems most likely to be effective, the Secretary of State should inform Israel and the Arab States privately that the United States, in accordance with existing policy, will seek to prevent resort to armed aggression by either Israel or the Arab States and, if it should occur, will seek to stop it quickly.
  • “13. As appropriate, enlist Congressional support for the measures in the above paragraphs.”

Note: The above action subsequently approved by the President. The revised paragraphs subsequently circulated for insertion in all copies of NSC 5428.

[Here follows discussion of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee’s first annual report.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File,NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on October 28. The time of the meeting is from the President’s Daily Appointments. (Eisenhower Library)
  2. See Document 358.
  3. See Document 359.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 358.
  5. The following paragraphs constitute NSC Action No. 1461. (Record of Actions by the National Security Council at its 263d Meeting held on October 27, 1955, and approved by the President on November 2, 1955. Department of State,S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95,NSC Records of Action)
  6. See footnote 4, Document 326.
  7. See footnote 9, Document 326.
  8. See footnote 16, Document 345.
  9. See Document 340; footnote 1, Document 344; Document 351; and footnote 1, Document 357, respectively.
  10. See Document 345.
  11. The Vice President subsequently made clear that the term “hostilities” as used here did not apply to a U.S. blockade but to physical intervention with U.S. troops. [Footnote in the source text.]
  12. The following paragraphs constitute NSC Action No. 1462. (Record of Actions by the National Security Council at its 263d Meeting held on October 27, 1955, and approved by the President on November 2, 1955. Department of State,S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95,NSC Records of Action)