103. Message From the President to the Secretary of State1

Dear Foster: I have just received both your personal cables to me dispatched this morning.2

With respect to the suggestion I made to you yesterday,3 I tried to make clear in my original message that I understood the difficult position you were probably in, and I was merely expressing the hope that we would not permit negotiations to come to an eventual point of collapse over the details of the operating arrangement proposed. As a minimum, I am sure that any international Board should have the unquestioned right to appoint the general manager of the operation, or at least, to have a veto over the appointment of anyone unsatisfactory to the Board. If that authority should include also the dismissal of a general manager who proved incapable of handling the affairs of the Canal, I believe that the hiring and firing of all lesser officials would tend to become an administrative detail. I repeat, however, that I understand the box you are in.

With respect to your second message, I have to give you my opinion under the handicap of ignorance respecting your own confidence in anybody of another nationality who might do the job in your stead. In addition, I am unaware of the timing and duration of the negotiations visualized with Nasser.

By no means should you become involved in a long wearisome negotiation, especially with an anticipated probability of negative results in the end. On the other hand, if there were some advance evidence that Nasser might prove reasonable and agreement as to principle could be achieved in a very short time, I could see certain advantages of your doing the thing personally. In this way, there would be no chance for erroneous interpretation of our intentions and understanding, and I cannot help but believe that there would be more chance of success with you in a situation where you deal with Nasser than if some lesser individual should undertake the work.

Our Government has expressed the opinion that in this problem, the peaceful processes of negotiation should prove equal to the [Page 242]development of a satisfactory solution. We cannot afford to do less than our best to assure success, and yet I repeat that it would be worse than embarrassing if you should get tied into drawn-out conversations which would in the long run prove unsuccessful.

I realize that this is very little help in your present problem, but I am a long ways from the individuals who are primarily concerned and the only feel I have of their temper and attitudes is as you have described to me in your cables.

I need scarcely add that I will approve your decision and support you in whatever action you finally decide you must take.

As ever,

  1. Source: Department of State, Centrals Files, 974.7301/8–2056. Secret. The source text is a memorandum from Goodpaster at the White House to the Department of State Secretariat. A note at the top reads: “Please dispatch the following message from the President to Secretary Dulles”. Transmitted to London in Tedul 15, August 20 at 3:13 p.m. with the instruction: “Eyes only Secretary from Murphy, Acting.” Preceding the message printed here, the telegram notes: “Following message from the President refers in its first paragraph to Dulte eyes only 13 and Dulte eyes only 14.”
  2. Documents 100 and 101.
  3. Document 98.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.