155. Memorandum From the Representative at the United Nations (Lodge) to the Secretary of State1

Here is the picture of U.S.-Libyan relations as one sees it in Libya:

Wheelus Base in Tripoli, Libya, is a $100 million installation which is vital to the defense of the United States. It is what Strategic Air Command calls a “post-strike” base, meaning that it is a base where the bombers would land for rest and refueling after having accomplished their mission. It is the only “big field” within a six hundred mile radius of Tripoli. It is a vital training area for gunnery and rocketry for the aviators of NATO. Its use by the United States is not only vital to our defense, but the use of the area for a similar purpose by the Soviet Union must obviously be denied.
The Soviets have established diplomatic relations and are making offers of technical and economic assistance, the purpose of which must be assumed to be to pry us out of North Africa.
The Libyan Prime Minister says the Libyan people are much attracted by these offers, that the United States has not done what it said it would do to help Libya get on its feet economically, and says in effect: “How about it?”
In this situation Wheelus Base is obviously the prime counter—if not the hostage.
The officers at the Base say that they cannot “tolerate” Soviet overflights—not because of the information which the Soviet flyers would learn, but because of the ease of their “rolling out” a bomb. [Page 440] When I asked whether a refusal to “tolerate” meant that they would open fire on a Soviet plane, I was answered in the negative, but was told that the presence of a Soviet plane over the Base would result in American flyers being ordered up to fly alongside of it and watch it.
The integrity of our tenure of this Base could also be jeopardized if the community in which Wheelus Base is located became infiltrated by Soviet agents. More than 2,000 Libyans work at the Base every day. If there were Soviet agents among these employees and if Soviet planes were coming and going to neighboring parts of Libya, the security of the base would be weakened.
In the agreement which the United States has with the Libyan Government there is no provision that the Libyans will forbid Soviet overflights—an oversight to say the least.
We need such an agreement to protect Wheelus Base and, if present plans to acquire other military areas in Libya are to be carried out, there should be similar understandings. These should also be on a broader agreement covering Soviet activities in general.
In the early part of the century the U.S. bought the Virgin Islands from Denmark so as to deny their use to the Germans for coaling stations. While obviously we cannot buy Libya, we should make up our minds how much we are willing to pay to achieve the above vital assurances.

What we have obtained in Libya so far seems not to have been expensively obtained—$40 million over a twenty-year period, with an additional $3 million in development assistance and a promise to “consider sympathetically” Libya’s further economic needs. The Libyans insist that they were led to believe during the negotiations that this latter phrase meant that we would stand by them until they got on their feet economically. In particular, Prime Minister Ben Halim says that President Eisenhower told him that he hoped that Libya would, as far as the United States was concerned, be in the Middle East what the Philippines were to the United States in the Far East. On two separate occasions Ben Halim made a point of this.

Aside from the installment of the $40 million and the additional $3 million mentioned above (totaling $12 million) the only aid given to Libya by the United States has been (a) 45,000 tons of famine-relief wheat, (b) technical assistance in the amount of $1.5 million a year (not in cash), (c) United States contribution to the United Nations technical assistance program. Following upon the Czech-Egyptian arms deal when the Egyptians offered arms to Libya, the United States and the United Kingdom promised equipment for an armored car squadron. The United Kingdom has delivered its share; the United States share, when delivered, will amount to about [Page 441] $600,000. It should be noted that a “sympathetic consideration” offer of $3 million by the United States for development assistance in November, 1955, was not accepted by Prime Minister Ben Halim in the belief (stimulated by the apparent2 success of Egypt’s unfriendly tactics towards the United States) that he would get more by waiting.

Here, as in the Sudan, the Aswan High Dam Project has had a tremendous repercussion. The Libyan reaction is that if Egypt could get so much U.S. help by being nasty, maybe they (the Libyans) should start getting nasty, too.
We certainly cannot get into a contest to outbid the Soviet Union. There is no end to that and it would lead us to being blackmailed in other Arab countries—notably Morocco when it gets free and where there are so many U.S. bases.
But we should make up our minds to pay something more than we have if, by so doing, we get a settlement covering matters which are vital to the integrity of our Base. It is believed that a settlement could be obtained now which would get us what we want if:
we provided additional economic assistance for the Libyan development program at a figure to be negotiated somewhere between $25 million and $50 million, being a six-year program (see Annex).3
if we provided famine-relief wheat on a continuing basis to the extent required by circumstances.
if we provided technical assistance to the extent required to support the development of the program.
if we provided equipment in cooperation with the British for 5,000 men in the Libyan Army.

If oil is discovered in Libya—which many qualified persons seem to expect—it will probably be very difficult to get any kind of agreement out of the Libyan Government at all.

Here then are the questions which we face and which must be studied:

What is it worth to us to have the Libyans agree to forbid Soviet aviation in the area of Wheelus Base and to agree not to accept Soviet assistance or countenance general Soviet activity?
Should not the NSC paper of 19524 giving the United Kingdom the paramount interest in Libya be restudied in view of the fact that the United States Strategic Air Force is certainly [Page 442] paramount over British army bases in the light of the military realities of the present time?
Should Libya be admitted to NATO in view of its obviously vital importance for the training of all NATO aviators, and its vital role in NATO military operations—or should a West Mediterranean organization be created?
Should the United States seek a treaty with Libya which would in effect agree to exclude the Soviet Union and its satellites in exchange for a cash grant? Exclusion of the USSR would be attractive to the Senate.

H.C. Lodge, Jr.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.56373/3–556. Top Secret. Enclosure to a letter from Lodge to Dulles. Lodge, who had been to Libya to inspect U.N. technical assistance activities, sent copies of this memorandum to George Allen and Francis Wilcox. Two days earlier he had addressed a letter on the same subject to the President. (Ibid., 611.73/3–356) On March 5, he sent a memorandum on the subject of a “Proposed United States Reaction to New Soviet Tactics to Penetrate Africa by Technical, Economic and Political Means,” advocating the necessity of occasional “flashy” projects to produce good will. Further, he insisted on the importance of speed in providing aid and thought long-term arrangements a wiser and cheaper course to follow. Although he did not expect them to concur, he suggested that the Soviets be invited to join with the United States in multilateral aid programs under U.N. auspices. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series, Lodge, Henry Cabot 1956)

    In a memorandum for the President from the Acting Secretary dated March 13, Lodge’s suggestions were considered and substantial agreement was expressed with the points he made. The value of “impact” projects and the wisdom of long-term arrangements were recognized. The Acting Secretary promised to consider an approach to the Soviets, but also expressed interest in studying the desirability of U.S. participation in multilateral programs. (Department of State, FOAICA Files: Lot 61 A 32, Near East and Africa)

  2. The word “apparent” was added to the source text in an unidentified handwriting.
  3. Not found attached.
  4. Not further identified. The last Progress Report on NSC 19/5 dated April 30, 1951, which called for a united Libya tied to the United Kingdom, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. v, p. 1318.