61. Memorandum of Discussion at the 411th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Items 1. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” and 2. “U.S. Policy Toward Korea.”]

3. Basic National Security Policy (NSC 5810/1 ; NIE 11–4–58; NIE 100–59; Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Overseas Internal Security Program”, dated April 10, 1959;1NSC Action No. 2079;2 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Status of Military Mobilization Base Program”, dated April 21, 1959;3NSC 5906;4 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Basic National Security Policy”, dated June 19, 19595)

As the Council turned to consideration of the proposed new statement of Basic National Security Policy, Secretary Mueller from the Department of Commerce joined the meeting. Mr. Gray then briefed the Council on the general background of the Planning Board’s work on revising the Basic Policy and indicated that on this occasion any discussion in the Council of the military paragraphs (Paragraphs 10 through 28) would be omitted. These paragraphs would be taken up at a subsequent Council meeting on the subject of Basic Policy. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s briefing note is filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another is attached to this Memorandum.)6

Mr. Gray first invited the Council’s attention to the Preamble on Page 1 of NSC 5906.7 He pointed out that some of the consultants who had given their views to the Planning Board felt that there should be a reference to Justice or to the Rule of Law in the Preamble. The President said that he supposed that all speeches made by the State Department officials or high officials of our Government invariably spoke of the U.S. [Page 221] objective of a just peace or peace with justice. He had no objection, however, to adding such a thought to the Preamble.

Mr. Gray then invited the Council’s attention to Paragraph 3 a statement of the basic threat to U.S. security, on Pages 3 to 6 of NSC 5906, noting that there was a split with the JCS Adviser proposing one text for Paragraph 3 whereas the Majority favored a different text. The two texts read as follows:8

JCS Proposal [Par. 3 of NSC 5810/1, amended.] Majority Proposal [Par. 3 of NSC 5810/1, revised.]
“3. The basic threat to U.S. security is the determination and ability of the hostile Soviet and Chinese Communist regimes effectively to direct their political and ideological influence and their rapidly growing military and economic strength toward the objective of world domination at a time when: “3. The basic threat to U.S. security is the determination and ability of the hostile Soviet and Chinese Communist regimes to direct their political and ideological influence and their rapidly growing military and economic strength toward shifting the power balance away from the West and, ultimately, toward achieving world domination.
(a) there are sufficient quantities of nuclear weapons capable of causing immediate and incalculable devastation; (b) uncertainty exists and is growing as to whether U.S. massive nuclear capabilities would be used to defend Free World interests; (c) weakness or instability in many areas exerts strong pressures for economic or political change and creates vulnerabilities to expanding Sino-Soviet subversion, political action and economic penetration; and (d) the American people have not been brought to appreciate the extent and long-term nature of the crisis facing the United States, or adequately to support certain elements of the U.S. strategy.”

“The chief elements of this threat lie in (a) the Soviets’ possession of rapidly growing nuclear capabilities (which have made the Soviet leaders feel freer to adopt an aggressive posture in peripheral areas) as well as large conventional forces; (b) the Soviet regime’s ability and willingness to identify itself with various forms of political and social discontent and popular opposition to the status quo; to support subversive elements, including legal political parties, within free societies, to apply substantial resources for the purpose of fostering and exploiting various kinds of weakness and instability in all parts of the Free World; and particularly in the neutralist and less developed [Page 222] societies, to take advantage of pressures for economic and social change; (c) the extent to which the totalitarian Communist leadership is able to act ruthlessly and rapidly and to repudiate agreements without being subject to moral restraints.

The danger to U.S. security from the Communist threat lies not only in general war or local aggression but in the possibility of a future shift in the East-West balance of power. Such a shift could be caused by a gradual erosion of Western positions via means short of force, and over time by a continued growth of overall Communist strength at a rate significantly greater than that of the West. The U.S. ability to deal with the Communist threat is complicated by: (a) lack of sufficient Free World awareness of the nature, dimensions, and probable long-term duration of the crisis; (b) the possibility of serious differences in outlook and policy among Free World nations, including questions concerning the use of nuclear weapons.”

After himself explaining the difference in the two versions, Mr. Gray noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff themselves had not been able to reach unanimity in support of either of these two versions.9 Admiral Burke said essentially what the Joint Chiefs probably wanted was a combination of elements from both the proposed texts.

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After again trying to illustrate the nature of the difference, Mr. Gray called on Secretary Herter.

Secretary Herter commented that he did not really see much basic essential difference between the two statements on the nature of the basic threat to U.S. security. He did feel, however, that the new proposal by the Majority represented better drafting and a more comprehensive statement of the nature of the threat.

The President said that it appeared to him that the text on the left-hand side, proposed by the JCS Adviser to the Planning Board, addressed itself particularly to the possibility of sudden and catastrophic destruction. The text on the right-hand side addressed itself to a destruction of the U.S. which could come about more gradually through a process of erosion. The President said he liked the new language which clearly recognized the danger of a possible shift of the power balance in favor of the Soviet Union.

Admiral Burke asked the President’s permission for General White to speak to this problem since General White’s views differed from those of the other Chiefs.

General White said that what he first objected to was the statement in the Majority proposal which stated that the Soviets’ possession of rapidly growing nuclear capability had made the Soviet leaders feel freer to follow aggressive policies in peripheral areas. General White said he simply could see no basis for this assertion. The President replied that this seemed odd to him. Khrushchev had made precisely this threat in his conversation with Averell Harriman to which the President had just alluded.10 Of course, said the President, what Khrushchev may have said to Harriman does not constitute evidence of what Khrushchev really thinks or means to do but it was something that could not be ignored.

General White then went on to say that his other objection to the language in the Majority Proposal arose from the fact that it seemed to him to equate the danger of general war with the danger of local aggression. To General White it seemed obvious that the greatest threat posed by the Soviet Union was the threat of general nuclear war against the U.S. On the other hand, General White thought that the Majority Proposal was quite correct in warning about the danger of a gradual shift of the power balance in favor of the Soviet Union.

In response to these remarks of General White, the President expressed himself as worried that we in the U.S. were not as well prepared to meet the threat of economic and political competition from the [Page 224] Russians as we were to meet the military threat. It was harder to get the people of the U.S. to realize the danger which was inherent in the Soviet use of political and economic resources against us. To the President the greater danger lay where the greater risk was—whether you think the Soviets are going to resort to general war or to content themselves with a gradual erosion of our position through economic and political pressures.

After General White had again briefly reviewed his suggested changes in the language of the Majority Proposal, the President commented that obviously the greatest catastrophe which could befall the U.S. would be the sudden initiation of general nuclear war by the Soviet Union. The other grave risk would be posed if we actually witnessed a shift of the balance of power in favor of the Soviet Union. This of course would be a longer-term development if it occurred. At any rate, said the President, he would hate to say that the greatest danger was the danger of general nuclear war.

Secretary McElroy commented that failure to maintain our nuclear deterrent power was the most sure way to invite the shift of the power balance which had been emphasized in the Majority Proposal. The President then suggested language to meet Secretary McElroy’s point and the Council all agreed on its insertion in Paragraph 3.

After further changes in Paragraph 3 had been agreed upon, Mr. Gray proceeded to comment on Paragraph 5 reading as follows:

“[Par. 4 of NSC 5810/1, revised.] The basic task for the United States is to minimize the basic threat by mobilizing and effectively employing, [while preserving fundamental American values and institutions.]* U.S. and Free World spiritual and material resources over a long period and at an adequate and sustained level, in order to:” etc., etc.11

Mr. Gray called first on Mr. Stans inasmuch as the parenthetical phraseology had been proposed by the Treasury and the Budget. Mr. Stans said that he did not think the matter was earth-shaking in importance but he felt that the bracketed language proposed by Treasury and Budget belonged at the beginning of the statement of Basic Policy even though it was repeated in greater detail in the later sections. Secretary Scribner also commented that if it was repetitious to include the bracketed language in Paragraph 5, the thought in the language was a very good one to repeat.

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The President said that perhaps this was good language to repeat but he felt that we might well have to preserve some of our fundamental American values and institutions by putting them in cold storage in the event of certain dire contingencies and threats to our nation’s actual security.

Secretary McElroy said that the Defense Department saw no reason for including the bracketed language in Paragraph 5 because Defense felt that this was a clear assumption in any case and if the phraseology were included here, it might make for some hesitation or doubt as to the limits to which the U.S. should go in order to meet the basic threat to its security posed by the enemy. Secretary Herter expressed agreement with Secretary McElroy and said that of course it was obvious that our basic task is to protect our country. After further brief discussion, the bracketed language, slightly amended, was included in the agreed version of Paragraph 5.

At this point Mr. Gray turned to Paragraph 6 on Page 7 of NSC 5906 reading in part as follows:

“[Par. 6 of NSC 5810/1, revised.] U.S. policies, for which the full support of the American people should be enlisted, and U.S. and other Free World resources effectively used to carry out the task described in Paragraph 5 above, must be designed:

“a. To take the initiative in promoting sound economic growth and acceptable political development in the Free World, not only to meet the Communist threat but also to create an international environment in which the values and institutions of freedom can be sustained.”

Mr. Gray noted that certain of the consultants had disagreed with the idea that the U.S. should take the initiative in promoting sound economic growth as suggested by the phraseology in Paragraph 6–a above. They believed that it would be very costly indeed if the U.S. were to take such initiative everywhere in the world. The Planning Board had not agreed with the views of the consultants and the phraseology about taking the initiative was therefore contained in Paragraph 6–a. The President inquired whether it really means that we take the initiative everywhere in the world, including perhaps even Saudi Arabia?

Secretary Dillon then stood up behind Secretary Herter and explained that the proposal to take the initiative was very basic to our policy of promoting sound economic growth. This phraseology was not meant to apply universally and everywhere. Nevertheless, there were often countries which we needed to help which themselves had no means of taking the initiative.

The President suggested that perhaps it would be better to say “support the promotion of” and added that we ought not to try to impose U.S. plans on other countries in order to persuade their peoples to take the initiative. Let us avoid, said the President the accusation of being economic [Page 226] imperialists. Secretary Dillon said that the language did not contemplate a U.S. policy of forcing initiatives on unwilling people. The President then suggested substitute language along the lines of “support the desires and efforts of the Free World in promoting sound economic growth”, etc. The President’s proposal was adopted.

After further discussion certain changes were agreed to in Paragraph 29 and in Paragraph 33. When the Council came to Paragraph 35 on Page 27 dealing with the problem of the U.S. attitude toward neutrals as opposed to allies, Mr. Gray noted that some of the consultants had expressed distaste for any U.S. policy of assisting countries which insisted on maintaining a policy of neutralism. These consultants thought that we should only aid countries who were willing to stand up and be counted on the Free World team. As Paragraph 35 made clear, the Planning Board did not agree with these consultants and had stated in Paragraph 35 that the U.S. should recognize that the independence of such nations from Communist control meets a minimum U.S. objective even if not the maximum objective of having them as friends or allies.

The President said that he disagreed with the views of the consultants for the same reasons that the Planning Board had disagreed. He cited the serious problems, economic and financial that Nehru was facing in India and pointed out that in view of these problems Nehru had no choice but to follow a policy of neutralism as between the Soviet Bloc and the Free World.

Apropos of this discussion of neutralism with particular respect to the underdeveloped countries, Mr. Gray pointed out the view of the consultants.

Not specifically reflected in any portion of NSC 5906, was the view that unless we solve the problem of exploding populations all of our efforts to achieve our objectives in the underdeveloped countries were likely to prove vain in the long run. It was the view of certain of the consultants that the problem of birth control was so crucial that our statement of basic policy should contain some reference to means of controlling the very rapid population growth in certain areas of the world. Mr. Gray thought that perhaps if the Council thought it wise, the Planning Board could submit at next week’s meeting language which could be inserted in NSC 5906.

The President immediately replied that he would strongly oppose having a statement of policy by the U.S. Government on the subject of birth control. The objectives, as everyone knew, were of crucial importance but we must depend on education and on the services of foundations and private citizens to try to provide an answer to the truly vital question of exploding populations. However, if we put a statement with respect to birth control in a Government policy statement, we would be accused of all kinds of terrible things.

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The National Security Council:12


Discussed the Preamble, Section A, and Paragraphs 29 through 35 of NSC 5906; in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and of the Consultants, as reported at the meeting.

(1) Page 1, paragraph 1, 5th sentence: Revise “for peace and security” to read “for peace, security and justice”.


Tentatively adopted the above-mentioned sections of NSC 5906, subject to the following amendments:13

(2) Pages 3–6, paragraph 3: Include the “Majority Proposal” in the right-hand column, subject to:

The insertion of the following preceding the first sentence in the subparagraph beginning at the top of Page 5: “The first danger to U.S. security lies in any neglect on our part to retain adequate deterrent power. However,”.
The insertion, in the last line on Page 5, of a new (b) to read as follows (relettering present (b) to (c)):

“(b) existing and growing uncertainty as to whether U.S. massive nuclear capabilities would be used to defend Free World interests; and”

(3) Page 6, paragraph 5: Include the bracketed phrase amended to read as follows:”, while seeking to preserve fundamental American values and institutions,”.

(4) Page 7, paragraph 5: Delete the word “and” before “(d)”, and add at the end of the sentence the following:

“;and (e) engage in continuous diplomatic efforts to remove the causes of world tension through negotiation.”

(5) Page 7, paragraph 6–a: Revise to read as follows:

“a. To support the desires and efforts of Free World nations to promote sound economic growth and acceptable political development in the Free World, as a means of taking the initiative not only to meet the Communist threat but also to create an international environment in which the values and institutions of freedom can be sustained.”

(6) Page 23, paragraph 29, 5th line: Insert, after the word “means”, the following: “(including the provision of military assistance)”.

(7) Page 26, footnote to paragraph 33: Insert, in the second line after the words “assistance to”, the word “Euratom”.

Agreed to continue consideration of NSC 5906 at the next Council meeting.

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason.
  2. Drafted by Charles A. Haskins of the NSC Staff. (ibid.)
  3. NSC Action No. 2079 was approved by the President on May 18. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council) The text is in the memorandum of discussion of the overseas internal security program for the NSC meeting on May 7. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records) See the Supplement.
  4. A copy is in Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5810 Series. See the Supplement.
  5. Entitled “Basic National Security Policy,” dated June 8, 1959. (Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5906 Series)
  6. A copy is ibid. See the Supplement.
  7. For text, see the Supplement.
  8. It is identical to paragraph 1 of NSC 5810/1, Document 24.
  9. All brackets are in the source text.
  10. The differing views of the JCS on this paragraph are set forth in a memorandum concerning NSC 5906 from Admiral Burke to McElroy, dated June 20. (Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5906 Series)
  11. Possible reference to Khrushchev’s conversation with W. Averell Harriman on June 23. Harriman, former Ambassador to the Soviet Union, was then traveling in the Soviet Union as a private citizen.
  12. The remainder of this paragraph reads: “(a) maintain adequate military strength to deter or successfully wage war and survive as a nation capable of controlling its own destiny, and civilian preparedness which will contribute thereto; (b) encourage sound and vigorous domestic economic growth and progress; (c) strengthen the integrity and unity of the Free World; and (d) succeed in the over-all contest with the USSR for world leadership.” A footnote identifies the bracketed language as a “Treasury–Budget proposal.”
  13. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 2103. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95 Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  14. All the language adopted here is reflected in NSC 5906/1, Document 70.